Fit City 7: Promoting Physical Activity through Design

The Mayor’s Obesity Task Force Panel brought together representatives from nine city agencies, including Commissioners David Burney, FAIA (DDC; bottom photo, speaking), Thomas Farley, M.D., M.P.H. (DOHMH; bottom photo, right of Burney), Adrian Benepe (Parks; bottom photos, far left), and Edna Wells Handy (DCAS; middle photo, speaking).

Laura Trimble

Event: Fit City 7: Promoting Physical Activity through Design
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.21.12
Panelists: Click here for a full list of speakers
Organizers: AIA New York Chapter, in partnership with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

More than 300 people gathered at the Center for Architecture for Fit City 7, the seventh annual conference to examine how design of the built environment can help address today’s epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases. The event brought together architects, planners, public health professionals, and policymakers to discuss the health issues confronting our country due to increasing obesity rates, and the role that design can play in encouraging greater physical activity and improve access to healthier food and beverage options. Two-thirds of Americans are now either obese or overweight, which contributes to life-threatening and costly diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and asthma.

The day opened with remarks from Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, co-chair of the recently-formed Mayor’s Obesity Task Force, which has been charged with developing recommendations to reduce obesity rates in New York City. Representatives from nine city agencies, including Commissioners Farley (DOHMH), Burney (DDC), Benepe (Parks) and Wells Handy (DCAS), then participated in a panel discussion facilitated by AIANY executive director Rick Bell, FAIA. The agencies shared highlights from their Active Design work over the last year, including the opening up of staircases in city-owned buildings to improve access, the East River Esplanade walking and bicycling path, and a Stair Week hosted by the Department of Design + Construction.

Attendees participated in a fitness break.

Laura Trimble

Conference participants also heard about Active Design projects and implementation strategies from Fit Nation and Fit World panels, which featured speakers from the United Kingdom (including RIBA President Angela Brady), Australia, Washington State, and Florida in a panel animated by Jane Brody, the New York Times Personal Health columnist. Alison Cohen, president of Alta Bicycle Share, also shared details about plans for NYC’s new BikeShare system, scheduled to launch this summer.

A collaboration between AIANY and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Fit City events have led to the publication of the award-winning Active Design Guidelines, which provides architects, planners, and policy makers with strategies for designing communities, streets, and buildings to encourage physical activity and improve health outcomes.

This program was presented as a part of Design Week NYC 2012. Design is everywhere, and during Design Week NYC 2012 the best of design was seen across the City, from the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) at Javits, to independent exhibitions and installations in SoHo, West Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, NoHo, the Flatiron District, and Greenwich Village and the Center for Architecture.

2011 AIA Convention: Fit Nation Activates New Orleans

Karen B. DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSC, Commissioner of Health and Senior Health Policy Advisor, City of New Orleans.

Randi Rosenblum

Building on the success of Fit Nation DC in February, AIANY and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) hosted Fit Nation New Orleans on 05.14.11, in partnership with the Tulane Prevention Research Center, AIA New Orleans, and AIA National. The event brought together architects, planners, public health professionals, and policymakers to discuss issues confronting our country due to increasing obesity rates, and the role that design can play in helping encourage both greater physical activity and access to healthier food options.

The event, timed with the convention, also attracted members from 14 communities that are working together with NYC on active design issues under a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant: Birmingham, AL; Boston, MA; Cherokee Nation, OK; Chicago and Cook County, IL; Louisville, KY; Miami, FL; Nashville, TN; Omaha, NE; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; and Tucson, AZ.

Dr. Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, delivered a health keynote address at the event, noting that more than 15% of the entire U.S. GDP is spent on healthcare costs, in part due to dramatically escalating obesity levels and the diseases such trends cause. Our lack of physical activity, Jackson reinforced, is due in large part to design decisions that have programmed walking, stair climbing, and other activity out of our daily lives.

The conference also benefitted from international speakers, including Denmark-based Kai-Uwe Bergmann, AIA, RIBA, MAA, LEED AP, of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Some of BIG’s projects include the incorporation of public bicycle and walking paths that lead to the highest levels of high-rise apartment buildings, and apartment buildings designed on a diagonal that allow for small yards on every floor.

