For the 12th Venice Architecture Biennale, Italian architect Aldo Cibic embarked upon an architectural exploration of how space can impact and improve the happiness of a community. Rethinking Happiness is a research project that investigates how we can build new, happier communities as we face the two greatest pressures of our time: economic crisis and environmental emergency.

The economic crisis has revealed the limitations of a development model and, at the same time, the environmental emergency is forcing us to radically rethink our way of confronting the future. On their own, these two problematic areas suffice to make us understand that many things will no longer be as they were before; but if we decide to try to do something, to get a glimpse of hope, we realize we are faced with an incredible opportunity to redesign life, to trigger a process of mutation. We have to prepare ourselves to see with new eyes, to think about a tabula rasa situation in which to redefine needs, habits, activities, dreams in relation to new conditions of existence, to think about a more up-to-date idea of contemporary life.

The undertaking, which involves over 40 architects, designers, sociologists, agronomists, energetic consultants and models-makers, consists of four projects: Superbazaar, a new vision for a communal marketplace to buy, sell and trade; Rural Urbanism, an intersection of city and countryside; a campus in the fields, a concept for the Venice agri-techno valley; and new communities, new polarities, a business park and community center of sorts.

Altogether, the project presents an ambitious exploration of the touchpoint of physical aesthetics and social harmony. More importantly, it bespeaks the need for cross-disciplinary collaboration between architects, designers, urban planners, sociologists and beyond in order to really deconstruct happiness and reconstruct it into space.

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Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, Design Observer and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.