The Connection Between Architecture And Health

Farrow designs illustrate the connection between architecture and health.Credit Valley Hospital. Photography by Scott Norsworthy. Source: ArchiTravel

Internationally renowned architect Tye Farrow told an audience in Sydney, Australia recently that there is a connection between architecture and health. “What if our health became the basis for judging every building and every public space?” he asks. “What if each of us – every person, everywhere – asked, ‘Does this place cause health? How does it make me feel?’”

Farrow lists 5 attributes every architect should have firmly in mind when designing a building:

  • Nature:  Incorporating materials that grow naturally and that let in natural daylight as it moves with time have been proven to stimulate the brain.
  • Authenticity: Usiing designs that draw on things we know and stimulate our memories.
  • Variety: Buildings don’t all have look the same. They can express the aspirations of the organizations they are built to serve.
  • Vitality: Designs should come alive and activate spaces.
  • Legacy: Creating designs that make a lasting contribution.

If the industry understood the health-causing potential of every building, every public space and every home Farrow says, then “dreary design and merely functional places would become unacceptable. Instead, people would expect optimistic design that encourages social interaction, pride in community identity, connections to nature, cultural meaning and a positive legacy.”

Farrow designs illustrate the connection between architecture and health.Farrow advocates for designs that focus not just on a sustainability, such as a building’s carbon footprint, but also on whether a space “causes health”, or allows people to thrive mentally, socially and physically. Farrow refers to those factors as “salutogenic” elements.

He points to the South Africa Health Center (right) which takes the shape of South Africa’s national flower, the Protea, and therefore serves as a metaphor for hope, healing and renewal. “One of the team’s goals was to demonstrate what can be done in a tangible way to move beyond minor improvements in achieving a healthier population. On a global scale, the design will serve as a ‘leapfrog model’ that opens the eyes of decision-makers,” Farrow explains.

In recent years, expectations for environmental impact have been expanded to include awareness for how physical surroundings affect our state of mind,” he said. “We believe that sustainable building objectives must embrace human health issues as well as environmental effects. This means that the public should expect design to make a holistic, meaningful contribution to their lives.”

Architect Farrow says New York City's Highline Park is an example of good outdoor design. When it comes to design of outdoor spaces Farrow says, “A walkable neighborhood…..has potential in enlivening a suburb, but distance, safety and access aren’t the only ingredients for a successful recipe – it also requires streetscapes that are not boring and repetitive but which attract local residents.

“This requires thinking about the visual and physical qualities that motivates people to create thriving spaces.” He points to New York City’s Highline Park (right) as an example of healthy design. The park is built on top of an unsightly railroad trestle that used to bring freight trains into Manhattan’s West Side.

One Farrow creation the embodies all of his design ideas is the tree house shown below that Farrow Partners designed for Eterra Resort. Who wouldn’t want to cozy up inside and feel at one with nature?

Farrow designs illustrate the connection between architecture and health.

 Source: Architecture & Design. Photo Credits: Farrow Partners, NYC Parks


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lives in Rhode Island and writes about topics at the convergence of technology and ecology. You can follow him on Google + and Twitter.