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How Can I Influence Happiness in Lives of My Surroundings?

How Can I Influence Happiness in Lives of My Surroundings?

When observing my surroundings, I find that my generation is unhappy because it feels an incompleteness, a lack of meaning and sense. This generation is searching for happiness, purpose, and belonging.
Crony capitalism opened the doors for the abundance in food and other commerce and freed (most) people from a constant concern about financial stability. It has brought an era of opportunity to investigate one’s emotional and psychological state.
One of the bigger problems that I see with my generation today is the focus on superficial concepts and the false assumption that consumerism leads to happiness. Happiness is a very complex term, differing in definition greatly from culture to culture, depending on social class and way of life. Some aspects of it I will never be able to reach, change, affect, influence in others nor myself. In the following work, I will hence be focusing on understanding what makes a happy life and with the goal of extracting aspects that can be corporated into or applied to urban lifestyle.

Methodology

I stepped into the sociology and psychology realms without any prior knowledge.
Due to this situation, I was free to visit these disciplines without obeying any certain strict method. This allowed me to be creative with the process and think outside of the box. Usually in these fields the research process would be structured and with many rules that, in my case, I wasn’t obliged to follow.
In view of the fact that happiness is a really broad topic, I narrowed it down to my surrounding social circle, so I could realistically try to grasp it. In the first phase, I listed my associations about happiness. Then, I asked my close surroundings to create mind maps in order to see what a happy life means to them. With a list of the selected outcomes from the mind maps in mind, I turned to professional research for inspiration in attempts to tackle the topic. While gathering my impressions about happiness, I complemented my research with lessons from personal experience and self-reflection, which later supported my ideas and concepts. I tested on myself the validity of the conclusions from other researches about happiness, in order to experience the situations, analyze and conclude. As a result, I became the main user for this project.
I narrowed my findings to six terms, that facilitate happiness, to focus on.
At this point I observed public spaces. I checked which of my terms are visible in the space. I answered questions to find out what is missing and what is being done well in alignment with the six terms, so I could incorporate these in my design. I listed possible scenarios to implement my knowledge, and chose to design a school. I was inspired from schools all around the world. I analyzed and concluded the positive and the negative in each school.
Later I formed tangible guidelines, so they could be implemented in a design process. In my design process, I focused mainly on trial and error through prototyping, and observations of people’s actions. I was inspired by the meaning of the guidelines. What each of them represented and also their meaning as a group.
In my process, I experimented and researched through self-tests, user research, trial and error, meeting and interviewing people, observing public spaces, and
analysis in order to find out what makes people happier.

Thoughts on Happiness

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
-Aristotle

The people that were asked to create the mind maps are from all age groups, from all over the world, and from different cultural backgrounds. They have divergent interests and goals in life. I later color-coded similar terms in the mind maps.

Yoga

Nature

Time

Friends

Family & Kids

Meaningful job

Food

Communication & Sharing

Relationships occurred in all mind maps. Whether with family, friends, colleagues, romantic, or generally how we relate to and connect with the people surrounding us. This intuitive response, that arose from the mind maps, is backed up by the research of psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Waldinger has been conducting a research examining how influences from life’s situations, affects the quality of life.
Next, I will focus on relationships, as these seem to have the biggest impact on happiness.

The Good Life

“The Good Life” is one of the longest and most complete studies of adult life. The study started in 1938 and is still taking place to this day. It followed over 700 men for 80 years. “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Waldinger to the Harvard Gazette in 2017. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”
As written in the Harvard Gazette, “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.” [1,2]

“People who are more socially connected to family,
to friends, to community, are happier. They’re physically happier,
and they live longer than people who are less connected.”

An example from my personal life of how the state influences the quality of life and health. I grew up with two pairs of grandparents, for this analysis we’ll call them A and B. Pair A were married for over 63 years. To me, they are a role model for relationships and how one would want to grow old. They lived for each other. My grandmother died on her 91st birthday- a phenomenon that is known in Judaism that only a Tzadik dies after age 90 on their birthday. She died healthy, and in her own bed. My grandfather kissed her and wished “Mazal Tov” (congratulations) and she passed away. My grandfather died at age 97, healthy, in his own bed surrounded by his daughters and grandchildren.
Pair B were married for 66 years. Since before I was born, they never slept in the same room, didn’t go on holidays or trips together, and generally did not show affection or love towards one another. My grandfather died at age 85 with Dementia in a retirement home and a year after my grandmother was taken by Dementia and Depression as well.
Coincidence? I don’t think so.
I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my role model of grandparents (pair A) and decided to get married on their exact wedding date, 70 years later. Hoping that I too could have a close, warm, stable, supportive relationship that leads to a life as happy as theirs.

