Healthy People, Healthy Cities: Architects call for a revitalizing new kind of health space to revive the heart of ailing cities

On March 1, 2023, with Britain‘s National Health Service (NHS) pushed to its limits, and many downtown areas (AKA “high streets”) hollowing out, the architects at London-based Heatherwick Studio are calling for a revitalizing new kind of health space at the heart of cities.

Their new report, called Health Street, it sets out a vision for a radical approach to health creation based around community-led facilities on local high streets.

The Health Street concept combines public health, local business and social spaces in a setting that feels different from clinical environments.

Instead of focusing on treating illness, it champions the idea of living well.

Lisa Finlay, partner at the Studio and author of the report said, “We want to create a new kind of place for health that’s convenient and welcoming. It’s about bringing life back to city centres and taking some pressure off national health care institutions.

Health Street was created in collaboration with experts in medicine, social care, place-making, real estate, data analytics and public policy.

The addresses social inequalities and supports new initiatives, such as Integrated Care Systems and social prescribing.

It adopts the key principles of regenerative retail, supporting local activities, rather than imposing any set program.

It starts by making use of spaces that already exist in town centres that need a fresh start and are well connected to residential communities,” Finlay added.

It’s about building connections between charities, community groups, local business and health services, and providing a whole range of activities that might stretch from arts programmes, cooking classes and gardening to community diagnostics, dieticians and physio, or just socialising. This is a holistic approach to health and wellbeing,” she concluded.

The report outlines seven steps to creating a Health Street.

From a “seed space” in vacant or under-used buildings to growing services and activities which can welcome people in and spill-over onto the street.

It includes a practical illustration of a theoretical Health Street that could be created at Lister Gate in Nottingham.

Heatherwick Studio says they are a team of 200 problem solvers dedicated to making the physical world around us better for everyone.

Their recent work includes the Tree of Trees sculpture celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Maggie’s Centre in Leeds, Little Island in New York, and Airo: an electric car that cleans the air.

Image courtesy of Heatherwick Studio.

See Heatherwick Studio website.

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