The Bartlett School of Planning


Siti Syamimi Omar

Research subject

Finding Happiness: A Human-Centred Urban Design Approach to the Experience of Urban Happiness, A Malaysian Case.

Primary supervisor: Dr Filipa Wunderlich
Secondary supervisor: Dr Catalina Turcu
Sponsor: Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia
Starting date: December 2020
Projected completion date: November 2023

As more people live in cities, city living causes more stress and negative impacts on mental health. Although urban designers have been designing cities to meet people’s needs, mental health problems have increased. The mental health problems among urbanites raise a question about their state of happiness. In 2012, a worldwide happiness movement was introduced to address health, social and environmental crises. The happiness movement stems from the negative impacts caused by years of prioritising development in the name of economic progress. Since the happiness movement started, happiness has become a common topic among country leaders, governments, policymakers, organisations, researchers and urban designers. However, urban design delimits happiness to measuring life satisfaction and satisfaction level towards urban quality. By limiting happiness, there is a lack of understanding about the happiness phenomenon and the essence of what makes people happy in the urban environment, leading to generic normative urban design solutions insensitive to the local context. To address this issue, this research will investigate “How can urban designers and researchers approach (understand, research and influence) urban happiness from a human-centred urban design point of view?” It does it by adopting empirical phenomenology using walking interview, ‘Feel, Map, Reflect’ diary, surveys, researcher’s observations and photo-elicitation workshop methods. It explores urban happiness in urban design in modernist, traditional, mono-ethnic, and multi-ethnic neighbourhoods. These methods allow in- depth understanding of urban happiness experience with definitions of urban happiness, the influencing spatial-morphological and socio-cultural factors and proposal of human-centred qualitative method. This research offers urban designers methods to understand better the city, particularly its population, thus avoiding generic design solutions and providing context-sensitive designs that will benefit wellbeing in general, specifically mental health.


Mimi is currently pursuing her postgraduate research degree in Planning Studies at the Bartlett School of Planning since December 2020. Before taking a break to study at UCL, Mimi was teaching landscape architecture at her alma mater, Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia. Her diverse education background of having a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Universiti Teknologi MARA and master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia shapes her interest in urbanism concentrating on the human-related aspects such as senses and emotions.

  • Omar, S.S, Sakip, S.R.M, Akhir, N.M (2016). Bringing the New to the Old: Urban regeneration through public arts. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 234 (2016) 515 – 524
  • Omar, S.S, Ilia, N.H, Teh, M.Z, Borhan, R (2018). Green Mosque: A Living Nexus. Environment-Behaviour Proceedings Journal, 3(7), Mar. 2018 (p.53-63)

Landscape Architecture Lecturer at Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia (2012 until 2020)