There’s More to Life than Being Happy

According to Emily Esfahani Smith, journalist and author, “there’s more to life than being happy.” Smith mentions the renowned psychologist Martin Seligman who says that meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself. For many people, belonging is the most essential source of meaning.
The key to purpose is using your strengths to serve others. Purpose gives you something to live for, some “why” that drives you forward.
In her book “The Power of Meaning,” Smith summarizes research to argue that the search for meaning in life is far more fulfilling than the pursuit of personal happiness [3].

“Happiness comes and goes.
But when life is really good and when things are really bad, having meaning gives you something to hold on to.”

I rode my bike along the canal last weekend, when I suddenly heard music playing. It’s nothing unusual in Berlin’s beautiful spring days, but someone playing an upright piano is a sight, never the less. I immediately parked my bike on the side and approached the performer. Besides the beautiful classic upbeat music that was playing, the atmosphere was a feeling of belonging. People were smiling to each other and searching for eye contact. In my mind, we all found this little secret- a guy with a piano playing in a random place on the streets of Berlin. For a few minutes it felt like a community, like we were all in this together.

These examples are indicators of how important close relationships are in our lives. Belonging and purpose also play a significant role in a meaningful life.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

A well known example of a psychologist who examined the human mind is Abraham Maslow. In his psychological review “A Theory of Human Motivation” developed a pyramid symbolizing the hierarchy of needs. The goal of Maslow’s Theory is to attain the sixth level: self-realization [4].

Our Happiness is Not Set in Stone

Studies have shown that genes and upbringing play a great role in personal happiness. Only 10% depend on income and environment, making activities and relationships the biggest influenceable part [5].

Considering that, in my target group, the needs of the two lower levels in Maslow’s Pyramid are already met, and I clearly can’t affect upbringing and genes, I will be focusing on aspects of activities and relationships, self-realization and belonging.

Ideas to Increase Happiness

“Happiness is not the belief that
we don't need to change;
it's the realization that we can.”
-Shawn Achor

Since the term happiness is broad and has been of interest for millions of people throughout the world, my research into the perception of happiness in my personal surroundings together with long term studies and psychological views serves bringing focus into my work. In the following part I will be looking for inspirations in other people’s attempts to tackle the topic.

The Happy Secret to Better Work

Shawn Achor, psychologist, introduces the idea of long term happiness being affected by small habits integrated into our daily routine. I formulated hypotheses in order to test common understandings of ways to elevate happiness through research and self experiments [6].

How Does Journaling Gratefulness Affect my Happiness?

For a week I journaled things I’m grateful for, treasured moments, and small acts for loved ones. It felt unnatural to journal every episode directly after it happened, but I managed to think of a different approach to keeping this journal. Overall, I appreciate noting the special moments and things putting a special emphasis on the positive things that happen throughout the day.

How Does Doing Random Acts of Kindness Affect my Happiness?

I wanted to integrate random acts of kindness into my routine. For example (into) my commute. So, I started always carrying an extra apple with me, and opened my eyes to occasions where I could help. Whether with sharing an apple with someone or helping carrying boxes.
In city life we tend to be caught up in our own thing, with our eyes and heart “shut” to what is going on around us.
The first beautiful thing I noticed was that these blinds were coming down, I felt a lot more connected with my surroundings, and started almost searching for good deeds that I could do. Also the reactions I got from people gave me confirmation of how separated city life usually is, but more importantly a wonderful reward. Whether it’s a small thank you, a big smile, or a nice response. I felt like I touched people’s lives and gave them something positive. This was an experiment that turned into a habbit.

How Does Daily Exercise Affect my Happiness?

I take some time every day to practice yoga. It helps me to connect my body and mind, set good intentions for the day, and stretch my muscles.

When one starts exercising, the brain interprets this as stress. When the heart pressure rises, the brain sees it as “flight or fight.” To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor. This BDNF brings a protective and reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a “reset button.” That’s why we feel at ease and eventually happy [7].

“Endorphins are released.”

How Does a Close Family Network Affect my Happiness?

On December 21st, 2017 my grandfather, Curt Schiff, passed away. In the Jewish culture, families are very close and the tradition for when someone dies is sitting “Shivaa” and mourning together for seven days.
I took this opportunity to observe and see how it feels to spend 7 days straight with my close family.
I found that maintaining a good harmony in the family is important, and despite all the small things that happen from time to time, the process of mourning felt a lot more supportive, intimate, and comfortable, when shared with my close family.

