Active Design

 
Active Design event

Roger Duffy, FAIA, Design Partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Lia Gartner, FAIA, Vice President for Design, Construction, and Facilities Management at The New School

The new University Center was given a starring role today in the rollout of a broad series of new proposals by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “It’s really a spectacular building,” said the Mayor from behind a podium at Parsons’ Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. “The architects really did a fantastic job.”

The Mayor was praising the building and announcing his policies at The New School for the same reason. His office is trying to encourage architects and developers to take physical activity into account when drafting new building designs, for example, by encouraging visitors to take the stairs. The University Center, slated to open in January 2014, incorporates active design elements throughout. They are most obvious in its large, showpiece staircases, visible from the street, which encourage not just physical activity, but cross-divisional conversations and collaborations.

“The problem is that we’ve been lulled into a sedentary lifestyle,” said David Burney, the commissioner of the department of design, as recounted in Capital New York. “And as architects and planners we’ve in the past been part of the problem.”

In his final years in office, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has increasingly focused on public health initiatives, attempting to use his political power to encourage healthy habits among New York’s eight million residents. He wants us to bike more, drink less soda, and smoke less. The latest of these is a series of new measures encouraging people to get active.

Couched in various forms, including an executive order and a pair of proposed bills, the programs would encourage the use of stairs by posting signs drawing attention to them, changing city regulations to allow stair doors to be kept open, and promoting the creation of more vibrant and inviting public spaces for exercise and recreation. The Mayor also announced the creation of The Center for Active Design, a new public-private partnership that will promote changes to the built environment to fight obesity and related chronic diseases.

The Mayor was joined at the event by Joanna Frank, Executive Director of the Center for Active Design; Joseph Gromek, Board Chair, The New School; Lia Gartner, FAIA, Vice President for Design, Construction, and Facilities Management at The New School; and Roger Duffy, FAIA, Design Partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, designers of the University Center at The New School.