American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) have announced a research collaboration to support AIA efforts through the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Decade of Design, a measure focused on improving the health of urban communities. As the global population continues to shift toward urban environments, urban conditions of the past century have become too outdated to address the increase in population and pollution. In order to advance the state of city livability, professionals in the design and planning fields must reconsider how urban environments need to be designed to work optimally in regards to social, economic and health challenges. MIT’s collaboration with the profession-based organization of the AIA allows the school’s research to reach the professional world for application and development.
Universities are a critical tool in advancing social and technological efforts, and other schools are recognizing the value of researching into urban development as well. For example, New York University is also shifting its focus, working to establish a new institute that is “in and of the city” by focusing on the development of cities and the urban environment.
CAU’s expertise will bring “focus, energy and structure” to the AIA’s commitment to CGI’s Decade of Design, according to AIA CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA. The AIA and its network of resources has long-standing recognition within the design community and has the potential to amass professionals that can address public health challenges. Recently, Mary Ann Lazarus was appointed as a consultant to guide the sustainability efforts for CGI’s Decade of Design.
The subject of the “livability” of a city is more pressing now that mega-cities, cities with populations over 20 million, are growing at an exponential rate. Seventy-percent of the world’s population is anticipated to be living in urban environments by 2050. The health challenges associated with urban environments – obesity, asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression – are linked to low physical activity, pollution and the psychology of living in a large city. Many of these issues can be addressed through thoughtful planning and careful design that reconsiders the way cities have been designed in the past as new challenges arise.
The MIT CAU has taken significant strides in developing better models of urban growth. Its research focuses on methods and projects that integrate the myriad elements that compose a city: architecture, landscape, ecology, transportation, engineering, politics, political philosophy, technology and real estate within regional and local scales.
Starting in Spring 2013, MIT and the AIA will collaborate on research, prototypes and demonstrations projects to document and investigate correlations between health and the built environment, develop evidence-based guidelines and design solutions, while incorporating interdisciplinary perspectives. The research will also include working with cities, municipal officials, and communities to find specific solutions with wide range applicability, in the U.S. and globally.
The architecture and planning professions are preparing solutions for these anticipated challenges; Dean of the School of Architecture + Planning at MIT, Adèle Naudé Santos calls it the greatest issue facing the profession. The Urban Land Institute and the Center for Livable Cities recently published a guide of 10 Points of Liveable Cities based on the research collected from looking at Singapore’s development. Such commitments are crucial to exploring and sharing ideas as they develop and are tested within the profession. Collaborations like the one between the AIA and MIT in their commitment to CGI’s efforts establishes a foundation for research and the development of solutions.
To see what the CAU is all about, watch the video below: