Examining the Intersection of Health and Design 

The September/October issue of Metropolis takes a global look at how the work of architects and designers is impacting people’s health and well-being. 

In 2006, policy makers in the European Union defined a revolutionary approach to lawmaking and public initiatives that they called “Health in All Policies” (HiAP). The idea was bold but simple: Experts had long recognized that delivering high-quality health care was not enough to keep people healthy. Roads, schools, industry, and nearly everything else that governments control or influence can play a part. So policies or initiatives should be undertaken only after considering how they could affect people’s health—through processes called “health lens analysis” or a “health impact assessment.” Over the past 15 years, the HiAP framework has become widespread—even the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends it to improve health outcomes and health equity.

It’s time to similarly codify “Health in All Design.” 

Some architects and interior designers, of course, don’t need convincing that their work can influence people’s health and well-being. Just look at the scale and diversity of the projects and initiatives published in this issue.

Cover of Metropolis September/October 2022 Issue
Adjaye Associates’ ongoing District Hospitals project in Ghana was on the cover of Metropolis’ September/October issue.

In Ghana, Adjaye Associates is participating in a massive experiment in healthcare delivery, using modular design to build 101 district health centers and significantly expand the West African nation’s health infrastructure (“How Ghana’s Radical Experiment in Health Care Is Taking Shape” ). Here in the United States, recreation centers are taking a cue from the multibillion-dollar fitness industry to create community around health and wellness, through elevated design (“The Rec Center Reimagined”). And a new generation of restaurateurs, inspired by the experience of the pandemic that hit their industry so hard, are using their spaces to advocate for the marginalized, strengthen communal ties, and educate children about healthy food (“2 Restaurants, 1 School Serve Up More Inclusive Visions for Dining”).

We now have a cohort of leaders who are both medical and design professionals (“3 Doctors Who Design Share What’s Energizing Health Care Architecture”) pushing at the frontiers of how design can heal. Meanwhile, as Elissaveta M. Brandon reports in “Can We Design for Happiness?”, architects and design professionals are seeking to understand the role design can play in mental and social health, both key components of holistic well-being.

We need more architects, designers, and health experts engaged in similar endeavors, and we need a framework for how they can incorporate health as a factor in every design project they undertake, no matter how big or small. Only then will we see the positive impact of healthy design reach those who have yet to be touched by it. Our efforts so far have been inspiring; it’s time to make them widespread and consistent. 

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