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AIA to Collaborate with MIT on Decade of Design
By Brooks Rainwater, Director, Public Policy

The AIA is partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) on Decade of Design: Health + Urbanism. This collaboration is a part of the AIA’s Decade of Design Commitment to Action with the Clinton Global Initiative, which seeks to effect positive change through design in the global urban environment. In order to address the urgent need to research, design, and implement far-reaching solutions to urban challenges, this collaboration centers on design as a catalyst for improved public health in cities.

“The MIT Center for Advance Urbanism’s commitment brings immediate focus, structure and energy to this effort,” said AIA Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA. “With the intellectual resources and recognition that the center brings, we know we can tap the tremendous talent of our profession to address these public health challenges.”

More than half of the world’s inhabitants live in urban areas and this is projected to grow to 70% by 2050. The global urban environment is being planned, designed, constructed, and retrofitted at an unprecedented pace and scale. At the same time healthcare costs continue to rise. Obesity is at epidemic levels and non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) such as diabetes, asthma and other lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and depression are on the rise and exact a significant toll on quality of life and viability of communities. Given the current pattern of urbanization, there is a critical need to address risk factors and potential solutions.

“There is a historical relation between the foundations of urban planning and the rise of public health concerns, said Alexander d’Hooghe, Ph.D, Director, MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism.” “Today, about 150 years after both fields emerged together, it is exciting to see us probing a new form of convergence. This time we are investigating the scale of urban design, architecture, as well as planning, in relation to health today, whether related to obesity, or to climate change, etc. I can't wait to relieve us from the clichés that currently constipate our thinking and ground the conversation on a more solid basis.”

With MIT’s reputation as a center of cutting edge research and innovation, and the MIT School of Architecture & Planning’s pursuit of knowledge through research and design around real world problems, the AIA could have no better partner to further these important goals. MIT and AIA will jointly investigate and document correlations between the built environment and health. The project aims to incorporate broadly interdisciplinary perspectives and seek real world solutions, through research, prototypes, and demonstration projects, over the next decade. The goal is to transform cities through concerted, participatory action, using design as the key nexus point, supporting human, economic, and environmental health improvements.

To learn more about the Decade of Design and the Clinton Global Initiative, please visit our newly launched site dedicated to the effort.

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