Looking back at a time when architecture was thought to be a cure for mental illness
When the Government Hospital for the Insane opened in Anacostia in 1855, the asylum’s supervising physician, Charles Nichols, predicted that 50 percent of the mentally ill people treated there would make a full recovery. What made him so confident? The building. He’d designed it in accordance with the most cutting-edge theories of the day, which called for sunny, well-ventilated asylums in the countryside
— the Washington Post
The "Architecture of an Asylum: St. Elizabeth's 1852-2017" is a new exhibit opening at the National Building Museum this weekend. It looks at past theories that contended that design could have a major and healing effect on mental illness. Fresh air was encouraged, as was scattering... View full entry
Severe flooding in Peru exposes vulnerable architecture and infrastructure
The worst flooding in two decades has struck Peru, causing a death toll of 72 people since the beginning of the year. The floods are caused by a series of “highly unusual rains” produced by the warming of surface waters along the country’s northern coasts. The waters have inundated hospitals... View full entry
Are skyscrapers making you sick? A new £7 million study is trying to find out
“More and more people are living and working in high-rises and office blocks, but the true impact of vibrations on them is currently very poorly understood,” states Alex Pavic, Professor of Vibration Engineering at the University of Exeter.“Humans spend 90 per cent of their lives in... View full entry
Using architecture to combat air pollution
Birds fly in and out of the eight-storey "Green Office Building" in Shenzhen, China, because a third of its walls are completely open to the air. It's a clever natural design that enables the building to stay cool without air conditioners.
Across town, in a vast campus known as the "Low Carbon Park", mist is sprayed into the air to cool the streets down and remove dust.
— The BBC
Experiments like these are appearing across China's cities, as part of a devolution of power designed to clean up smoggy air and meet energy targets to tackle climate change. View full entry
Asbestos is still making young people sick—40 years after it was banned
According to reportedly baffled researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asbestos-related medical issues continue to plague younger people despite widespread efforts to reduce exposure.While the largest increases in deaths related to malignant mesothelioma were witnessed... View full entry
Perkins+Will release white paper that recommends avoiding antimicrobial products in buildings
Perkins+Will have released a white paper that recommends avoiding including antimicrobial products in buildings. “Antimicrobial building products marketed as ‘healthy’ or beneficial to human health contain ingredients that may have adverse environmental or human health impacts, and... View full entry
Steven Holl designs a pair of white concrete buildings for a new Cultural and Health Center in Shanghai
“To work on architecture for culture and health is a social commitment during these challenging times,” states Steven Holl. His proposal for a new Cultural and Health Center in Shanghai has just received approval. Comprising two buildings set in a public landscape, the project is intended to... View full entry
Smog continues to choke Beijing
The Chinese capital issued its highest red fog alert for a second day on Wednesday, keeping highways closed in and around the city which is already under a smog alert after weeks of choking winter pollution.
China's weather bureau warned of visibility of less than 50 meters in some areas, leading many airports to cancel flights.
Air pollution is one of the most significant public health issues facing major cities around the world. Find out more here:Working indoors not enough to protect you from air pollution, according to new studyThese are the most-polluted cities in the USReducing Turin's smog with free public... View full entry
Another "airpocalypse" strikes China
Tens of thousands of “smog refugees” have reportedly fled China’s pollution-stricken north after the country was hit by its latest “airpocalyse” forcing almost half a billion people to live under a blanket of toxic fumes.
Huge swaths of north and central China have been living under a pollution “red alert” since last Friday when a dangerous cocktail of pollutants transformed the skies into a yellow and charcoal-tinted haze.
— the Guardian
According to Greenpeace, the total number of afflicted people equals the populations of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined.Air pollution is a major problem that affects nearly every city in the world. Find out more here:Working indoors not enough to protect you from air pollution... View full entry
Remembering the AIDS epidemic—and its relationship to the New York real estate market
One good thing to come of the substitution of a hospital serving the whole downtown community with homogenous housing for the wealthy is St. Vincent’s Triangle Park, [...] home to the nearly completed New York City AIDS Memorial [...]
Real estate plays an outsize role in most New York stories. In the story of AIDS, it has become crucial to understanding both the way that the city handled, or mishandled, the crisis in its early days and the way that the crisis forever marked the city in return.
— New Yorker
To mark the opening of the new New York City AIDS Memorial designed by Studio ai, Alexandra Schwartz reflects on the complicated relationship between the epidemic, the gay activist community, and real estate."The disease started charting its course through the city just as the bearish real-estate... View full entry
Pollution-plagued Paris to ban cars from the side of the Seine
In an effort to curb air pollution, the city council of Paris has approved a controversial plan to pedestrianize the 3.3 km road that runs along the Right Bank of the Seine River. Stretching from the Tuileries Gardens to the Henri-IV tunnel near the Bastille, the road is currently used by some... View full entry
Investigations into the threat of air pollution have failed to account for people's movement
The true impact of air pollution has been obscured by the failure to consider people’s exposure as they move around during the day...
The research cites air pollution as “the world’s single largest environment and human health threat” but laments that the problem has not previously been “considered spatially and temporally”, with most studies basing a person’s pollution exposure on where they live.
— the Guardian
Interested in urban initiatives to combat air pollution? Follow these links:Barcelona's bold new plan to get cars off the roadSmog-choked Beijing plans "ventilation corridors" to provide much-needed fresh airNew Delhi mandates odd-even car rationing to fight world's worst air... View full entry
Come on in, the water's fine: Rio sailors say worries about water quality overblown
Despite reports of dangerous levels of pollution in Rio's Guanabara Bay and concerns that floating garbage could damage or slow competitors' boats, sailors at the 2016 Olympics are showing little or no fear of getting into the water [...]
Many said the dangers of sailing in Rio have been overblown and worried that the water concerns are overshadowing some of the most exciting and challenging sailing of their lives.
So far, the Rio Olympics seem to be going pretty well. But before they opened, a series of issues plagued the preparations. For some background, check out these links:Athletes refuse to move into Rio's Olympic Village, citing “blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring”Rio... View full entry
Designing around gun violence
Our culture of fear has changed the role of architecture in the United States. In just 2016 alone, the country has seen 221 mass shootings, and we struggle to keep up with the stream of international terrorism attacks by groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. If you listen to the news for too long, every building we enter seems compromised, from malls and movie theaters to schools.
So while legislators falter over gun control laws, architects and building designers are working to rethink the concept of a safe space.For more architectural responses to public health issues, check out these links:Do cities make you go crazy? On the link between urban living and psychosisWhat... View full entry
Do cities make you go crazy? On the link between urban living and psychosis
The link between psychosis and city living was first noticed by American psychiatrists in the early 1900s who found that asylum patients were more likely to come from built-up areas. This association was sporadically rediscovered throughout the following century until researchers verified the association from the 1990s onwards with systematic and statistically controlled studies that tested people in the community as well as in clinics.
— The Atlantic
While the data shows a clear link between city living and schizophrenia, the correlation doesn't hold for other mental health afflictions like depression. This signifies that the city doesn't necessarily have a general detrimental effect on well-being. And there's no conclusive proof... View full entry