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Toward a Fit Nation

An exhibit organized by AIA New York points out all the ways architects’ work can keep people moving

Architecture is now part of the national discussion on the obesity and chronic disease epidemic in the United States.

Spurred on by AIA New York’s Active Design Guidelines and the recent FitNation exhibit, this realization is adding new layers to how designers think about their role in protecting the health of the public they serve and how they approach the creation of truly sustainable buildings and places.

FitNation brings together 33 projects (18 of which are excerpted here) that range from massive medical research complexes to tiny ad-hoc, open-source urban amenities, all of which encourage physical activity and well-being. The exhibit (also organized by AIA New York) presents projects that exemplify architectural means, policy-driven and grassroots action, conceptual frameworks, and simple improvements which contribute to a healthier lifestyle for individuals and communities. Curated and designed by 2012 AIANY New Practices New York winner Abruzzo Bodziak Architects, with graphics designed by the renowned firm Pentagram, FitNation is now on display at AIA Birmingham till Nov. 22, and AIA National Headquarters in Washington, D.C., till Jan. 31.


Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle:

Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle by Weiss/Manfredi. Envisioned as a new urban model for sculpture parks, Olympic Park is located on a remediated brownfield site sliced by train tracks and an arterial road. The design connects three separate sites with an uninterrupted Z-shaped green platform, descending forty feet from the city to the water over existing infrastructure to reconnect the urban core to the revitalized waterfront. Image courtesy of Benjamin Benschneider.

Mobile Dumpster Pools in New York City:

Mobile Dumpster Pools in New York City, by Macro-Sea. Recognizing that there was a distinct lack of places to swim in New York City, but a great supply of dumpsters, the NYC DOT built the first dumpster pool in Brooklyn in 2009. A junkyard became a country club complete with pools, lounge chairs, and cabanas. Later, a fully mobile, code-compliant pool module was developed for the NYC DOT’s Summer Streets events. Image courtesy of Katie Sokoler and Antonia Wagner.

Atlanta Beltline:

Atlanta Beltline, in Atlanta, designed by Perkins + Will. What began as a student Master's thesis in 1999, the Atlanta BeltLine is now one of the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment and transportation projects currently underway in the United States. The graduate study examined the conversion of a ring of abandoned railroads around the City of Atlanta into an assortment of public transportation modes. Image courtesy of Christopher T. Martin.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Janelia Farm Research Campus:

Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Janelia Farm Research Campus by Rafael Vinoly Architects, in Ashburn, Va., Janelia Farm, a freestanding research component of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, fosters collaboration on a range of interdisciplinary topics in neuroscience and imaging.  Glass enclosed stairways connect the levels with light-filled volumes that maintain the connection between interior and exterior. Office pods are interspersed with open roof gardens that promote movement and social interaction. Image courtesy of Jeff Goldberg/Esto.

New Freedom Park in Denver:

New Freedom Park in Denver, designed by Studio Bridge. New Freedom Park was a two-acre plot of vacant land owned by the City and County of Denver. With one of the few above ground sections of Westerly Creek running through it, New Freedom Park’s main feature is an extensive community garden that serves a large immigrant population. Image courtesy of Darcy Kiefel.

UNIQLO High Line Rink in New York City:

UNIQLO High Line Rink in New York City, by HWKN. Building on the success of the High Line, an adjacent ground level lot was re-purposed into a pop-up roller rink. Hosted by UNIQLO, it featured illuminated cubes that functioned as retail kiosks and beacons. Image courtesy of Michael Moran/OTTO.

CTA Morgan Street Station in Chicago:

CTA Morgan Street Station in Chicago, by Ross Barney Architects. A new elevated train station was created on a site where one had stood from 1893 to 1948. This geographic focal point in a historically industrial area has helped redefine a multifaceted neighborhood with emerging residential and retail uses. The new station incorporates a well-lit and highly visible stair maximizing pedestrian access. New trees, landscaping, and artist-commissioned bicycle racks are located nearby. Images courtesy of Kate Joyce Studios.

Urban Farming Food Chain Edible Wall in Los Angeles:

Urban Farming Food Chain Edible Wall in Los Angeles, by Elmslie Osler Architect. The Urban Farming Food Chain Edible Wall project is an architectural and planning intervention intended to provide the homeless and economically disadvantaged access to healthy food. The Food Chain is a series of edible walls that grow fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Image courtesy of Urban Farming.

Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco:

Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, by Simon Martin-Vegue Winkelstein Moris and Perkins + Will. In the 1990s, the Port of San Francisco sought to rejuvenate this historic waterfront structure. Now restored, the 660-foot-long nave has new skylights, food halls, restaurants, and retailers featuring the best in local food. Image courtesy of Richard Barnes/OTTO.

Riverpark Farm in New York City:

Riverpark Farm in New York City, by ORE Design + Technology. Local restaurant owners approached ORE with the challenge of creating a moveable farm in Manhattan to provide their kitchen with fresh produce. The location was a temporarily stalled construction site that would be available for their use until work resumed. The farm would have to be portable, so ORE proposed a system of planted cubic-foot milk crates, 3,000 in all, which could be moved to or from the site in one day. Image courtesy of Ari Nuzzo.

Depave in Portland:

Depave in Portland, Ore. Depave partners with community organizations to identify areas of unnecessary pavement in urban areas ripe for transformation. By helping plan and execute the repurposing of these surfaces into green spaces, the community is able to enhance property values and create neighborhood identity. Volunteer labor replaces each swath of tarmac with gardens and bioswales. Image courtesy of Eric Rosewall.

Spring Street Parklets in Los Angeles:

Spring Street Parklets in Los Angeles,  by and Berry and Linne. These parklets re-purpose metered parking spaces to create mini-parks with seating, planting, and communal public spaces, functionally extending the sidewalk into the street. This enriches a vibrant street life and fosters future investment in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in the neighborhood. Image courtesy of Benjamin Kracauer, AIA.

Race Street Pier in Philadelphia:

Race Street Pier in Philadelphia, by James Corner Field Operations. Built in 1896, Race Street Pier is part of a Master Plan for the Central Delaware River Waterfront in Philadelphia, which seeks to reconnect the city to the river and activate the water’s edge. The pier is split in two levels: an upper level with a grand sky promenade and a lower level for passive recreation and social gathering. Image courtesy of Edward Savaria Jr. and Suzanne Savaria; James Corner Field Operations.

Rosenthal Center for the Contemporary Art in Cincinnati:

Rosenthal Center for the Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, by Zaha Hadid Architects. The Rosenthal Center’s ground floor transparency engages its urban surroundings, while an uninterrupted pedestrian flow leads from the streetscape outside, into the Center’s split-level public lobby, and to the galleries above. A zigzag ramp transports visitors, and allows multiple views into the galleries, as well as out to the surrounding cityscape. Image courtesy of Paul Warchol.

Public Farm 1 in New York City:

Public Farm 1 in New York City, by WORKac. Part of the Museum of Modern Art’s annual Young Architects Program, PF1 was a temporary installation in the courtyard of PS 1 in Long Island City for summer 2008’s “Warm Up” parties. The project combines play, education, and the experience of growing food in a fully functional quarter-acre farm. A sloping grid of planted tubes creates a shaded area underneath. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Fellicella and Ray Adams.

Railroad Park in Birmingham, Ala.:

Railroad Park in Birmingham, Ala., by Tom Leader Studio and Kennedy and Violich Architecture. Once home to warehouses, brick yards, and rail sidings, this new 19-acre urban park occupies space created by a 15-foot high rail viaduct. Constructed topography defines a lake site, stream, and a range of knolls, allowing visitors to positively experience the train traffic. Image courtesy of Tom Leader Studio.

Arbor House in Bronx, New York:

Arbor House in Bronx, New York, by ABS Architects and Danois Architects. Blue Sea Development Company has created healthy, energy-efficient, affordable housing at Arbor House. With a fully equipped adult and children’s fitness center, as well as a lively outdoor fitness path, low-income families have the opportunity to improve their health at home. Fresh produce is grown on the roof of the building in an extensive hydroponic greenhouse. Image courtesy of Bernstein Associates.

Red Swing Project:

Red Swing Project by Hatch Workshop. Capitalizing on the power of

a simple red swing to transform a vacant lot or highway overpass into an unexpected playground, this open-sourced swing-hanging has occurred in hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods of New Orleans, under bridges in Chicago, in villages of southeast India, over the steps of Austin City Hall, and at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Some swings stay up for minutes; others remain hanging for years. Image courtesy of Blake Gordon.

Back to AIArchitect October 25, 2013

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