How Does Communal Living Affect Happiness?

According to interviews I conducted, it is very important to find a balance between the individual and the communal.
Different communities put an emphasis on eating together on account of the belief that it affects every aspect of the relationship, brings people together, and makes them understand one another more.

“Living in a Kibbutz affected my (and my family’s) life in
a very positive way, I highly recommend this experience.
The feeling of freedom and the connection to earth is great.”

-Gal Tesler, a former Kibbutz member whom I interviewed.

Esther Perel, relationship therapist, describes the current state of couples in modern society as having conflicts between contrasting wishes of safety and excitement which used to be resolved by living in a community such as a village [8].

“... We come to one person [the other partner in our relationship],
and we basically are asking them to give us
what once an entire village used to provide.”

Okinawa, Japan is known as a Blue Zone. Residents of Okinawa, Japan, are considered an extraordinarily healthy and happy cohort, where members live well beyond 100 years of age. Researchers wanted to know why. One of the things they discovered is a remarkable tradition called “moai”.
A moai is an informal group created by people who commit to offer emotional, social or even financial assistance to one another.
They also serve as extended family where social and emotional needs are met-managing a crisis, reducing stress, connecting emotionally and, at times, assuaging grief. Essentially, a moai is a group of people who “have your back” and commit to all aspects of your well-being [9,10].

Kibbutz Tziv’on

I visited a communal kibbutz, called Tziv’on. Tziv’on is located in the Upper Galilee in the north of Israel. The three main principles of the kibbutz are diversity of people; community life - good neighbors, co-operating and daily sharing;
and sustainable way of life.
I spent a full day in the kibbutz to get a glimpse of how they live, what they eat, and how they interact with each other. On Sundays and Wednesdays, they have communal projects days. Where everyone gathers together to work on a project: gardening, roof fixing, building a clay house, and other necessities. On these days they also eat together. Every week a different family cooks for everyone. Unlike other Kibbutzes, in Tziv’on money is not shared, and every family supports itself.

How do Shared Communal Spaces Affect Happiness?

Loneliness doesn’t always stem from being alone. For architect Grace Kim, loneliness is a function of how socially connected we feel to the people around us and it’s often the result of the homes we live in. She shares an age-old antidote to isolation: cohousing. A way of living where people choose to share space with their neighbors, get to know them, and look after them.
One of her most important conclusions are that eating together reduces feelings of loneliness [11].

Communal Areas in Kibbutz Tziv’on

Based on the mind maps, research, self experiments, and the above hypotheses I narrowed my findings into six main terms. When the terms are incorporated in day-to-day and in long-term life, they play an important role in making a happier life.
Close Relationships are associated with better health, greater happiness, and even a longer life [12]. Helping Others or doing random acts of kindness is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness [13]. “When one aligns one’s action behind a profound passionate purpose for living that one has the potential to rise in the morning full of energy and enthusiasm and to put one’s head on the pillow at night feeling fulfilled, satisfied, and yes, happy,” writes Russell Grieger Ph.D. in Psychology Today [14]. “Gratitude is something that leads to much more sustainable forms of happiness, because it’s not based in that immediate gratification; it’s a frame of mind,” says Emma Seppälä, a happiness researcher at Stanford and Yale Universities and author of The Happiness Track [15]. “10 minutes a day of physical activity was linked with joyful moods,” explains Weiyun Chen, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan, according to the study review [16]. “Nature isn’t a miracle cure for diseases, but by interacting with it, spending time in it, experiencing it and appreciating it we can reap the benefits of feeling happier and healthier as a result,” said Lucy McRobert, nature matters campaigns manager for The Wildlife Trusts. [17]
Close relationships, helping others, gratefulness and purpose life are intertwined with one another. They strengthen and help each other through seen or hidden aspects. These terms are from the psychological and sociological field.
Nature and exercise are both more tangible terms. It’s easy to understand what they are, and how one can approach the term to be happier. They, too, work great together and strengthen one another.
In my following work, I will examine and analyze these terms. How could the terms be used in my design process? Are they already implemented in other places? Where? How are they incorporated in things or places?

Close Relationships

Helping Others

Purposeful Life

Gratefulness

Exercise

Nature

How do I Create a Place That Incorporates my Findings?

“I’m only the host,
I can offer and prepare,
more than that
I cannot control.”

Public Spaces Observation

After choosing my terms, I want to analyze two places that give me an overall good feeling, and have the potential to implement the essence of the six terms to design happiness, and investigate their existence in my theory in the real world. I will be asking questions like: Why do people go there? What does the place have to offer? Which of my terms are implemented there? How are they implemented?

