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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.