Multi-sensory approach to health-supportive and ageing-friendly high-density urban environments

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Design and planning actions to improve urban health and well-being are well-recognised as some of the key drivers and indicators of sustainable, inclusive and resilient urban and community development worldwide. Yet, due to rapid growth and transformation, increased densification, hybridisation and intensification, our cities continue to generate problems, stress, harsh conditions and inequality, instead of becoming healing, empathetic, inclusive and safe environments for all. Our understanding and experience of the built environment are primarily built around multi-sensory, emotional and symbolic modes of exchange with space (Merleau-Ponty, 1962; Pallasmaa, 1996; Pérez-Gómez, 2006). Active multi‐sensory and emotional dialogue with all environmental stimuli, including positive distractions, textures, materials, colours, signage, culture-specific clues, way-finding and overall aesthetic atmosphere, profoundly shape our understanding of the built environment and are vital for physical, psychological and social well-being of all ages. However, while architecture has immense potentials to engage the immediacy of people’s experiences more effectively than other art forms (Holl et al., 2006), our contemporary cities are more than often either sensory overwhelming or sensory depleting, which results in physical, mental and emotional stress. Stress is the major cause of diseases, pandemic depression and death in the developed world (WHO, 2002), with more than 50% of deaths worldwide stemming from chronic non-communicable diseases that are instigated by the continuous exposure to numerous and intense stress conditions of contemporary cities (OxHA, 2008).
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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