Now in its 11th year, FitCity 2017 focused on interdisciplinary initiatives in Queens that bring together diverse stakeholders to improve civic assets and foster community building.
In the morning session Civic Life: Exploring Community Anchors in Queens, Deborah Marton, Executive Director of the New York Restoration Project, and Prerana Reddy, Director of Public Events at the Queens Museum, discussed how spaces function as community anchors. Nick Buron, Chief Librarian at Queens Library, discussed the library’s spatial evolution and the positive impact that its redesign had on the surrounding community, creating a more welcoming facade and drawing more people in to use its services.
Evidence-based design strategies were a highlight in the Design for Healthy Living afternoon session. Margaret Castillo, Chief Architect of the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC), Suzanne Nienaber, Partnership Director for the Center for Active Design (CAD), and Bryan Ross, Associate at the Center for Active Design, discussed how the NYC DDC and CAD have been working together to utilize design to improve the health and wellbeing of New Yorkers. They emphasized the need to pay attention to not just mental and physical health, but also to social health and wellbeing, and urged designers to think about how all three interact.
Their organizations identified six objectives for supporting health through design:
Design for walkable, safe, and well-maintained neighborhoods
Increase active transportation opportunities and transit access
Create attractive and vibrant open spaces
Maximize access to nature and greenery
Design buildings to support healthy choices
Optimize sensory elements such as lighting, sound, and materials
These six points resonate with the trends PLASTARC is seeing across academia and the industry, as well as what we have been finding in our own research and promoting in our practice. Activity based working has a myriad of health benefits for users, not just because it provides a diversity of flexible, task-appropriate spaces, but also because it gives people the freedom to choose which space(s) work best for them individually, increasing their sense of agency. In addition, multisensory design is an empathy-based approach to wellbeing because it focuses on the needs and interests of humans instead of prioritizing what works best for the machines we use.
Designing for the whole human is a tall order, but it can be achieved when we think strategically and creatively about the physical and social ecosystems we inhabit.
For more information on CAD’s work, check out their Active Design Guidelines.