Panel Chairs: Arif Hasan and Christian Benimana

Healthy living takes place in healthy environments, and architects can help improve public health through careful planning, building and consideration. Anticipating and accomodating the need for healthier places to live is one of the ways to achieve a more sustainable future.

Bayalpata Hospital, Nepal - Photo by Elizabeth Felicella

Design for HEALTH

Architecture and health are inseparable. From the direct design of hospitals and places for healing to the strategic design of infrastructures and city planning, architecture affects physical and mental health of individuals and communities.

Major health crises are an everyday feature of the built environment, particularly in poor and low-income settlements, and are increasing in frequency and intensity on a yearly basis. Globally, buildings must be designed to create safety and comfort in the home and workplace, and human settlements must be planned to provide public space for healthy living, recreation, and culture. Better drainage and sewage disposal are essential for public health. Health facilities need to be more people-friendly and strategically locations to overcome and reduce inequities. The Covid-19 pandemic raises new questions about the links between health and architecture, as concerns for access to public space, ventilation, and sanitation change.

Design for Health asks how architecture can reconceive health as a design issue. We question how land rights impact healthy living, how legislation, planning and building impacts inequality and access to water and finally how the single building and the civic construction of hospitals, health clinics and community buildings can operate in unison with local environments and ecologies to create a safe and healthy space for all.


Design for Health asks for papers that engage with these perspectives and critically explore how architecture can understand, build and fulfill its active role in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).



Land is a health issue. The availability, location and quality of the land we inhabit directly affects our lives. Globally, land has become a commodity resulting in inequal land use provoking unhealthy and unsuitable living conditions.

Poor settlements are often peripherally located on polluted land with insecure tenure, have higher risk of catastrophic climate events, difficult access to health facilities and densities of up to 3000 persons per hectare.

These dynamics make upward mobility impossible and result in a weakening of resilience, lack of a privacy, toilets, sufficient water and promote domestic violence, unemployment and issues of equity and peace. What are the strategies to mitigate speculation, to address unequal land use and strengthen the production of holistically healthy environments?


Water security, water management and water quality directly impact health. Many communities do not have equal access to water with poor and informal settlements often being dependent on insufficient and polluted water sources. From the governance of regional and national water security to the everyday infrastructures of sewage systems, water management frames community health.

How can architecture drive solutions that maintain clean environments and healthy ecosystems, mitigate flooding and its associated water- and vector-borne diseases, allow sanitation and gather and recycle potable water? How can local-level solutions be shared across communities and architectural practice to innovate the way water is conceived, managed and used in our communities?


Urban environments are shaped by visions of leadership formalised in building bylaws, planning processes, and zoning regulations. However, these visions and their tools are often restrictive and do not adequately understand, account for or support dynamic socio-ecological interactions.

This results in cascading effects that disrupt environment, ecology and population, and impact associated health effects. How can we encourage regulations that are pro-pedestrian, pro-recreational, pro-mixed land use and people-friendly?

How can design consider larger social and ecological factors in the absence of legal and implementable regional plans? And how can design help to deconstruct misguiding binary categories such as formal and informal settlement building and create knowledge exchanges that foster healthier environments for all?

4.4 COVID-19

Proliferation of disease is a situated social matter. Covid-19 clearly demonstrates the impact of pre-existing spatial conditions making epidemiological protection an architectural problem.

With stay-at-home orders communal activities of living, working, education, commerce and leisure are radically challenged. In high-density areas and in settlements with little or no public space, lockdown could not be observed, nor standard operating procedures imposed.

What assumptions has Covid-19 unsettled? How can design be part of creating resilient solutions that prepare us for future pandemics? What lessons can we bring with us into the post-pandemic “new normal”?


Almost 50% of the world’s urban population live in inadequate, un-serviced or semi-serviced dwellings resulting in the worst health conditions on the globe. Housing is of poor design and construction quality. Architectural advice is needed for owners and inhabitants on light, ventilation and insulation to prevent disease and improve life conditions.

As many homes are built incrementally, an understanding of the health-related requirements of incremental growth need to be researched and applied. Education is needed of local builders well at affordable rates. How can the relationship between architects and community concerns be developed and institutionalized, securing the promotion of health?


Architecture can be an agent of care. Design for healing addresses how the built environment in itself can facilitate healing as well as house and operationalise health facilities.

Design for health facilities increasingly reflects new approaches to spatial design, energy efficiency and increased emphasis on sensory elements such as colour, light, nature and air, widening understandings of ‘patient-friendly’ healing processes. Architectural considerations are essential when securing health accessibility for special groups, particularly people with physical and neurological disabilities; and for community health clinics which require accommodation of local cultures. Improving the location of health facilities and user rights are important for promoting health care accessibility and in turn equity.

Enabling effective and safe surgical and medical procedures is also dependent on well researched design. How can architects and architecture strengthen the process of healing for patients and relatives across cultural, socio-economic and ability divides?


The design of healthy environments is often obstructed by deep rooted bias and structural problems. These are embedded in the practices and methods of architecture and continue to be propagated in the architectural curriculum.

How can architecture be part of a rethinking of its conditioning of health in design? What is the role of architectural research and education in challenging how civic society and practice understand environment, ecology, community and the individual?

Can we position the city as a workshop to actively reframe our understanding of the actors in the built environment and prototype new solutions? How can The South question Northern theories and planning tradition to theorise on its situated demographic, organisational and constructional realities? Can architecture establish its own Hippocratic oath to cement its role in creating and innovating healthy living?


Panel 1
Design for Climate Adaptation

Architecture faces a grave challenge in a world struck by climate change. The built environment must adapt to changing weather patterns, higher temperatures and flooding.

Panel 2
Design for Rethinking Resources

Resources are getting scarcer, and architects need to address this issue. By using novel materials and recycling on a much greater scale, architecture can change its approach to resources..

Panel 3
Design for Resilient Communities

Communities are people, and people create communities. Architects can positively impact the lives of millions, even billions, by building for the future, and creating communities that last.

Panel 5
Design for Inclusivity

A sustainable world is one with room and consideration for all people. Architects must design with inclusivity in mind, and take care to understand the needs of the many different people that inhabit the globe.

Panel 6
Design for Partnerships for Change

Architects must foster partnerships, and work across many different professions and skills to create a sustainable and inclusive future.

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