Designing Happiness

Capitalizing on Nature’s Restorative Qualities

  • Rebecca Habtour University of Maryland
  • Madlen Simon University of Maryland


ABSTRACT: Scientific studies exploring the environmental and experiential elements that help boost human happiness have become a significant body of expanding work. A wide variety of studies from both neuroscience and environmental psychology have recorded the restorative quality of the natural environment, noting both positive impacts on overall mental health, and strong correlations with self-reported happiness. This paper extracts insights on the impacts of social interaction, access, surprise, light, and beauty on happiness then extrapolates design principles and strategies to use in creating built environments that promote greater well-being. A virtual test case, drawn from a Master of Architecture thesis, is used to demonstrate possible ways these selected principles and design strategies can connect people to nature, with the intent to inform a science-backed approach to creating truly happy places. It is anticipated that these tactics will be useful to architects, planners, and urban designers as they endeavor to design positive user experience into form and place. To the best of our knowledge, many of these principles have not yet been tested and measured in real-world conditions. Potential future development would be collaboration with neuroscientists and environmental psychologists for examining post-occupancy testing of user experience in built environments.


KEYWORDS: Nature, Access, Happiness, Design

How to Cite
Habtour, R., & Simon, M. (2018). Designing Happiness. ARCC Conference Repository.