Fit Nation New Orleans complemented two other sessions that occurred within the convention, which featured Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director; Dr. Karen Lee, MD, MHSc, FRCPC, NYC DOHMH; Skye Duncan, NYC City Planning Department; and Robyne Kassen, AIA, and Sarah Gluck, co-founders of Urban Movement. These sessions also highlighted the availability of a new LEED Design for Health through Increased Physical Activity Innovation Credit, which has been approved by the U.S. Green Building Council on several projects, including the Riverside Health Center in northern Manhattan by 1100:Architect and Via Verde/The Green Way affordable housing development in the South Bronx by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects.

Fit City 6: Active Design Fights Obesity, Diabetes

Event: Fit City 6: Promoting Physical Activity through Design
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.17.11
Speakers: Health Keynote: Karen Lee, MD, MHSc, FRCPC (Introduction) — Director, Built Environment Program, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH); Joseph W. Thompson, MD, MPH — Director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity & Arkansas Surgeon General; Commissioners’ Panel 1: Active Design in the City: Rick Bell, FAIA — Executive Director, AIANY (Introduction & Moderator); Adrian Benepe — Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation; Amanda Burden, FAICP, Hon. AIANY — Commissioner, NYC City Planning Department; David Burney, FAIA — Commissioner, NYC Department of Design + Construction; Andrew Goodman, MD, MPH — Deputy Commissioner, Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, NYC DOHMH; Wendy Feuer — Assistant Commissioner for Art and Urban Desing, NYC Department of Transportation; Fit World: Designing Active Communities Across the Globe: Skye Duncan (Introduction & Moderator) — Associate Urban Designer, NYC Department of City Planning; Carlos Santos-Burgoa, MD, MPH, Ph.D — Senior Advisor on Violence, Injury and Human Security, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); Louise Cox, LFRAIA, RIBA, Intl. Assoc. AIA — President, International Union of Architects; Rosan Bosch — Managing Director, Rosan Bosch Ltd; Fitness Break: Sarah Gluck, Urban Movement Design Design Keynote: Joyce Lee, AIA, LEED AP (Introduction) — Director of Active Design Program, NYC Department of Design + Construction; Kai-Uwe Bergmann, AIA, RIBA, MAA, LEED AP — Associate Partner, Director Business Development, Bjarke Ingels Group; Commissioners’ Panel 2: Active Design in the City: Suzanne Nienaber (Introduction & Moderator) — Training Coordinator, NYC Active Design Program; E. Bruce Barrett, RA, LEED AP BC+D — Vice President, Architecture & Engineering, NYC School Construction Authority; Ira Gluckman, AIA — Queens Borough Commissioner, NYC Department of Buildings; Edna Wells Handy — Commissioner, NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services; Laurie Kerr, AIA — Senior Policy Advisor, NYC Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability; Matthew P. Sapolin — Commissioner, NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities; Private Sector & Community Leadership: Desiging Spaces for Active and Healthy Children: Kate Rube (Introduction & Moderator) — Active Design National Training Manager; Abraham Jelin, MD — President, New York Chapter 2 of American Academy of Pediatrics; Elena Madison — Assistant Vice President, Project for Public Spaces, Inc.; Charles Renfro, AIA — Principal, Diller Scofidio + Renfro; Yvonne Isaac — Vice President of Operations, Full Spectrum of NY
Welcome: Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP — President, AIA New York Chapter & Principal, Helpern Architects
Organizer: AIANY; NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Courtesy Center for Architecture

More than 275 people gathered at the Center for Architecture for Fit City 6, the sixth annual summit on how design of the built environment impacts physical activity and health issues. A collaboration between AIANY and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), Fit City events have led to the publication of the award-winning Active Design Guidelines, which provides strategies for architects, planners, and policy makers on how to design communities, streets, and buildings to encourage physical activity and access to healthy food choices.

With 23% of NYC’s population confronting obesity, and one in eight adults suffering with diabetes, the social and medical costs of the city’s design decisions are dramatic. Fit City 6 featured speakers from 10 city agencies, including the Commissioners of the NYC Departments of Parks and Recreation, City Planning, Design + Construction, and Citywide Administrative Services. From the redevelopment of the city’s waterfront as a recreation destination, to numerous zoning changes that support walking and bicycling, and the closure of city streets for events like Summer Streets and PlayStreets, the city has embraced active design as a means to a healthier and sustainable future.

