A Critique of the Built Environment: How We Built Unhappiness

One writer's view of the modern city goes negative. If our environment affects our happiness, surely we're all suffering from depression.

1 minute read

January 19, 2016, 8:00 AM PST

By jwilliams @jwillia22

Brutalist Lines, Wales

Jeremy Segrott / Flickr

Architect Bill Beard gives his critique of America’s miserable built environment in an essay on AdBusters. Pulling few punches, Beard offers a scathing assessment of our "flat, dystopian landscape," which at best is a succubus on our creative spirits.

Our common daily experience in the modern American anywhere is anything but robust. We live in un-places, built of cheap materials, ignorant of scale and proportion, executed with little care, imbued with no trace of the human hand and lacking in a sense of context - which can only create humans of similar character. That is to say that humans implicitly absorb the character of their surroundings. Ugly, thoughtless, depressing surroundings do not encourage beautiful, creative, vigorous people - people with soul and spirit.

The take-away from Beard's assessment is that we're doomed if we do nothing to fix things. The impacts on our health and well-being might not be visible in the short term, but this "ailing built environment condition" will irreparably harm our society in the not so distant future.

Friday, January 1, 2016 in Adbusters

Black and white Rideshare Pick-Up Zone sign

The Slow Death of Ride Sharing

From the beginning, TNCs like Lyft and Uber touted shared rides as their key product. Now, Lyft is ending the practice.

June 1, 2023 - Human Transit

Red on white 'Room for Rent, Inquire Inside' sign

In Most U.S. Cities, Archaic Laws Limit Roommate Living

Critics argue laws preventing unrelated adults from living in the same home fail to understand the modern American household.

May 24, 2023 - The Atlantic

Vancouver Chuck Wolfe

Ten Signs of a Resurgent Downtown

In GeekWire, Chuck Wolfe continues his exploration of a holistic and practical approach to post-pandemic urban center recovery, anchored in local context and community-driven initiatives that promote livability, safety, and sustainability.

May 24, 2023 - GeekWire

Vacant storefront in historic building on Powell Street in San Francisco, California

Few Landlords Pay San Francisco Vacancy Tax

Less than 3 percent of properties potentially subject to a new vacancy tax were filed as vacant in the last year, but empty storefronts in the city persist.

3 hours ago - San Francisco Chronicle

Aerial view of manufactured home being dropped off or moved by red truck in mobile home park

In Spite of Affordability Crisis, Richmond Rejects Manufactured Housing Plan

After declaring a housing crisis, the Virginia capital’s city council voted against a proposed manufactured home warehouse that would distribute replacements for aging manufactured housing stock.

5 hours ago - Greater Greater Washington

Graphic for '1000 Joys of Planning' with The Planning Commission Podcast

A Planning Commission Podcast Journey: The 1,000 Joys of Planning

The Commissioners explore the facets of the planning profession that fill their cups with joy.

7 hours ago - The Planning Commission Podcast

Project Manager III

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

UDO Transportation Planner

City of Charlotte - Charlotte Area Transit

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.