This is me unlurking without even having written an introduction (mental
note: do today),
But I just wanted to say that I find the notion of "urban planning (or
design?) for happiness" absolutely captivating.
The Alternate Reality Game Designer of fame, Jane McGonigal, pursues a
somewhat similar path arguing that "games are the ultimate happiness
machines" -- and thus, it is up to the game designers to apply their
knowledge to the world at large and fix reality.
"Cruel 2 B Kind", a team public assassination game where the goal is to
"kill" the group of opponents by performing a predetermined random act of
kindness on them (like paying a compliment, a hug, etc.). The catch: You
don't know who your opponents are, only that they move in a predetermined
territory (like a public park). The implicit side effect: A bunch of
strangers being kind to all kinds of passersby, increasing everyones'
happiness, discovering how easy/nice it is to be kind.
So the connecting principles, I guess, are to design (a) not a physical
architecture (like a traditional architect/urban planner/product
designer/...) but a social one, a rule set - like the car-free day - that
enables, constraints, affords certain kinds of behaviour and experience
(happy ones :). But the understanding is there that social rules often need
to be reinforced by physical infrastructures that "hardwire" them. (b) The
intended effects are emergent, implicit, as is the "level" of mechanics you
aim at: Like behavorial economics, the behaviorist background of persuasive
technology or most of what's been happening in cognitive science in the last
10+ years, the argument is out that our thoughts and actions are affected
much more by unnoticed, subconscious, peripheral mechanisms - emotional,
social, environmental, take your pick.
© designing for "optimal experience", and building on positive psychology as
a theoretical/empirical background.