Hohenstaufenplatz

In SUMMER the square accommodates hanging out and meeting people.
Close relationships: meeting, hanging out, eating, events for kids, neighborhood voting, markets, sharing food, etc.
Nature: trees, playground
Exercise: basketball, football, badminton area, bicycle, rollerblades, place to run around and play freely.
Meditation: very small place, open space-no private areas.
Purposefulness: Theoretically it can be argued that the eco market on Tuesdays and Fridays serves a purpose for the sellers and the residents of the neighborhood to come and buy.
Gratefulness: One can be grateful for the opportunity to meet someone you know, a small hang out area in the neighborhood, kids enjoy to play there, people eating together.
Helping others: Neighborhood square - communal sharing. Neighbors eating together, sharing food and meals.

Conclusion

The square does not offer an isolated private place to unwind, and the seating possibilities are limited and not so comfortable. During the WINTER months the place is not inviting. It does not provide a shelter from rain or cold weather.
The square fulfills some of the terms during the summer months of the year, and does not suit individuals who don’t feel comfortable sitting on the pavement.

Small Gardens on Tempelhofer Feld

Following the analysis of Hohenstaufenplatz, it is clear to see that it doesn’t fulfill all of the terms to my satisfaction, so I have decided to analyze the
Allmende-Kontor, the small gardens on Tempelhofer Feld.

In SUMMER
Close relationships: Countless small cocoons for small groups to form intimate interactions.
Nature: The area itself is comprised of plants. The gardens are surrounded by vegetation and huge fields of green.
Exercise: One is forced to use “slow traffic” (-walk or bike) to reach the gardens.
Meditation: Hidden and private, isolated cocoons that invite users to be alone, or to meditate.
Purposefulness: The gardens are cultivated by hundreds of gardeners from the area who love to garden and do something good for the society. Theoretically it can be argued that this action contributes to a purposeful life.
Gratefulness: The fact that these intimate, arguably, charming treasure-spots exist due to the initiators who established them, causes lots of gratefulness on my part and I believe for others as well. (Thank you Allmende Kontor!)
Helping others: The way these gardens work requires social responsibility and trust.

Conclusion

An improvement to the area would be to incorporate an area inside the small gardens that offers shelter from nature’s unpleasantries such as rain, wind and cold temperature. The small gardens offer each individual a lot of possibilities to experience my terms.

Ideas for a School

My initial wishes were to design a school that guides the pupils and the teachers to be happier. This meant working together with a pedagogic system, architectures, psychologists and dedicated teachers in order to achieve this goal and build this school together.
My thought was to design a school that enables, but also encourages the kids to be happier. It seems, from my research, that it is healthy to “plant” these seeds of happiness in the next generation at a young age. I collected concepts inspired by places in the world, books, and my imagination.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they
didn’t understand life.”
-John Lennon

Inspirations from Existing Schools

I was inspired by different schools around the world, searched what are the most valuable methods for my project. What is special in the school? What can I use? What can I improve? Is this school an exception compared to other school? Why? What methods do they use? Do they emphasize something in particular?

Green School Bali

Green School (Bali) is a non-profit, private and international, school located in Bali, Indonesia. The school is gives it’s students a natural, holistic and student-centered education. As written in Green Schools Alliance, “Its mission is to deliver a generation of global citizens who are knowledgeable about and inspired to take responsibility for the sustainability of the world. They do this by emphasizing ‘learning by doing’, placing great weight in developing social responsibility, appreciating integrity, honesty, ethics, and compassion as core underlying values, and recognizing the importance of a holistic education.” [19]
The school’s wall-less classrooms are crafted entirely from bamboo – meaning the campus’ design is as unique as its curriculum. The form of the school is made to blend into nature, using amorphic forms with no straight lines or sharp angles.

Lunch in Japan

While travelling in Japan, I interviewed Mizuki Ide who went to school in Ibaraki. She told me about their lunch period, and how special it was. There was a rotation in which every class had a turn in helping to cook the food with the schools’ cooks. They learned how to prepare meals, and the essence of eating balanced, healthy and locally produced food (the ingredients were locally produced). This activity teaches the kids values such as the importance of sharing responsibility, working together, and the effort of preparing and making of the meals.

