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Asia Pacific Cities Summit blog

Unlocking how urban design impacts happiness

18 July 2019

Brisbane recently played host to this year’s Asia Pacific Cities Summit and Mayors’ Forum, where discussions focussed on the long-term success and sustainability of our cities. One entire day of the summit was dedicated to the ‘liveability of cities’ and Sofie Pringle, our Urban Design Project Lead, was invited to share findings from her latest research.


Sofie is almost two years into a PhD that investigates how the characteristics of an urban environment impact people’s happiness. She began by gathering global data from social media, to determine the types of urban characteristics that elicit happiness in the people who engage with those spaces. This research revealed a myriad of contributing factors, including:


  • Open space
  • Natural light
  • Green space
  • Natural elements (eg. water, vegetation, sand, rocks)
  • Historic architecture
  • Varied textures and materials


According to Sofie, no one specific design solution can ever guarantee an urban space will invoke happiness in its users. Instead, she believes her research is best deployed to help inform the types of ‘typical’ urban design features that enhance people’s happiness. Together, a variation of colours, materials and forms are all beneficial.


Ultimately, Sofie says the key to any successful urban design is research. From the outset of each and every project, she aims to understand user needs — and what positively impacts their emotions. Based on that intel, she can more accurately identify the types of features or design characteristics to deploy in her design briefs and/or guidelines. 


Whilst Sofie admits happiness means different things to different people, she believes all architects should be mindful of the link between our urban environment and our emotional state.


Want to learn more about urban design and its link to happiness? Contact Sofie at our Gold Coast or Brisbane office. Email or phone (07) 3811 9529.