Launch Slideshow

Design Fit

Design Fit

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    Amy Sussman

    Community gardens get people outside and moving, and enable them to grow their own, healthy food. Likewise, urban farms can turn vacant or disused parcels into engines of local food production—increasing the availability of fresh produce and cutting down on the "food miles" that lead to carbon emissions.

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    The District of Columbia launched SmartBike DC (above), the first U.S. bikesharing program, in 2008. That system was replaced in late 2010 with Capital Bikeshare. Since it began, Capital Bikeshare’s some 6,000 annual members have logged 250,000 trips. In Barcelona, Spain, a popular bikeshare program averages 35,000 journeys per day.

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    A "regional foodshed" proposed by researchers at Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) would include urban food terminals, where consumers could buy locally produced groceries.

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    Bikeshare programs need the right infrastructure (such as dedicated parking areas) to thrive. Similarly, parks and other green spaces should be planned to stimulate user activity. In children’s play areas, natural terrain and ground markings have been shown to get kids up and running.

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    David Sundberg

    Morphosis Architects has designed open staircases and skip-stop elevators for projects including 41 Cooper Square in New York (shown). At its Caltrans District 7 Building in Los Angeles, a study found that the open staircase next to a skip-stop elevator is used 3,300% more than the enclosed stairs next to traditional elevators.

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    A standing desk is bound to draw stares from colleagues at the office, although one—Stilvoll’s Crescendo C2, a modular sit-down desk that transforms into a handsome stand-up podium—may inspire as much envy as wonder.

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    For hilly cities, bicycling may represent a more severe form of exercise than most commuters will entertain. That’s why students at MIT set about to reinvent the wheel, developing a kinetic energy-recovery system, used in Formula One racing, for the bicycle. The "Copenhagen wheel" captures the energy gained from braking and stores it for later use—when the rider is traveling up a hill, for example.

Early last year, New York City and AIA New York published the Active Design Guidelines. The guidelines suggest a clear corollation between the inclusion of specific design elements at various scales—open staircases in a building, neighborhood bikeways, a city’s land-use mix and open space—and an enhanced rate of physical activity among building users and city residents. Since their debut, the guidelines have sparked interest in other cities, such as Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, and have kicked off a national conversation about the potential for design to improve public health. The guidelines themselves are rife with real-world examples of design strategies that promote activity. We sifted through those, and through more besides, to identify a host of promising new directions for active design, shown in this slide show.