A guide with 20 ingredients to design for urban happiness


Streets, sidewalks, parks, and plazas are the vital shared places of a city that combine to the stage of our everyday environment and public life: our public space. This space plays a fundamental role in shaping our happiness, as individuals and as communities. The combined impact of all qualities of the public space is expressed with the concept of urban happiness.

Understanding how the shared spaces influence our happiness and lived experiences is key to addressing happiness in public spaces. Unfortunately, a coherent understanding of how to combine major design considerations with urban-space ingredients to influence happiness is currently not available. As a consequence, our public space is often planned and designed without explicit consideration of citizens’ happiness.

Urban happiness ingredients

This booklet presents descriptions of 20 urban happiness ingredients. In doing so, it aims to contribute to the awareness about the happiness impact of public space design decisions. Some ingredients refer to objective aspects of public space, and others to subjective. Some focus on physical qualities, others on social or organizational qualities. The overview of design ingredients was synthesized from research and expertise in urban planning and design, focusing on effective ingredients on happiness viewed through the lens of public spaces.

Each ingredient is presented with the following components:

  • – label
  • – example images
  • – description
  • – key references
  • – measurement tips

The happiness ingredients aim to provide a guideline for leveraging happiness through public spaces, supporting conceptualization, communication, and evaluation. They apply to the publicly accessible outdoor spaces that we occupy in our everyday lives, represent sites of sociability and face-to-face interaction, and provide distinct happiness and wellbeing benefits to both individuals and communities.


We believe in open-access research, so you can download the happy public space here:

<downloadable PDF>

The Happy Public Spaces booklet is published under an Attribution-Non-commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 International Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). This means that you are free to share the booklet for non-commercial purposes as long as you give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and do not modify the original material. For license details, see: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.


In communications, please refer to this publication as follows:
Samavati, S. & Desmet, P.M.A. (2022). Happy Public Spaces: A guide with 20 ingredients to design for urban happiness. Delft: Delft University of Technology. ISBN 978-94-6384-290-7.

Publication Date

First version was published in August 2022