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Editor’s Note To Your Good Health Thoughts on the role of architects in shaping a healthy built environment by Larry Paul Fuller


n this edition about design for healthcare and wellness, we look at good buildings of both types. But the role of architects in public health goes far beyond their work on the hospitals, clinics, and fitness facilities routinely associated with these two categories. The broader purview includes their role in shaping more livable, sustainable, and healthy communities — the premise being that there is a direct correlation between the design of a community and the health of its people.

recreation. At least partly because of Jackson’s campaigning, architects are also having a direct influence on public health through a very simple but effective design tactic: restoring stairs to their traditional primary role (pre-elevator) by making

more ardent and articulate spokesman for this premise than Dr. Richard Jackson, M.D., Professor and Chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the UCLA School of Public Health, and a former public member of the AIA Board of Directors. In his four-hour PBS series, Designing Healthy Communities, and the companion book of the same name — as well as in frequent lectures to relevant professional and civic groups — Jackson makes his case. His most compelling themes relate to the fact that American obesity is epidemic, and that this malady raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and an epidemic of life-shortening diabetes. He further observes, first, that nothing works better to counter these epidemics than increased physical activity. And, second, this key objective is aided through urban design that favors such benefits as safe and inviting routes for daily walking or biking, and open spaces with clean air for active

them more prominent and more inviting. But we shouldn’t forget the less direct impact architects have on health as a composite of both physical and mental conditions. Regardless of the presence or absence of disease, daily living is made better by the efficacy of good design. In his review of the Hodge Orr House in Dallas (page 30), for example, Michael Malone, AIA, refers to the “gift of well-being” that comes with experiencing the inspired design of the house. Indeed, the built spaces we find most satisfying emerge from design that transcends mere competence. And in that regard, their buoyant effect on our sense of well-being can be seen as a special gift. Not exactly the gift of wellness, perhaps. But pretty close.

There is no

Regardless of the presence or absence of disease, daily living is made better by the efficacy of good design.


The simple tactic of restoring stairs to a primary (rather than secondary or tertiary) role by making them more prominent and more inviting is one way architects can encourage physical activity. Case in point: this grand-stairas-skylit-experience in AMOA-Arthouse in Austin, by LTL Architects, New York.

7/8 2012

Texas Architect 5

Texas Architect July/Aug 2012: Healthcare & Wellness