MIT, AIA to Collaborate on Public Health Commitment

To address the urgent need for solutions to ongoing urban challenges, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Center for Advanced Urbanism announced a new research collaboration focused on how design can improve the health of urban communities. The collaboration supports AIA efforts through the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Decade of Design. The announcement came at the start of the CGI Winter Meeting.

The MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) figures prominently in the search for better models of urban growth. Its expertise will center on articulating methods and projects that integrate architecture, landscape, ecology, transportation engineering, politics and political philosophy, technology and real estate on scales that range from complex regional systems to local communities and neighborhoods.

“The MIT Center for Advance Urbanism’s commitment brings immediate focus, energy and structure to our decade-long effort,” said AIA Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA. “With the intellectual resources and recognition that the center brings, we can tap the tremendous talent of our profession to address these public health challenges.”

“If you look at the issue of urbanism from the social point of view or the economic point of view, or if you look at it from a health point of view, it’s clear we have to have new theoretical positions and assumptions about how to move forward,” says Adèle Naudé Santos, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT. “When it comes to urban health, there is no greater issue facing our profession. We look forward to making our collaboration with the AIA a resounding success.”

More than half of the world’s inhabitants live in urban areas, and this is projected to grow to 70 percent by 2050. Massive urbanization can negatively affect human and environmental health in unique ways, and many of those effects can be addressed through the realm of design. Some of the great health challenges over the next century, including the prevalence of obesity, asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression, among others, are both increasing at an alarming rate and frequently linked to physical design and urban environmental factors.

Through research, prototypes and demonstration projects, MIT and AIA will jointly investigate and document 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. The project will incorporate broadly interdisciplinary perspectives (architecture, urban planning, finance, medicine, urban health, technology, building science and transportation, among others) through three phases:

• Research and development of evidence-based guidelines, starting spring 2013;

• Working with a particular city, including municipal officials and community stakeholders, to design, test and prototype solutions that are specific to that city but applicable to others, in the US and globally.

• Putting demonstration projects in place.

This project will have collaboration as its major focus, with research results and learning shared online and in print at conferences and workshops, in person and virtually.

In addition to funding provided by the AIA and MIT, additional support will be sought from private and public sector sources.

You can see this press release online here:

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