Architecture and Public Health

Suzanne Crowhurst Lennard was keynote speaker at the Norwegian Architectural Institute’s Annual Conference in Oslo, November 24. “The built environment is health policy in concrete”, she reminds the audience, and if we want to make our cities healthy we must first make them healthy for children: the environment a child grows up in shapes their health for the rest of their lives.

Lennard explains how the IMCL Principles of True Urbanism – facilitating independent/active mobility, contact with nature, and access to community social life - improve public health. She focuses on the architectural and urban design elements that foster community and strengthen the social immune system.

“Why aren’t we making sociable places today?” Lennard asks. She challenges architects to design for health by creating urban villages using a compact urban fabric, and to create a city of short distances with each neighborhood functioning as a complete community. She asks architects to celebrate the public realm with a human scale mixed use urban fabric; to create squares for civic engagement, and community plazas to develop social networks; and she challenges them to do this especially in poor neighborhoods. This can immensely help to strengthen the social immune system, Lennard emphasizes, and counteract the extreme health inequality between wealthy and poor neighborhoods.