Healthy cities - public realm and neurourbanism
How can we use technology to make sure that public realm remains accessible to all ages? Often the elderly can become isolated through not leaving their homes for long periods and researchers believe that our future cities can only be regarded as ‘healthy environments’ if they serve all of society’s needs.
British academic, Dr Jenny Roe, Director of the Centre for Design and Health, School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, USA, is leading a project on ‘Neurourbanism’ among other areas of study.
Electroencephhalography or mobile EEG integrated with GPS along with recording equipment, helps to unravel what happens in the brain as it navigates the city. It enables academics to understand how people feel within a particular environment and how their surroundings affect their emotions and behaviour.
Studies at the research centre have shown the restorative effect of green spaces on the older population while the elderly become excited -and stressed - in busy urban streets. The availability of public parks and access to nature, good pavement and seating design, all help to maintain better cognitive health in later life. Some of this research into senior wellbeing is also being carried out with partners at the UK universities including Edinburgh, Herriot Watt, King’s College, London and York.
Neurourbanism is a new interdisciplinary area of research focussed on the relationships between city life and mental wellbeing. Spanning neuroscience, architecture, urban planning and sociology the field aims to understand the mental health challenges of city living including stress, anxiety and depression.
Research using EEG, is being carried out jointly with the University of Virginia’s Department of Engineering and is pioneering this technology for wider applications. These aim to understand the type of public realm that encourages walking and the well-being benefits of encountering public art in our cities with implications for behaviour change, advocacy, design and policy to create better urban environments.
Find out more about the Centre for Design and Health at http://cdh.arch.virginia.edu