Charles Montgomery is an award-winning author, urbanist, and leader of a consultancy building more happiness into cities. He is the author of the book Happy City, about which The New York Times wrote: “Happy City is not only readable but stimulating. It raises issues most of us have avoided for too long. Do we live in neighborhoods that make us happy? That is not a silly question. Montgomery encourages us to ask it without embarrassment, and to think intelligently about the answer.”
He has advised and lectured planners, students, and decision-makers across the USA, Canada, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico. He also creates experiments that challenge us to see our cities—and ourselves—in entirely new ways. Montgomery’s Home for the Games initiative led hundreds of people to follow his example and open their homes to strangers during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Working with the BMW Guggenheim Lab and the citizens of New York City, he transformed an empty lot into a machine to maximize feelings of altruism. Whether it is empowering people to re-imagine a city street using hundreds of giant building blocks, or challenging them to hug complete strangers, each experiment is driven by insights in the science of human well-being. Montgomery’s work ultimately nudges us out of our comfort zone to find a hopeful new vision for cities of joy.
Montgomery and his team have turned the lessons from Happy City into a tool for helping people bring more happiness into their cities. They are using it to transform places and people’s lives in Mexico City, Auckland, London, and elsewhere. Montgomery launched the world’s first Happy Neighbourhood Audit in Mexico City, and his team also began work with the World Health Organization’s Europe Healthy Cities Unit. Montgomery has also been working with TIME Magazine on an interactive survey exploring happiness in American cities.
Montgomery’s writings on urban planning, psychology, culture, and history have appeared in magazines and journals on three continents. Among his awards is a Citation of Merit from the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society for outstanding contribution towards public understanding of climate change science. His first book, The Last Heathen, won the 2005 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction and vigorous praise from reviewers in The New York Times, The Guardian, and elsewhere.
Charles Montgomery’s Keynote Address will take place from 3:30-5:00PM on Saturday, October 13 at the University of Alberta.
“Charles Montgomery offers a convincing, cogent argument for using happiness as an urban design lens. During his time in Halifax, Charles provided constructive ideas and thoughtful comments to help our city achieve its potential as a place where people can experience the best of what urban life has to offer. He is a passionate and effective speaker and folks here loved what he had to say.”