February 27, 2013
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is working with the Clinton Global Initiative and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) to examine the relationships between design, urbanism, and public health. The collaboration is part of the AIA’s Decade of Design Commitment to Action, which aims to make positive changes through design in the global urban environment. Alexander d’Hooghe, director of the MIT CAU explained: “We are investigating the scale of urban design, architecture, as well as planning, in relation to health today, whether related to obesity, or to climate change.”
More than half of the world’s inhabitants live in urban areas, and this is projected to grow to 70 per cent by 2050. According to the AIA the global urban environment is being planned, designed, constructed, and retrofitted at an unprecedented pace and scale. Pressing cultural and environmental concerns are demanding new levels of accountability and the measure of ecological performance, energy use, mobility, density relationships, and the use of dwindling resources.
“The MIT Center for Advance Urbanism’s (CAU) commitment brings immediate focus, structure, and energy to this effort,” says AIA Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA. “With the intellectual resources and recognition that the centre brings, we know we can tap the tremendous talent of our profession to address these public health challenges.”
Key to this new research agenda will be the intersection of urbanism, design, and public health. It’s estimated that three-quarters of U.S. spending on healthcare goes towards treating chronic diseases, which are now the leading cause of death and disability in the United States, with 70 per cent of deaths attributed to chronic disease.
With a core focus on health and urbanism the CAU is partnering with the AIA on Decade of Design to combine cutting-edge research and innovation with the MIT School of Architecture and Planning’s pursuit of knowledge through research and design around real world problems. The CAU has been established within the School of Architecture and Planning, giving it the ability to draw students and faculty with diverse backgrounds and professional interests to work collaboratively on urban challenges.
MIT and the AIA say they will jointly investigate and document correlations between the built environment and health, and develop evidence-based guidelines and design solutions. Over the next decade, Design: Health and Urbanism will develop these solutions, through research, prototypes, and demonstration projects.
The goal is to transform cities through concerted, participatory action, supporting human, economic, and environmental health improvements, (most importantly) by using design as the key nexus point between them all.