Summerhill School

Summerhill School is an independent British boarding school that was founded in 1921 by Alexander Sutherland Neill. He believed that the school should be made to fit the child, rather than the other way around.
Summerhill is known as the origin of the democratic education system. The school meetings are run as a democratic community, where everyone, pupils and teachers, has an equal vote.
Summerhill School doesn’t teach to be happy, but it teaches pupils some skills that often helps them find their passion and purpose in life. The “do-as-yer-like” education doesn’t fit all children, it has little discipline and lots of freedom. Some can set their own boundaries, but for others it didn’t work out. Summerhill is not a happy school, but it teaches pupils skills that for example often helps them find their passion and purpose in life, along with liking oneself and having self confidence [20].

Ziv School

The school yard has many possibilities for pupils to stay in different areas and engage in a broad variety of activities. In the herbal garden they grow all kinds of fruit, vegetables, and herbs. There are outdoor all-weather playing areas, many isolated places to play and talk with friends, and other seating options.

Inspiration from Jan Gehl

Jahn Gehl’s books invite people to a better everyday, a better way to live their lives.
Gehl plans and designs cities with the resident in the center. Observing and researching all aspects of what and how a person would feel in the city. What makes one happy, sad, eager, afraid, safe, etc.
He states that the foundation of health derives from fresh air, exercise, and people. Cities should be built bottom-up, starting with the residents and always leaving room for adjustments. A few examples from Gehl’s book, “Cities for People” that especially influenced my work.

Senses and Communication

Gehl refers to the difference of the impressions between short and large distances. “Large distances: many impressions,
short distances: strong impressions.” At short distances the active senses are the ones that are most connected to emotions. Sense of smell is not engaged in the communication across a certain distance. Along with physical distance, warmth and touch are other important parameters with a significant impact on interpersonal communication.

“The experience only becomes interesting&exciting
at a distance of less than 10 meters,
and preferably at even closer ranges
where we can use all our senses.”

Cities that offer physical support such as urban edges and facades details with columns, steps and niches for visitors or passbyers to lean on or rest upon are more inviting and create a welcoming atmosphere for staying. In contrast, cities that do not offer these, but have rather blank facades and no urban furniture to lean on are less inviting [21].

What are the Guidelines to Follow in Order to Design According to These Terms?

In this chapter I will focus on creating guidelines for the six terms from the above research. The terms are Close Relationships, Exercise, Helping Others, Nature, Gratefulness, and a Purposeful Life.

Close Relationships

In order to make a guideline for close relationships, I decided to search how close (physically) are people when communicating. What is the relationship between the people? How many are taking part in the conversation? Is there a difference between two and five people?
I came upon a term called proxemics. Proxemics is the study of measurable social distances, that is also known as body space or comfort zone, between people as they interact.
Regulating the distances between us and other people provides us with several benefits. Communication and affection are easier to be reachable.
In 1966 Edward T. Hall identified four interpersonal social distances [22].

My design should host people in the exact distance in order to have the ideal space for conversation and socializing- allowing people to be both intimate and personal with one another. I will be focusing on the intimate and personal zone to strengthen relationships between people.

Exercise

The space will have a focus on inviting the user to exercise or give another solution. For example: the space will be up on a hill, and will require a 10-20 minute walk to be reached. Another example is to put an emphasis on meditation and relaxation, giving the user the space to meditate freely and worry-free. [23]

Helping Others / Working Together

I can’t force people to help others, in my design I can encourage people to work together. More than one person is needed to complete this action. This raises the awareness for our surroundings and emphasizes the importance of synergy, feeling of belonging, (togetherness).

Nature

Spending as little as 15 minutes in nature has an enormous affect on one’s well-being, mental health, stress relief, and raises positive thoughts and feelings.
The space should be outside in nature (with a roof to allow the stay for longer months of the year). The materials used should be exclusively natural. All senses should be used to enrich the feeling of nature. According to research, when all of our senses are engaged with nature the effect is positive.

In a research on physiological effects of wood on humans. The review has described scientific reports that elucidated the physiological effects of
wood-derived stimulation. Throughout, these reports showed that smell, visual, touch, and auditory stimulation involving wood materials induced physiological relaxation such as reduction of brain activity, enhancement of parasympathetic nervous activity, and inhibition of sympathetic nervous activity, as well as decreased blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormone level [25].

“Conventionally, experience suggests that the smell of wood has a relaxing effect.”

Gratefulness

From my research and knowledge, I believe it’s not possible that the use of “design” can invite people to be more grateful. In a conversation or in a system, for example, I believe it’s possible to raise the awareness of, or direct to this term. Maybe using text, asking a question like “What are you grateful for now?” Gives the user space to think about it, write about it and share it.
I’ve decided that Gratefulness could be affected through Helping Others/ Working Together. Therefore, gratefulness will be expressed through working together and hopefully raising the awareness in the users.
Giving flowers or saying “thank you” is a way of expressing Gratitude in western culture. It would be possible to allow the user to express what one feels by using some kind of sign or flag, or designing a built-in vase for flowers, I find this very literal.

