Shifting the ground of environmental design evidence

This week, we’re at one of the most important conferences of the year for us, the 47th conference of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA).

Logo for E D R A conference

Since its formation in the late 1960s, EDRA has used its annual congress to bring together design professionals, social scientists, students, educators, and facility managers.

For EDRA47, the Association has ‘come home’ to its birthplace of North Carolina, where its very first conference was convened by Henry Sanoff in June 1969, sponsored by NC State’s School of Design and UNC’s Department of City and Regional Planning.

Under the theme of Innovation : Shifting Ground, the aim of EDRA47 is to take a global look at the driving force of innovation in environmental design.

Catharine Ward Thompson’s plenary on environmental design evidence

Catharine (Director of OPENspace) is one of EDRA47’s six keynote and plenary speakers.

In her plenary, she is focusing on environmental design’s potential to help address current global health crises (such as cardio-vascular disease, rising levels of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and mental illness) and growing inequalities in health and wellbeing.

Catharine’s presentation explores what kinds of approaches are needed if environmental design, and landscape design in particular, is to be taken seriously by public health policy makers and planners as both health-enhancing (salutogenic) and reducing of health inequalities (equigenic).

It therefore considers the importance of working across and between disciplines, the use of innovative of methods (such as biomarkers and mobile neural imaging), the particular challenges involved in longitudinal studies to research design interventions, and the opportunities offered by natural experiments.

Insights from current and recent OPENspace research

In Catharine’s plenary presentation, she will draw on research from large-scale, collaborative projects such as Mobility, Mood and Place (MMP), GreenHealth, and Woods In and Around Towns (WIAT).

Over the course of the four-day conference, which runs from Wednesday 18th to Saturday 21st May 2016, these projects will also be presented in a series of papers by OPENspace researchers including Dr Sara Tilley, Dr Eva Silveirinha de Oliveira and Professor Jenny Roe.

The themes covered by the papers include Longitudinal Studies and Natural Experiments; Childhood Experience, Adult Perceptions and Visits to Woodlands; Timescales in Environmental Influences on Mobility in Older Age; Older People’s Brain Activities and Self-Reported Experiences of Short Urban Walks; and Experiences of Outdoor Environments by Women with Postnatal Depression.

Colleagues from collaborating research centres, such as the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, will also be presenting.

PhD candidate scoops EDRA Great Places Award

We’re delighted to end this post by announcing that PhD researcher, Matluba Khan, has won the EDRA Great Places Award in the Place Design category for her project, An Outdoor Learning Environment for Children.

Announced on the first day of the EDRA conference, the Award was given to Matluba for a “submission [which] truly exemplifies the concern for human factors in the design of the built environment, and a commitment to promoting the links between design research and practice”.

Matluba’s project is the co-design and build of outdoor learning and play space at a rural primary school in Bangladesh. Her PhD is co-supervised by Dr Simon Bell and Dr Eva Silveirinha De Oliveira at OPENspace, and Dr Sarah McGeown of Moray House School of Education.

In 2014, Matluba won Overall Best Paper Award at the 45th EDRA conference in New Orleans.

The annual Great Places Awards are a collaboration with the global organisation, Project for Public Spaces. Chaired by  John Shapiro of the Pratt Institute, this year’s jury included Kofi Boone (North Carolina State University), Jill Pable (Florida State University), Michael Mehaffy (Sustasis Foundation) and Katie Roden (Centerbrook Architects and Planners).

Two researchers with an award

Find out more about EDRA47 on the Environmental Design Research Association website