In recent years, Groningen has invested heavily in an active lifestyle making its locals increasingly healthier and the city one of the healthiest city in Europe. However, even in Groningen, the global trend towards more mental problems is noticeable. Depressions, burnouts and other stress-related issues are becoming an increasing social problem, as people have trouble coping with fast and modern city life. The pop-up Let’s Gro Gym raises the debate about urban happiness and training both the body and the mind.
Groningen, the Netherlands, is known for being one of the world’s best cycling cities. Through successful policies, including in the areas of mobility and health, and by creating more parks, running routes, and outdoor sports facilities, Groningen has become one of healthiest cities in Europe. Now the city wants to raise its game and become a truly happy city by focusing more on mental health and wellbeing. During the yearly inspiration festival Let’s Gro, the Dutch creative urbanism agency Street Makers created a pop-up gym to train the body and the mind. Let’s Gro Gym is a space where you can try out different practices that combine mental and physical fitness like yoga, calisthenics, and mindfulness.
Visitors get the opportunity to beat their frustrations through a ‘1-minute therapy’ developed by Argentinian psychoanalyst Claudio Rosso. “Living a happy urban life is about learning how to deal with our frustrations. This exercise can be a start of a personal journey to find out what works best for each individual subject”, he explains. “In big parts of the western world, it seems we treat these frustrations too often as mental problems, while they are actually life itself. The paradox of living a happy urban life is letting go of seeking perfect happiness.”
The gym was created and designed by an interdisciplinary and international team of psychoanalysts, urban planners, social entrepreneurs, and designers. The collective seeks to put mental health and wellbeing on the agenda of cities worldwide. By connecting different practices, it aims at designing happiness into the urban fabric through city planning. “The complex challenge of designing truly happy cities can only be taken on using an interdisciplinary approach. We innovate the traditional urbanism practice and connect it with the creative industry”, explains Street Makers’ co-founder Jorn Wemmenhove. Together with Street Makers, the City of Groningen is planning to become be the best city it can be for all its citizens through interdisciplinary creativity.