Purposeful Life

Purposefulness is a subjective, individual process that one discovers by and for oneself. What, to me has a lot of purpose, for another might have completely different or no meaning. This is why I cannot affect this aspect in a passive approach where the user interacts with a product. The main recommendation for the ongoing search for purpose, that came out from this research, is to find a purpose that is combined with helping others

Designing a Seating System

Inside the time frame and with limited resources, I will design one area according to the six guidelines. This will be an example of how to design “HAPPINESS” according to my guidelines. This can be implemented into any school.

Searching for Intimacy

The concept of developing a cocoon-like space encourages the following: strengthens close relationships in small groups, feeling of safety, separated and free from the outside world. On the following page, I’ve created a concept sketch based on these observations.

Searching for Seating Positions

I observed the way people interact with one another while conversing in public areas. Their body language and positioning. Mainly on benches, but also other locations that allow them to sit while talking. On the following page, I’ve created a concept sketch based on these observations.

3D Sketches

Following the observations of how people sit and communicate on benches, I implemented some of the positions in my prototypes. I wanted to check which position will be the most suitable when combined with other guidelines.

After learning about a lot of possible seating positions, I noticed that they were made especially for two people.
I find that it´s unnatural for a group of people to sit next to each other. The seating system should be round without sharp corners.
Sharp angles and straight lines stick out and disturb nature׳s flowing lines. The shape should be inspired from nature. The group should sit at the same height in order to avoid hierarchy or power differences.

Shapes from Nature

After analyzing park benches, I realized that the seating system must be inspired from nature. Generally, walking down the streets and observing, I was quite shocked with how we design and plan our urban view. There are mainly straight lines, lots of corners, high buildings. Even the benches in the park stand out in the view. They are usually built with a straight back rest, and a straight seating area. I started observing plants, trees, fields of green, springs, and rocks in nature.
When I saw a budding flower, I immediately knew, that this was the perfect inspiration for the shape of my seating system. The closed flower that will soon bloom symoblized development, change, and reminded me of this process. Moreover, one sees the flower from the outside, and then when it blooms, from the inside.
A perfect metaphor for my process.

3D Sketches of the Blooming Flower

In order to understand the function of the blooming flower, I built prototypes to test the different parts. What shape are the petals? How will the user sit? Is the seat still? Does the whole petal move? Where are the hinges? How will the blooming flower open and close? Where are the hinges? Which technique should I use to make it twist and open?

The Final Concept

There is an old Hasidic story of a rabbi who had a conversation with the Lord about Heaven and Hell. “I will show you Hell,” said the Lord, and led the rabbi into a room containing a group of famished, desperate people sitting around a large, circular table.
In the center of the table rested an enormous pot of stew, more than enough for everyone. The smell of the stew was delicious and made the rabbi’s mouth water. Yet no one ate. Each diner at the table held a very long-handled spoon—long enough to reach the pot and scoop up a spoonful of stew, but too long to get the food into one’s mouth. The rabbi saw that their suffering was indeed terrible and bowed his head in compassion.
“Now I will show you Heaven,” said the Lord, and they entered another room, identical to the first—same large, round table, same enormous pot of stew, same long-handled spoons. Yet there was gaiety in the air; everyone appeared well nourished, plump, and exuberant.
The rabbi could not understand and looked to the Lord. “It is simple,” said the Lord, “but it requires a certain skill. You see, the people in this room have learned to feed each other!”

-Irvin Yalom. The fable of the Long Spoons

Prototype

I made a miniature prototype while concluding the final concept. I wanted to see how the seating system could function, solve some of the problems with the design, get more clues of which materials should be used.
I found that the functionality of the lid of a pills-container, symbolizes the action of how I want the seating system to work. Two fingers need to press from opposite sides to open the container. The final concept is to make a seating system that has to be simultaneously activated by five people. Otherwise, it will not open. The shell of the flower (see Shapes of Nature, p. 67) will help with the function of my seating system. When the petals are open they will rest on the shell of the flower.
In the next steps, on each petal small details will be carved to make the system more interesting for smaller children. The exact sizes will be calculated to maximize the use of the right distance between the users, and to make it as comfortable and ergonomic as possible.

