My fondness for Mobile is paralleled by alarm, however, in that Alabama consistently ranks in the top five most obese states, and Mobile’s largely auto-oriented layout, reminiscent of so many American cities, compounds the problem. For this reason, I chose Mobile as a case study of the affects that building and urban design have on obesity and diet-related diseases.
While there are many factors involved in the cause of obesity, the factor of the physical environment is one that can have significant and positive benefits if it is properly addressed by urban planners and building designers, and can lead to positive changes in the behavioral and sociological factors that also contribute to obesity. I cannot guarantee that a well-designed space or a well-placed grocery store will send neighborhood obesity rates plummeting, but it is a very important first step.
After months of extensive research, I am happy to share my findings and my proposed solutions as they relate to Mobile. I am even more excited to report that I am not alone in identifying the critical role that design plays in fighting the obesity epidemic. Robert Ivy, FAIA, Chief Executive Officer of the American Institute of Architects (AIA,) recently wrote an article discussing the role of design in public health and in creating healthy communities, and calling on the profession to seriously address health through architecture.
Design schools are also starting to recognize the importance of public health in architecture and design. The University of Virginia School of Architecture’s Center for Design and Health and The University of Arkansas Community Design Center are research organizations and independent studios that are pioneering the integration of health issues into design curriculums. Other schools are also taking on the issue, such as the Clemson School of Architecture, which offers an ‘Architecture + Health Concentration’ within its program.
I look forward to entering a profession that so deeply cares about human health, and is on the verge of being more cognizant than ever of the role that design really does play on human health. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to study this in great detail at such an early point in my career, and am proud to share my findings of this study with you below.
TERMINAL THESIS PROJECT
HAJO NEIS, PHD
UNIVERSITY OF OREGON GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH FORUM, 2014
WHITE STAG BLOCK SELECTED WORKS EXHIBIT, 2014