With the support from the New York City Department of Design and Construction (NYC DDC) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), the Center for Architecture Foundation (CFAF) has developed a series of youth and family programs centered on the Active Design Guidelines. Active Design Guidelines were authored and published in 2010 by New York City departments (including Health and Mental Hygiene, Design and Construction, City Planning and Transportation) in conjunction with the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter linking urban health issues with the built environment. CFAF has piloted an in-school residency at the Bronx High School for the Arts and has co-sponsored Family Days at the YMCA in north Brooklyn and Harlem and programs at the Brooklyn Public Library and Center for Architecture in Manhattan in the spring of 2011.
How can the built environment promote a healthy, active approach to living in the city? The Center for Architecture Foundation (CFAF) has developed classroom curriculum and a two-hour Family Day to introduce youth and family audiences to the concepts behind Active Design. The Active Design Guidelines center on the notion that our built environment can play a vital role in promoting healthy and active living. CFAF has been instrumental in interpreting this professional document for the lay audience – presenting both principles and the language used by architects and urban planners to facilitate creating a healthy urban environment. With mounting health issues such as asthma, obesity, heart disease and other preventable diseases coupled with sedentary lifestyles, dependence on travel by automobile and areas of the city situated in “food deserts,” positive change can be made when neighborhood constituents and planning professionals envision a healthier city when viewed through the Active Design lens.
The Active Design Family Day begins with an illustrated presentation including a captivating history of The City of New York’s role in health, hygiene and well being. Think of all the benefits Central Park has provided to New Yorkers for over 150 years. However, our built environment can intrude in ways that are harmful or can promote inactivity. Looking through the lens of Active Design, one will see how smartly designed stairs can promote walking instead of taking the elevator. Mandating bicycle parking in new buildings can support a streetscape of non-polluting transportation. Information about obesity rates in the neighborhood in which the Family Day is occurring is provided by NYCDOHMH, often shocking participants as they learn about higher occurrences than we tend to want to believe.
After learning the basics of the Active Design Guidelines, families are challenged with designing a city block using their newly acquired understanding of the city’s health problems and ways to combat them. Building facades, streets and sidewalks are provided, but how they are designed is up to the family participating. Will they want to provide a bike lane, public transportation, street trees, open space and other amenities that will promote a healthy and active neighborhood? What types of businesses or institutions will the family propose for their block? Participants use simple materials (construction paper, colored pencils, boxes) to help render their ideas and turn them into a three dimensional streetscape. Toward the end of the workshop, blocks are linked together into one large, dynamic neighborhood with a mix of residential and commercial streets. Families take turns presenting their ideas in an open discussion between all of the participants. NYC DDC and NYCDOHMH provide information on how to implement some of the ideas in your own neighborhood. Active Design Principles can help inform the choices we make every day to lead a healthier lifestyle and provide the tools to advocate for an active, sustainable and livable future.
The Foundation offers Family Days on Saturdays at the Center for Architecture, unless otherwise noted. The next Active Design Family Day will take place on 3.24.11 at Scandinavia House. To learn more about the Center for Architecture Foundation’s family and youth programs or ways to get involved, please visit www.cfafoundation.org.