Architecture Takes the Stairs

Event: Fit-City 4: Promoting Physical Activity through Design
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.08.09
Public Context of Active Design Guidelines: Thomas Farley, MD, MPH — Commissioner, NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH); David J. Burney, FAIA — Commissioner, NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC); Janette Sadik-Khan — Commissioner, NYC Department of Transportation (DOT); Robert LiMandri — Commissioner, NYC Department of Buildings (DOB); Matthew Sapolin, Commissioner, Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities
Opening Keynotes: Lynn Silver, MD, MPH — Asst. Comm. DOHMH (Introduction); Professor John Pucher — Rutgers University, Bicycling Policy; Dr. Gayle Nicoll — Chair, Department of Architecture, University of Texas at San Antonio
Panel 1: Presentation of Active Design Guidelines: Karen Lee, MD, MHSc, FR CPC — Deputy Director, DOHMH; Wendy Feuer — Assistant Commissioner, Urban Design & Art, DOT; Alexandros Washburn, AIA — Chief Urban Designer, NYC Department of City Planning; Victoria Milne — Director, Creative Services, DDC; Keith Wen — Acting Director, Code Dev. & Interpretation, DOB; Laurie Kerr — Senior Policy Advocate of Sustainability, Mayor’s Office
Panel 2: Responding to Active Design Guidelines: Linda Pollak, AIA — Partner, Marpillero Pollak Architects (Moderator); Nancy Biberman — President, Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDCo); Betty Chen, AIA — Vice President of Planning, Design & Preservation, Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC); Kirsten Sibilia, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP — Chief Marketing Officer, JCJ Architecture; Andrew Dent — Vice President of Materials Research, Material ConneXion
Active Design Case Studies: Jean Oei — Architectural Designer, Morphosis (New Academic Building for Cooper Union) & Charles McKinney, ASLA — Chief of Design, Capital Projects, NYC Parks & Recreation (High Line)
Organizer: AIANY; DOHMH

Courtesy AIANY

“We have engineered physical activity out of our lives,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the new Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH); more than 75% of people don’t engage in exercise. While it was only his first day — actually his first hour — in his new position, he looked the part: “He has the lowest BMI of any commissioner,” commented David Burney, FAIA, Commissioner of NYC Department of Design and Construction. All joking aside, obesity, and the chronic diseases associated with it, is a serious problem in the U.S., and NYC is no exception. How can design — applied to infrastructure, urban planning, and buildings — alleviate this public health epidemic? Fit-City 4 sought to address this question by bringing together public officials, health professionals, architects, and designers to participate in a series of panel discussions at the Center for Architecture.

The DOHMH with the Departments of Design and Construction, Transportation, and City Planning have developed New York City Active Design Guidelines. Available this fall, the document will present design strategies to support the integration of healthy behaviors into the daily lives of all NYC residents. As a dense urban environment, the city affords the options of biking and walking. “‘Pedestrian’ may mean boring elsewhere, but in NYC it means ‘fabulous’,” believes Alex Washburn, AIA, chief urban designer at the Department of City Planning. Biking, however, is much more popular in Europe, cited Rutgers Professor John Pucher, who has lived car-free in New Jersey for 37 years. He pointed out that fewer women and seniors ride bikes in the U.S., probably because of safety concerns.

Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn discussed initiatives to create a safer biking environment in the city, such as the newly segregated lanes on 9th Avenue. So far, she says, 200 miles of new lanes have been created as part of PlaNYC. Betty Chen, AIA, vice president for planning, design, and preservation for Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, added that Governors Island, where cars are prohibited, recently invited the public to participate in Free Bike Fridays.

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