Healthy Places D-Lab Activities in 2021

In the first half of 2021, the D-Lab has been active in debates about healthy places, including issues of aging, livability, and climate change.

Article: A. Forsyth and J. Molinsky. What is Aging in Place? Confusions and Contradictions. Housing Policy Debate 31, 2: 181-196, 2021.

Blog:  W. Airgood-Obrycki, J. Molinsky. Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities Score Lower on Livability, January 2021.

Talk: Education of Future Public Health Spatial Planning Workforce, Panelist, Public Health England, Ann Forsyth, July 2021.

Article: Y. Lyu, A. Forsyth, and S. Worthington. Built Environment and Self-rated Health: Comparing Young, Middle-aged, and Older People in Chengdu, China. HERD: Health Environments Research and Design, 2021.

Article: Y. Lyu and A. Forsyth. Attitudes, Perceptions, and Walking Behavior in a Chinese City. Journal of Transport and Health, 2021

Talk: Meaningful Ageing: Shaping a better Future for China’s Elderly, Discussant, Harvard University, Ann Forsyth, June, 2021.

Talk:  Health and Cities, Sir Peter Hall Lecture, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, Ann Forsyth, May 2021.

Report: J. Molinsky, W. Airgood-Obrycki, R. Harrell, S. Guzman, Which Older Adults Have Access To America’s Most Livable Neighborhoods? An Analysis Of AARP’s Livability Index, Harvard JCHS.

Blog: J. Molinsky, W. Airgood-Obrycki, Housing and Livable Neighborhoods, February, 2021.

Article: A. Forsyth and R. Pesier. Lessons from Planned Resettlement and New Town Experiences for Avoiding Climate Sprawl. Landscape and Urban Planning 205: article 103957, 2021.

Talk:  Healthy Communities, Urban Planning, and COVID-19, Tongji/ADB (Virtual), Ann Forsyth, December 2020.

COVID-19 Work by the Healthy Places D-Lab

The Healthy Places D-Lab continues to address COVID-19. For earlier work see our June 7, 2020 posting.

J-Term Workshop: Small Farm to Food Insecure: Matching Needs with Surplus. Harvard Graduate School of Design,  Kira Clingen, MLA/MDes’21, Tessa Crespo, MDes ’20, and Amy Thornton, MDes ’20, January 2021.

Talk: Healthy Communities, Urban Planning, and COVID-19. Asian Development Bank/Tongji University, Ann Forsyth, December 2020.

Panel: Four Paths, Post COVID-19: Lessons for Planning Future Cities. ACSP Conference, Ann Forsyth, November 2020.

Editorial: Speaking to the Future: COVID-19 and the Planning Community. Journal of the American Planning Association 86, 3: 281-283, Ann Forsyth, June 2020.

Blog: Designing Senior Housing for Safe Interactions in the Age of COVID-19, Jennifer Molinsky, August 2020.

Blog: As Economy Reopens, Guidance Must Consider Older Adults’ Living Situations, Jennifer Molinsky, June 2020.

Small Farm to Food Insecure: Matching Needs with Surplus, January 4

Enrollment is open for up to 12 GSD students to engage in a workshop on the food environment on Monday January 4 from 9am-12 noon Eastern. Enroll here. Find more about the project on their web site, What We’ve Gleaned.

Instructors: Kira Clingen, MLA/MDes’21, Tessa Crespo, MDes ’20, and Amy Thornton, MDes ’20
Zoom Link:
Max Enrollment: 12

In the late winter of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic threw the United States into a state of chaos an acute dual and contradictory crisis caught our attention. Due to the closing of institutions and restaurants, farmers across the country tilled under crops and poured milk down the drain, unable to sell their goods. Simultaneously, the percentage of the food insecure rose dramatically. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, it was estimated that 1 in 11 Massachusetts families or 9% faced food insecurity. Due to COVID-19, that number increased to 38% according to Project Bread President Erin McAleer. Aware that food surplus and food insecurity was already existent; we were still stunned by the magnitude during this crisis. How was it possible that food was thrown away while so many did not have enough to feed themselves?

As designers, we believe our skills can serve the challenges faced by small local farmers and the food insecure in New England, exacerbated by COVID-19, climate change, and other crises yet unknown. However, we know our answers must come from those already engaged in this work otherwise assumptions made are not only arrogant but irrelevant and inapplicable. Thus, we interviewed small farmers, institutional food producers, distributors, Food Bank employees, gleaning organizations, food skills educators, and food shelf volunteers to discover from those doing the work of growing, distributing and consuming the food where successes and challenges lie, to amplify the work already in action, and discover where change is best made to collectively create solutions. Through these interviews we found that the COVID-19 crisis amplified broader, long-standing issues within our food system such as the stranglehold of large food distribution companies, the challenges of storage and timely transportation, the difficulty in providing nutrient-rich fresh food to the food insecure, the insufficient crop yield and time of harvest data for small farms, and the undervaluing of fresh local food, the small farm, and skilled food work.

