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Van Alen Institute Forum: Mind, Body, Place


Tuesday, September 17, 2019
2:00PM – 6:00PM

Henning Larsen, 250 W Broadway, 2nd Floor, 10007

As humanity’s migration to cities continues, research suggests a link between city living and certain mental health problems. While mental health outcomes are influenced by a host of social and personal risk factors, the built and physical environments of our neighborhoods can also play a significant role. Across the fields of neuroscience and psychology, designers and scientists are learning more about the impact of physical urban environments on mental health and imagining new ways to create healthier cities.

This four-hour forum presented in partnership with Cities Leadership Institute brings together a multidisciplinary, international group to explore how evidence-based, science-informed approaches to urban design can produce healthier cities. It’s our goal for designers, researchers, and city leaders to discuss how they approach mental health and urban design, share relevant projects and experiences from their work, and help each other imagine strategies to mitigate environmental stress, promote social connection, and advance health equity in cities.

  • How the mind and body respond to architecture and urban design, environmental and social stressors, and various stimuli encountered in the public realm
  • How designers approach mental health and wellbeing in their work, including the values they prioritize, the goals they set, and the metrics they consider to determine success
  • Specific projects and proposals that support mental health by providing greater access to nature in innovative ways, stimulating learning and cognitive performance in and outside educational environments, and promoting a sense of belonging and social connection within communities
  • Strategies city leaders and designers can use to develop healthy design interventions at different scales and improve citizens’ mental health
  • Issues, constraints, and opportunities facing urban leaders who hope to design and build healthier places
  • Avenues to foster effective collaboration between scientists, designers, public officials, city leaders, and communities
  • This forum is presented in partnership with Cities Leadership Institute, an Australian not-for-profit dedicated to building the capacity of urban leaders to make great places.

The event will kick off with presentations from COOKFOX, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and others that explore the impact of cities on mental health and/or put existing insights on the subject into practice. To follow, David Burney, Pratt Institute professor and Board Chairman of the Center for Active Design, will moderate a discussion about how public officials, designers, and researchers can work together to promote equity and innovation in healthy urban design.

Cities Leadership Institute (CLI) is an Australian not-for-profit dedicated to building the capacity of urban leaders to make cities, towns and communities great places. Over the course of 10 days in September 2019, CLI lead a delegation of Australian urban leaders to the US and Canada to explore best-practices in creating health innovation districts as part of International Exchange: Health, Education & Innovation Precincts.


Andrew Brown
Associate Director of Research
212 924 7000 x 29