Conclusion & Future Work

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”
-Jim Rohn

The Process

In this thesis, I addressed the problem of finding happiness, purpose, and belonging in life. The main focus of my research was on improving the lives of my surroundings with an emphasis on happiness. I approached this project as a scientist doing self experiments on the subject of happiness which made it difficult to differentiate between my own emotions and technical facts.
Based on the research and the findings from the self-experiments, I presented and tested the hypotheses. They were proven to have a positive effect on happiness in people’s lives. From further research and the conclusions of the hypotheses, I extracted the main points that led to six main terms. In order to translate these terms into design, I suggested solutions of how each term could be transformed into a guideline. The guidelines could, then, be applied in a design process. I chose to design a seating system in a school to show an example of how the guidelines could be implemented. With the target group in mind, I attempted to visualize and make tangible each of the terms to fit the project. My users are children, so I invented a way for them to have to work together in order to be able to use the seating system. This maximizes the sensation of belonging through the product. This act of working together influenced also gratefulness, which cannot be taught through a “passive” product. The children understand that they need, and therefore appreciate, each other to use the Blooming Flower.
Through the specific arrangement of the seats the users practice intimate conversations with one another. Concerning Purposefulness, when practicing the other guidelines, one is exposed to self-development and this pushes one forward to further investigate their purpose in life. The seats in the Blooming Flower will be made out of wood to strengthen the connection with nature. To make the experience meaningful and to strengthen the a connection with nature, the seats in the Blooming Flower will be made of wood and it will be placed outside.
Through designing products that are based on the guidelines from my thesis, I can influence, raise the awareness and improve the happiness in lives of my surroundings.
From an experimental point of view, I’ve learned that finding happiness is an ongoing process of changing habits, continuity and intentional maintenance.
Through design all these skills can be exposed whether consciously or subconsciously.

Learnings

In this process, I’ve gained new skills. I’ve learned how to structure a project, and how to analyze and use the outcomes in future steps. This was the most text I’ve ever written, and I learned how to express myself in writing. I wanted the research book to be readable and accessible, so I studied how to make an effective layout, tried different kinds of fonts, and structured my titles according to size and color.
Everyone I shared my ideas with and elaborated on my research topic was very interested and enjoyed contributing their thoughts. This validated the necessity for this research about happiness.
In my experiments, I crossed boundaries and left my comfort zone, and this stimulated creativity and helped me step out of the box.

Future Work

When designing with these guidelines, the main focus is on the users. Their experience should be accessible, positive and inspiring. At least two users need to act together to use it. The shape and design language is to be inspired from nature.
In the next steps, I would first of all create a working prototype to do user testing. I will then further understand how it should be built and produced. More importantly will be the user feedback. How they react to it? Is it attractive? Does it intrigue them? Does it make a difference? Does it have a large effect as was planned?
After making adjustments from the feedback, I want to make a series of products that have the same effect for other target groups. Keeping winter in mind, I want to focus on creating spaces to allow people to unwind and connect with others.
My future wish is to find a team of people who are also working in this field. I would like to share my knowledge and designing skills to create a more human oriented urban life with emphasizing the importance of being happy.

References

Special Thanks to

Gili Yoffe
Toni Kurandt
Shiran Kidron
Matti Stellacci
Tom Shai
Mareike Bode
Oren Estryk
Or Yoffe
Kiri Li
Lev Rosenblit
Cameron McAlpine
Rony Bousany
Constanze Langer
Jörg Hundertpfund

