Archive for the ‘salutogenesis’ Category

grow rotorua 4 composite

Six-time winner of New Zealand’s most beautiful city, Rotorua has set out a plan for sustainable economic growth.

Not just growth, sustainable growth. Over the past six decades, we’ve seen the consequences of growth for growth’s sake, without concern for economic and social sustainability. The history and ongoing cost of not creating “places worth caring about” is vividly described by James Howard Kunstler in his seminal book The Geography of Nowhere.

Rotorua, by contrast, is keen to attract healthy business investors and talent by not only relying on its abundant natural assets, but also by instilling high aspirations for quality of place. Their current annual report features Farrow’s glulam wood project near Toronto, stating that this design “exemplifies the values which we aspire to.”

grow rotorua 2a copy

Designers have been talking about humanizing design for generations. So why is our built environment so dismal today? How has mediocrity remained the norm?

In order to raise expectations for design and to ultimately promote a culture that demands quality design, it is vital to cite examples in use.

There can be no change without awareness, and no awareness unless the public understands what they are looking at. Higher standards for what can be achieved at the same cost can be more widely understood through the following approaches:

  1. DEMONSTRATE examples that are a physical embodiment of higher aspirations
  2. ANALYZE elements that add up to health-causing, uplifting, built-to-last design
  3. COMPARE demand for quality design to concerns for healthier food and green standards
  4. EXPERIENCE places and the feelings they evoke through facilitated walks and tours
  5. ENGAGE clients and the public in a dialogue regarding these issues
  6. QUESTION marketing hype by asking, how does this place really make you feel?
  7. CONTRAST elements of health-causing and dis-ease causing design
  8. STATE a higher purpose and legacy for design than to simply contain programs and/or replace infrastructure

CVH analysis with title

In recent years, marketing hype has evolved to the point of describing the most awful, soulless spaces as “community place-making.” Fortunately, there are increasing numbers of advocates for healthy places (many of whom who do not have formal design training) who question this blather while raising expectations for what design can be and do.

Geography of Nowhere

-Sharon VanderKaay

_St Marys ART_ copy

We have explained how the Cause Health movement is focused on health assets rather than health deficits. The creation of thoughtfully developed and integrated artwork is a tangible celebration of this salutogenic point of view.

Our approach to incorporating art at Sechelt Hospital on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia demonstrates both a healthy process and a healthy result. This art brings to life the rich history, culture, legends and spirit of the First Nations shishalh people. We conceived of three major installations by local artists that would radiate messages of healing, protection and collaboration.

These works consist of a lobby sunburst mural, exterior entrance totem poles, and memorable elevator lobby symbols. Together they bring meaning, special identity and recognition that highly emotional life events happen here.

This holistic approach earned an international award for use of art in the patient environment at the 10th Annual Design and Health World Congress.

Drawing on the talents of Coast Salish shishalh people who first settled here thousands of years ago, the theme of healing was essential not only in relation to the hospital but also with regard to the First Nations’ painful history on this particular land. Generations of disease and misguided government policies, including hardship specifically related to hospital’s site, had taken a devastating toll. However, the Salish shishalh have moved forward to rebuild and heal painful memories. At a recent public ceremony to celebrate the unveiling of these completed artworks to the community, carver Tony Paul said that the totems convey messages of welcoming and healing, “Not just healing our health, but also healing our people.”

The poles at the entrance tell stories that connect the physical and spiritual worlds. A 50′ x 20′ sculptural sunburst mural was created by artist Shain Jackson who explains, ‘The Canoe People represent community; when others paddle with you in a canoe it is acknowledged that you are headed to the same place and devoted to the same goal.”

Young artists from the community were involved from start to finish in order to learn the entire process: from working with administrators and architects, to presenting and quoting on the work, to fabrication and installation.

Sechelt Hospital (originally St. Mary’s Hospital) has been listed as the 10th most environmentally friendly hospital in the world; the only one selected from Canada. This LEED Gold certified project also recently won a SAB Canadian Green Building Award. It was designed with the goal of becoming North America’s first carbon-neutral hospital.

– Sharon VanderKaay

project: St. Mary’s Hospital, Farrow in association with Perkins + Will Architects

mural photography: Latreille & Delage





It’s obvious that Dan Gilbert is getting excellent advice as he invests in public space interventions that are defining the New Detroit in major ways.

His contributions to the downtown core demonstrate three important qualities which offer lessons for other cities:

1. They add to Detroit’s unique culture, character and identity (v. generic, placeless design)

2. They are upbeat and dignified (not glitzy and cheesy)

3. They reflect a spirit of stewardship (leveraging the city’s human assets and potential)

This striking new 18-story mural by Shepard Fairey is a fine example. Created as part of his work with Library Street Collective its enduring theme of peace and justice animate an otherwise boring view of ordinary architecture and a parking garage:

Big Art_Detroit_2015_6424_crop

When skillfully placed, there is huge potential for Big Art to enliven dull urban spaces. But in order to be an enduring asset, the art must have strong, defining qualities that will make it locally meaningful and internationally significant.

By contrast, this “me-too” artwork (only a few blocks away) is one of literally 100 similar murals by the artist and is located 700 miles from the nearest ocean:

Detroit 2015 whale mural_1

-Sharon VanderKaay

This photo essay is about the role of public seating in places that nurture human relationships and actively contribute to a healthy state of mind.

A decade or so ago it was common to see hostile – and even pathogenic – parks and public spaces. I remember sitting in NYC’s Bryant Park (for a few minutes in the ’80’s) when it was scary. Decaying conditions and anti-social behavior became normal when there was no direct involvement by each community in ongoing improvements.

In recent years, new standards for civic engagement and quality have been set by such places as Bryant Park, Campus Martius in Detroit and Sugar Beach in Toronto.

Rather than simply aim to “do no harm” in line with the 30+ year old “broken windows theory”, many of today’s new and revitalized parks are salutogenic .

-Sharon VanderKaay

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