The conference also benefitted from innovative international design examples. Rosan Bosch, a Copenhagen-based artist, showcased her designs of libraries and schools that encourage physical activity for children, such as low-cost strategies to make stairs more prominent. Her presentation was complemented with “jumpUP, jumpDOWN, jumpZONE,” an exhibition at the Center for Architecture, which featured activity “zones” she designed to encourage physical exercise in public spaces, including zones for jumping jacks and shopping bag lifting. Charles Renfro, AIA, principal at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, presented several projects inspired by the idea of applying lessons learned from horizontal design to vertical design, such as a vertical “campus green” and staircases that become rooms or resting places. And Sarah Gluck of Urban Movement Design provided fitness breaks throughout the day.

Fit Nation Draws National Support for Active Design

Event: Fit Nation DC
Location: John A. Wilson building; 02.02.11
Speakers: Margaret Castillo, AIA, LEED AP — President, AIA New York Chapter; Lynn Silver, MD, MPH — Assistant Commissioner, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Markku Allison, AIA — Resource Architect, AIA National; Ronald E. Bogle, Hon. AIA — President & CEO, American Architectural Foundation; Yolanda Cole, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP — President, AIA|DC; District of Columbia Councilmember Tommy Wells, MSW; Karen Lee, MD, MHSc, FRCPC — Director of the Built Environment, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Alex Washburn, AIA — Chief Urban Designer, NYC Department of City Planning; Wendy Feuer — Assistant Commissioner, Urban Design & Art, NYC Department of Transportation; David Burney, FAIA — Commissioner, NYC Department of Design + Construction; Les Bluestone — Partner, Blue Sea Development Company, NYC; Joan Blumenfeld, FAIA, IIDA — Design Director & Principal, Interiors, Perkins+Will; Skye Duncan — Associate Urban Designer, NYC Department of City Planning, Office of the Chief Urban Designer; Shelley Poticha — Director for Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Joyce Lee, AIA, LEED AP — Director of Active Design Program, NYC Department of Design + Construction; LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, MD, MPH — Senior Deputy Director, Washington, D.C. Department of Health; Harriet Tregoning — Director, Washington, D.C. Office of Planning; Carl Elefante, FAIA, LEED AP — Principal & Director of Sustainable Design, Quinn Evans Architects, Washington, D.C.; Jessica Vogel, AIA, LEED AP — Senior Associate, Project Designer, Ellerbe Becket, an AECOM Company, Minneapolis, MN; Rick Bell, FAIA — Executive Director, AIA New York; Robin Schepper — Executive Director, Let’s Move! Initiative, Office of the First Lady
Organizers: AIANY; NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene in partnership with: NYC Department of Design + Construction; AIA|DC; AIA National; with support from American Architectural Foundation

(l) Capital Bikeshare is one of the expanding bike share programs in DC. (r) Kate Rube, AIANY Active Design Guidelines National Training Manager, welcoming participants to Fit Nation DC.

Laura Trimble

Building on the Fit City conference in NYC held over the past five years, AIA New York co-hosted the first Fit Nation meeting in Washington, DC, to discuss the design of communities, streets, and buildings and how it impacts health — particularly obesity. The conference brought together speakers from NYC who helped develop the Active Design Guidelines, as well as officials from Washington, DC, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.

Physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet are the second leading cause of premature death in the U.S. next to tobacco, and a growing body of research indicates that architectural and urban design strategies can help encourage people to walk and bicycle more, use the stairs, and eat healthier food. Over the last several years, NYC’s Departments of Health & Mental Hygiene, Design + Construction, Planning, and Transportation have undertaken an unprecedented collaboration with AIANY to develop and implement the Active Design Guidelines, which detail how to better design and construct our communities and infrastructure to encourage greater physical activity.

Executive Director of Let’s Move! Robin Schepper talked about First Lady Michelle Obama and her own commitment to active design issues, relating a story about how she led a campaign to build sidewalks in her DC neighborhood after finding that her children had no safe way to walk to school. DC Councilmember Tommy Wells, MSW, relayed his lifelong commitment to healthier communities through design, while the head of DC’s Planning Department, Harriet Tregoning, showcased some of the city’s active design initiatives: a new bike sharing system, the redesign of dozens of the city’s streets to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, and the construction of well-designed grocery stores in some of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.

Fit Nation DC was the start of a new effort by AIANY and NYC city agencies to build national support for the Active Design Guidelines and the use of a new LEED Innovation Credit for Physical Activity in green buildings and development. The next Fit Nation meeting will take place in New Orleans in relation to the AIA National Convention in May, and the next Fit City event in NYC will occur on 05.17.11.