woman walking near pond

Unlocking the Secrets of Healthy Place Making

Today, one in two human beings lives in a city and by 2050 it’s anticipated that seventy percent of the world’s population will be living in an urban environment. This trend of rapid urbanization combined with global climate change will have far reaching consequences for our quality of life, health, and in particular, our mental wellbeing.

Our mission is to understand how the design of our built environments can address these challenges so that our cities and the places we work and live in are healthier and more nourishing for everyone. Our goal is to foster and apply research to design solutions that allow us be fitter, happier, more productive, age better, live longer, and help us all live together in a positive and meaningful way.  

Specifically, we aim to:

· Drive world-class scientific research in the neurological and psychological impact of environments on the human mind

· Translate basic research into design practices

· Promote excellence in teaching to educate a new generation of design-health professionals and leaders to promote a vision for healthy, inclusive places

· Generate impact and serve as the definitive ‘go-to’ design-health resource for Virginia and beyond

· Drive discourse within the disciplines of architecture, planning, and landscape architecture as agents of health change


People in garden

What we do

Churchill famously said, 'we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.' (1948). Our research captures how the world shapes our health and wellbeing, how we experience place, what’s going on in our minds and bodies as we move through space, and aims to apply this knowledge to the design and planning of the built environment (see Research page). 

The Design + Health Lab applies a human-centered and evidence-based design approach to bring our research into a design practice through teaching and funded projects. We work closely with communities, stakeholders, and other users to co-create an empathetic understanding of needs of people as the driver of design. We foster interdisciplinary collaboration to iteratively develop solutions for patient-centered healthcare to inclusive urban design. Our primary foci are healthcare systems and urban environments.

Our Expertise

· Environmental Psychology

· Healthcare Design

· Human Centered Design Research