Literature

  1. Waldinger, R. (2015, November). What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness
  2. Mineo,L. (2017, April 11). Good genes are nice, but joy is better. Retrieved from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/
  3. Smith, E. (2017, April). There’s more to life than being happy. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/emily_esfahani_smith_there_s_more_to_life_than_being_happy
  4. McLeod, S. (Updated 2018). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
  5. King, V. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.actionforhappiness.org/
  6. Achor, S. (2011, May). The happy secret to better work. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work
  7. Widrich. L (2012, August)What Happens to Our Brains When We Exercise and How It Makes Us Happier. Retrieved from: https://blog.bufferapp.com/why-exercising-makes-us-happier
  8. Perel, E. (2013, February). Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/esther_perel_the_secret_to_desire_in_a_long_term_relationship/transcript#t-199033
  9. Prevost, S. (May 2012), Build a “moai” for better relationships, longer life. Retrieved from: http://nooga.com/155096/build-a-moai-for-better-relationships-longer-life/
  10. Ducharme, J. (2018, February). Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People. Time Magazine.
  11. Kim, G. (2017). How cohousing can make us happier (and live longer). Retrieved from:https://www.ted.com/playlists/551/how_we_live_now
  12. Greenberg, M. (2016, December). Do Relationships Make Us Healthier and Happier? Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201612/do-relationships-make-us-healthier-and-happier
  13. Santi, J. (2017, August) The Secret to Happiness Is Helping Others. Retrieved from: http://time.com/collection-post/4070299/secret-to-happiness/
  14. Grieger, R. (2017, March). Happiness Tool 1: Live Your Passionate Purpose. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-purpose/201703/happiness-tool-1-live-your-passionate-purpose
  15. DUCHARME, J. (2017, November). 7 Surprising Health Benefits of Gratitude. Retrieved from: http://time.com/5026174/health-benefits-of-gratitude/
  16. Reynolds, G. (2018, May). Even a Little Exercise Might Make Us Happier. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/well/move/even-a-little-exercise-might-make-us-happier.html
  17. Coles, J. (2016, April). How Nature is Good for our Health and Happiness. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160420-how-nature-is-good-for-our-health-and-happiness
  18. Stelmacher, K. & Hensel, K. (2017). Das Allmende-Kontor, eine Vernetzungsstelle und ein Gemeinschaftsgarten für Berlin. Retrieved from http://allmende-kontor.de/
  19. Current, S. (2017 August). Green School Bali Takes Teaching To A New Green Level. Retrieved from: https://www.greenschoolsalliance.org/blogs/17/509
  20. Neustatter, A. (2011, August). Summerhill school and the do-as-yer-like kids. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/aug/19/summerhill-school-at-9019 250
  21. Gehl, J. (2010). Cities for People. DC, Washington: Island Press,
  22. Hall, E.T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension, New York: Doubleday
  23. Williams, F. (2017, February). How Just 15 Minutes in Nature Can Make You Happier. Retrieved from: http://time.com/4662650/nature-happiness-stress/
  24. Krashinsky, S. (2018, May) Molson’s newest red beer fridge touts Canada’s multicultural side. Retrieved from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/marketing/molsons-newest-red-beer-fridge-touts-canadas-multicultural-side/article25116524/
  25. Ikei, H. Song, C. Miyazaki, Y. (2016, December). Physiological effects of wood on humans: a review. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10086-016-1597-9

Photos

Beate Wätzel, page 61 below right
Wätzel, B. (2017, March). Anzeige. Schöner Wohnen Magazine. page 22 a
Bubble Tree, page 61 middle right
CC0, page 55, above left. Pxhere
Cultural Aspects, page 63, Pixabay
Green School, page 43. Facebook
Hans Braxmeier, page 54, above. Pixabay
Jan Gehl and Gehl Architects, page 49-50
Javier Sánchez Mingorance, page 63, middle left. Freepik
Kibek.de, page 61 below left
Kibek.de. (2017, March). Schöner Wohnen Magazine. page 62
Mabel Amber, page 63, above right. Pixaxbay
MarionNette81, page 58 left. Pixabay
Molson Beer, page 55 above
Nicole, page 54, below. Pumps&Iron
Shutterstock, page 44, above. Business Insider
Site Amenities, page 63, middle right. Webcoat.com
TED2017, page 15
TEDSalon NY2013, page 25
TEDxBeaconStreet, page 13
TEDxBloomington, page 21
Unknown at Summerhill School, page 45. Wikipedia
Unknown, page 58 right. Psychology for Marketers
Unknown, page 61 middle center
Unknown. (2017, March). Schöner Wohnen Magazine. page 108
Unknown, page 61 below left
Unknown. (2017, March). Schöner Wohnen Magazine. page 14
Unknown at National Archives, page 63, below left. Wikimedia Commons
Unknown, page 40 below. Getty Images
Unknown, page 56 above, Asia One
Vaishakh Manohar, page 55 below leftW. Pfauder, page 61 above. Potsdamer Schlössernacht 2016
Yuriko Nakao, page 44, below. Business Insider

All remaining photos were taken by me

Illustrations

Alice Noir, page 22, coffee cup, rose, heart. Noun Project
Charlie Bach, page 39, below
Donna Feldman, page 27. Radio Nutrition
Emmi-Riikka Vartianien, page 25, below left.
Vartianien, E. (2018, April). Move it, move it. Blue Wings. page 60
Grace Kim, page 29. TED
Joe Leech, page 17. @mrjoe
Kevin, page 22, 24. Noun Project
Marissa Gelms, page 55 below
Shiran Kidron, pages 75-78
Tedi Permana, page 55 above. cgtrader
Xiomayra Lopez, page 39, above. My Dream School

Ein Projekt von

Fachgruppe

Produktdesign

Betreuung

Prof. Constanze Langer Prof. Jörg Hundertpfund

Entstehungszeitraum

Sommersemester 2018