By Brigid Moser
The International Conversation Series on Design between Pittsburgh and Stockholm, hosted by AIA Pittsburgh in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Platform, in kicked off on Tuesday, May 23rd, with the first session, “Health Equity: Architecture and the Value of Design”. Pittsburgh architects Amanda Markovic, AIA, Principal at GBBN, and Jeff Murray, FAIA, Senior Vice Principal at CannonDesign, and Stockholm architects Fredrik Hansson, Creative Director and Partner at Okidoki Arkitekter, and Anna Sunnerö, founder of Sunnerö Architects, came together to discuss the role of architecture and urban design in achieving environmental health and well-being, the responsibility of architects and urban planners to address and ensure environmental health, which “tools” and possibilities are available, and how to communicate and advocate for the value of design in achieving environmental health.
In this 3-session conversation series, speakers introduce themselves and their work in a shortened PechaKucha-style presentation, followed by an open conversation among the participants. In our first session:
Anna Sunnerö described the numerous benefits to our well-being and mental and physical health that come from living close to nature. Research shows that nature stimulates creativity, enhances concentration, and improves memory. It also fosters a sense of community and promotes social interaction, similar to the activities in schools and learning environments. Anna presented several projects that make nature more accessible to communities.
Amanda Markovic discussed her firm’s commitment to improving well-being and emphasized the impact of design on all aspects of our lives. Good design is sustainable, equitable, and healthy, with each element being essential. Her presentation highlighted three projects that demonstrate a multi-pronged approach to design that supports health and well-being while promoting equity and accessibility.
Fredrik Hansson reflected on the Swedish approach to how design intersects with the environment, nature, and health. Despite Sweden’s commitment to healthy and sustainable environments, it still faces challenges in creating an equal and healthy society. The distribution of green spaces is not equitable, and social and cultural problems, such as gang criminality, can exist even in beautiful natural settings. Fredrik advocates for collaboration with local communities, politicians, and stakeholders to co-create solutions from the bottom up.
Jeff Murray introduced the concept of situated well-being in design. By prioritizing well-being and creating inclusive spaces, architecture can enhance productivity and reduce turnover. Emotions, memories, and ideas are recognized as crucial aspects of our holistic well-being. He explores the connection between art, science, and the built environment and the challenges in translating abstract well-being concepts into tangible elements in architecture and design.
View the presentations below:
The presentations were followed by an open conversation, moderated by Michelle Fanzo, Executive Director of AIA Pittsburgh, between the architects around the topic of environmental health equity – the equal right for all to live in a healthy environment – and the role of architects in achieving it.
The speakers discussed architects’ role in understanding community needs and creating successful projects, designing for longevity (50-100 years, much will change in that time) and flexibility (deconstruction, regeneration, resilience), the evolving role of architects (facilitators, conveners), communicating the importance of environmental equity to clients, benefits and historic challenges of addressing social problems through design and urban planning, and the differences and similarities between Pittsburgh and Stockholm regarding each of these topics (there were more similarities than expected).
Overall, the conversation highlighted the importance of collaboration, community engagement, sustainability, and adaptability in achieving environmental health equity and creating meaningful, successful architectural projects.
You can view a full recording of the session here.
Don’t miss the next two discussions in the International Conversation Series: Pittsburgh + Stockholm:
– Session 2: Public Space and the Built Environment on June 7
– Session 3: Community Engagement and the Power of Education on June 20