ARCHITECTS, URBAN DESIGN, HEALTH, AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

A. D. Seidel, Jeong Tai Kim and I. B. R. Tanaka

INTRODUCTION Interest in the effects of the built environment on human health is growing. In this paper, we argue that there are three types of architects: fashionistas, life improvers, and object-service packagers. Each approaches architecture from a different angle and believes they have something valuable to offer. The future of the profession, however, may lie in how each responds to the growing body of research on human health and the built environment. This paper will discuss first the predominant roles being adopted by architects today. Then, it will look at one of those predominant approaches: how research on human use of the built environment is being integrated into practice. We must acknowledge that, clearly, we cannot include here every research reference linking urban design and health. We have tried instead to enumerate the larger concepts. Nonetheless, we hope this provides the reader with a framework within which to consider design-health connections. We considered who the article's audience would be, and we recognized that it might not be only those who read architectural and planning magazines or research journals. In this brief article, we clearly would not be satisfying either extreme fully. Yet, we hope we can bring together health and the design of the built environment in a way that makes the needed linkages and inspires later, greater depth on each element we discuss.

THE ROLES OF ARCHITECTS Architects fill many roles, including that of artist, urban planner, and urban designer. How archi- tects approach these roles may be described as coming from three worldviews: architects who desire to be the star of the moment (fashionistas), those who focus on the improvement of life and its functions for humans (life improvers), and those who focus on creating packages that provide both a design and the services that accompany it (object-service packagers). To provide a bit of background, each of these worldviews is described in more detail below. Fashionistas The term fashionista has been borrowed from the fashion industry. In an interesting turn of events, the term was applied to architects by two writers almost simultaneously (Ouroussoff, 2008; Seidel, 2008). Both authors were commenting on flamboyant trends in architecture that came to an abrupt halt with the recent global recession. As applied to architects, the term fashionista describes those who focus on their reputations and "the so-called intersection of architecture, art and fashion" (Ouroussoff, 2008:para. 4). Fashionistas typically do not focus on the function or potential users of spaces. They are also foremost in the public's mind, as they are predominantly the ones depicted in the popular press. Room at the top is scarce and ever-shifting, however, and there are only about six reigning fashionistas at any given time. The rise to fame of fashionistas appears to parallel bullish markets. The "How to Become a Famous Architect" article that appeared on Fashion Architecture Taste's website (www.fat.co.uk) in 2004 provided the best satire of fashionistas, but other websites have copied this satire and kept it alive ( cf. www.famousarchitect.blogspot.com; www.strange harvest.com). Directions for becoming famous include develop a mystique, wear strange glasses, copy designs from 10-year-old magazines, do not actually design a building for at least 10 years, and remember that journalists are the audience (Jacob, 2007). While highly amusing in the original, the description hits close to the truth for some current star architects. There are examples of some who have taken academic appointments but never appeared at the university. Others have sold models and drawings to museums while not actually building anything for the first 20 years of their careers. This situation is a reflection of decision making through power or influence, not knowledge.

Life Improvers On the opposite end of the scale from the fashionistas are the life improvers, who strive to better the lives of their clients. This is probably the position that most architects are trying to advance, though it may be articulated poorly sometimes. For nearly 100 years, professional architectural associations have tried to forward the idea that architects improve peoples' lives because they are artists. These public relations campaigns have nearly always failed. Architects who truly improve the lives of their clients often find high levels of financial success. The intent of the majority of 20th century architecture has been just that - life improvement - despite the popular image the fashionistas portray. Early in the century, the importance of sensitive, quiet architecture that focuses on the circulation of air, sunlight, and people became paramount. More recently, project design has been influenced by growing bodies of research in many areas, most notably in the area of how people use buildings. (This has often been combined with interests in technology and sustainability.) As the use of research increases, life-improver architects will continue to create a helpful, evidence-based profession. Understanding the current research permits architects to better serve clients. This, in turn, creates a greater demand for architects, some of whom have developed a significant following. This trend is currently most apparent in health and sports facilities.

Object-Service Packagers The most recent type of architect to emerge is the object-service packager (Manzini, 1997). While Manzini spoke about industrial designers, the term can be applied to all architects who combine a service with a designed object, making the package as a whole more desirable than the object alone. In many cases, the quality of the designed object may be reduced, yet the overall package is considered an improvement. Though this is an emerging trend for architects, many examples can be found in the area of industrial design. For instance, according to Consumer Reports, both BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars have declined in technical quality over the last 1 5 years, yet their sales have risen (see the April issue of Consumer Reports from each year and follow the progress of how these cars have changed; also see changes in BMW and Mercedes-Benz advertising and claims made for their cars). What was once a perfor- mance car has now become a luxury and status car. Both brands are sold with complete ownership and service packages, including unlimited "free" car washes. In addition, the engines are designed with concealing shrouds to deter owners from doing their own maintenance. In effect, owners are forced to use the service part of the package, and the resulting package is highly desired. At the lower end of the market, a highly desirable object-service package example can be found in Vancouver, Canada. For a small fee, the Modo car co-op (www.modo.coop) provides account holders with a vehicle to use. Full membership includes additional benefits, such as discounts on health insurance and local recreational services. The vehicles themselves are found in locations around the metropolitan Vancouver area, often near public-transit hubs. Insurance, maintenance, cleaning, and fuel refilling are all provided worry-free to users. Similar services are provided to the private market but at a higher cost. Bundling a design object with a service has the potential to be highly profitable. Much like brokers, object-service packagers thrive when they parcel their products with the right service. They are the real innovators in the future of the architecture profession.

Putting People First Modern sprawling subdivisions are "de- signed and built to center not on the hu- man, but on the human being who is traveling in an automobile " (Frumkin, et al. , 2004:20; emphasis in original). Ur- ban design's focus on people rather than cars is new to many urban designers, yet the Danish architect Jan Gehl has been promoting this idea since the 1960s. In his current status as an accidental rock star, he has been promoting public health and active transportation modes through urban design. With his mantra "be sweet to people," Gehl (2010c), along with many others, has changed the face of Copenhagen and other large cities, with many others following his lead around the world. These cities have changed from vehicle-centered gridlock and parking lots to areas focused on ease of movement for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation. Examples of pedestrian- and cyclist-focused design are shown in Figures 1-2. According to Gehl (20 1 0b), many Danes complained that "we are not Italians, we are Danes" when he tried to improve outdoor facilities in Copenhagen in the early 1960s. Yet Gehl and others were instrumental in developing Copen- FIGURE 1. Jan Gehl and others have been instrumental in reshaping Copenhagen into a city for people. This image demonstrates how pedestrians, cyclists, public transportation, and personal vehicles have all been accommodated in a public square in Copenhagen (Gehl, et al ., 2008). FIGURE 2. A bike lane between the vehicular lanes and the sidewalk protects cyclists from vehicles. Bicycles in Copenhagen are used to transport personal items and goods (Naparstek, 2006). (Photo by Aaron Naparstek.) hagen's pedestrian Staget (walking street). Once the pedestrian street was opened, Danes did indeed start to behave like Italians. They began leaving their cars at home, walking, and spending time in outdoor cafes. Figures 3-4 show Staget pre- and post-pedestrianization.

New Edge of Architecture The future of architecture lies in the new role of object-service packagers. A major area for this lies with those who focus on bundling objects and services related to improving public health.

Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Autumn, 2012), pp. 241-268 Published by: Locke Science Publishing Company, Inc

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