This course will be one 3-hr session starting with a discussion period about how scale and distance impact the design process, especially in regards to rural, agricultural landscape, followed by a short lecture on our key findings and the ways in which we believe designers might help. We will then hold a collaborative sketching and brainstorming session and come together to share and critique our concepts and ideas to move forward.

This project was funded through the 2020 COVID-19 Participatory Budgeting process.

Date Mon, Jan 4
Time 9am – 12pm

COVID-19 and the Healthy Places D-Lab

The Healthy Places D-Lab has been involved with the pandemic through a series of activities:

Blog: Older Adults in the Workforce: Facing Economic and Health Risks During the COVID-19 Pandemic, JCHS, Alexander Hermann and Jennifer Molinsky, June 2020

Keynote Panel: Writing the Next Chapter: Possibilities of the Post-pandemic City. University of Washington, Ann Forsyth, May 2020.

Blog: The Pandemic is Stress Testing Aging in Place, Milken Institute, Chris Herbert and Jennifer Molinsky, April 2020.

Open House Lecture: What is a Healthy Place? Harvard GSD, Ann Forsyth, April 2020.

Feature: What Role do Planning and Design Play in a Pandemic? Ann Forsyth, March 2020


Participatory Budgeting 2019-2020

In the 2019-2020 academic year the Healthy Places Student Group sponsored a participatory budgeting process, one of the first in higher education. Focusing on helath equity there were two rounds–one in the fall and another after COVID-19 made the school virtual in the late spring. These processes involved multiple meetings, events, and surveys.

Building Social Infrastructure for Bicycling Infrastructure

As a key strategy to building healthy places, cities across the world are physically reshaping their streets by expanding infrastructure dedicated solely for bicycling. From Cambridge to Bogota and Oslo to Seville, cities not located in The Netherlands are doubling-down on bicycling.

However, there is a growing recognition that in order to promote wide-scale adoption of bicycling, investments in physical infrastructure must also be paired with investments in social infrastructure. As defined by Dr. Adonia Lugo, the social infrastructure are the social networks and human relationships that build a community that values bicycling.

In order to promote social infrastructure for bicycling in our local community, in March 2019, the Healthy Places GSD student group thus hosted the Boston area premiere of Why We Cycle, a documentary about Dutch cycling culture. Overall, the event was a huge success as about 200 people packed into the GSD’s Piper Auditorium.

The film screening was followed by a panel moderated by Lily Song of the Harvard GSD, featuring Michelle Cook of Roxbury Rides, Angela Johnson of Transportation for Massachusetts, Cara Seiderman of the City of Cambridge, and Anne Lusk of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Although there are many countervailing forces against bicycle urbanism in the United States, such as a rise in cycling deaths and a cultural and economic apparatus that impels people to own motor vehicles, our event showed that there is a large appetite for a different urban future in Boston. A future urban mobility that allows residents to improve their health and mitigate climate change at the same time.

Cycling truly can transform a society. And social infrastructure events like ours are important pedals forward in achieving that vision for the Boston area.

This event was generously supported by the Transforming Urban Transport Project, the Department of Urban Planning & Design, the Department of Environmental Health, the Department of Nutrition, the Harvard Office of Sustainability, the Planetary Health Alliance, and the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment.

Lunchtime Lecture: Erica Walker, Noise and the City

Do you have the right to peace and quiet? To piano-filled or piano-free enjoyment? Noises like car horns, leaf blowers, crying babies, parties, protestors, and building construction fill urban life, but they could be affecting our health.

Join Healthy Places GSD for a lunchtime lecture with Erica Walker, a researcher on community noise. Walker investigates with participatory citizen science tools such as her NoiseScore app, bringing equity and justice to soundscapes. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

Lunch will be catered by Fresh Food Generation, a farm-to-plate food truck started by MIT DUSP alumna Cassandria Campbell to bring Caribbean-inspired healthy food to underserved neighborhoods.

Monday, November 26, 2018
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Gund Hall Room 124

Speaker Biography

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The Future of Food Systems Planning: Panel, Discussion, Dinner

What is the future of food systems planning?

The success of the food movement has gained traction nationally. Yet, there are still many structural dimensions of the food system that have negatively impact people, health, and the environment. What comes next in food systems planning? How do we get there? Join Healthy Places GSD for cocktails, a panel with practitioners, policy experts, and academics, and a delicious vegetarian meal provided by Roxbury-based Fresh Food Generation. We will be discussing some of the changing opportunities, challenges, and contradictions in the movement to create a more sustainable and more just food system.

Friday, April 20, 2018
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Harvard University Center for the Environment
26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Register now >

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