Happiness studies are booming in the social sciences. This thinking has made its way into built environment and is informing both client and practitioners choices. Architecture has come to register on so-called happiness indices: listings which rate the quality of buildings alongside the number of sunny days, air quality, public transport access and the amount of nearby coffee places. This has lead to a simple, but radical idea forming in the architectural field: good architecture makes people happy, bad architecture does not.

In the age of big data, everything is quantifiable, even happiness. According to writer Reinier de Graaf however, measuring people’s happiness with architecture is a step towards trying to control them. 

De Graaf asks: how does one measure happiness? And how does one logically correlate happiness (or a lack thereof) to the features of a building? What is the validity of happiness as a criterion, for architecture, or anything else for that matter? One could argue that measuring something represents the first step in removing it from the realm of free will. Once things are measured, they can be classified, compared and, if needed, encouraged to change in order to compare more favourably.

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