To address the urgent need to research, design, and implement solutions to urban challenges, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Center for Advanced Urbanism are collaborating on a new research initiative that will focus on how design can improve urban health. This research will support AIA’s efforts through the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Decade of Design.

Health and the built environment

When we think of health, often the first thing that comes to mind is the medical industry and treating illness when people are unwell. But we can turn this idea around and focus instead on preventive strategies that reduce the incidence of sickness in the first place. Urban planning historically grew out of a public health crisis, related to tenement aggregation and overcrowding in industrial cities. Public and environmental health concerns led to fierce advocacy for a dispersed urban order or less-dense forms of city-making. Since the 1970’s, however, compact cities have returned as a desirable counter model. Whether dense or dispersed, there is a growing appreciation for the value of planning and designing cities to support physical activity, sunlight, clean air, use of sustainable and safe building materials, access to healthy foods, safety and social connectedness. This is an epochal moment for understanding and addressing the health consequences of our cities and to put knowledge, measurement, and innovation to work creating environments that support human and environmental health, and resilient communities.

Health and Urbanism Initiative

Through research, prototypes and demonstration projects, this multi-year initiative will investigate and document the correlations between the built environment and health, and develop evidence-based guidelines and design solutions that support human and environmental health in and around cities. Working with selected urban areas, this project seeks to identify and activate effective strategies that are locally relevant and globally scalable. Collaboration and knowledge sharing is a fundamental intention of this project. The issues and opportunities call for perspective from a wide range of stakeholders and disciplines, including urban planning, public health, medicine, technology, finance, government, business, transportation, building product manufacturing, construction, engineering, among others. Learning will be shared on-line and in print, at conferences and workshops, in person and virtually.

The first stage in the initiative was launched in Spring 2013 with the Advanced Research Workshop in Landscape + Urbanism Advanced Research Workshop in Landscape + Urbanism

For additional information, please see links on the left hand side.

Fall 2013