FitLondon Builds Upon the Global Conversation on Active Design

London’s Centre for the Built Environment (NLA) and the Building Centre recently held FitLondon, a series of events that examined the design of cities and its affect on health and wellbeing. Inspired by the American Institute of Architecture’s FitNation exhibition and New York City’s FitCity conferences, NLA’s FitLondon included an interactive exhibition, a half-day conference, and a community sports day, all with the goal of activating professionals and community members within London. Held as part of the London Festival of Architecture, NLA collaborated with local community members and professionals to design engaging installations in the crescent-shaped space outside of the Building Centre in central London. The installations invited people to learn about Active Design and enticed them to be active within a previously underutilized piece of public infrastructure.

NLA hosted a special FitLondon half-day conference, bringing together urban planners, policy-makers, developers, and designers to examine how the design of London’s buildings, public spaces, and masterplans were, or could be, promoting of health and wellbeing. The event opened with a keynote presentation from Riccardo Marini of Gehl Architects, who stressed the importance of stimuli in public spaces, and described temporary interventions as the best way to illustrate an area’s potential.

Yvonne Doyle, Director of Public Health England, gave some startling statistics about the state of health in the UK and the health risks of living in London. She illustrated gradual interventions that can slowly change lifestyles, using Take Care New York as an example. Lucy Saunders, Public Health Specialist at Transport & Public Realm, 
representing Greater London Authority and Transport for London (TfL), presented the, ‘Improving the Health of Londoners: Transport Action Plan’. This plan describes methods for using the public realm and transport to support a healthier lifestyle, much like New York City’s Active Design Guidelines. The FitLondon program was a great opportunity to draw comparisons with and learn from the U.S., particularly with David Burney’s discussion on Center for Active Design’s experience. Peter Murray, NLA Chairman, expressed his appreciation for their work:

The AIA/NYC Active Design Guidelines has been very influential for us in London and we are grateful for the loan of the U.S. content to the FitLondon exhibition to help spread the word. Like many cities around the globe, the UK capital's health costs are rising as a result of increasing obesity and diabetes; the Guidelines have shown architects and planners how the profession should respond.

The effects of hosting FitLondon and the associated installations outdoors in the crescent continue to be visible every day, as people flock to this new public space! This new interactive pocket park successfully illustrates the value of well-designed public spaces and their ability to transform a community. Through this project NLA successfully engaged local businesses, residents, and professionals, beginning conversations about how to make the temporary permanent, and how to build upon FitLondon for years to come. New York City and London have successfully initiated conversations and furthered knowledge on Active Design – hopefully more cities can continue what has become a long-standing tradition!

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Lucie Murray, Programme Coordinator at NLA

The NLA - London’s Centre for the Built Environment and The Building Centre recently held FitLondon, a series of events that examined the design of cities and its affect on health and wellbeing. A year-round programme of events, publications, and exhibitions brings together politicians, professionals, and the public to share knowledge, analyse policy, debate change, and identify opportunities.

Lucie joined NLA - London's Centre for the Built Environment in February 2014 and supports the full annual programme of events, leading on all London Festival of Architecture activity for NLA including the exhibition, Fit London. Prior to this she has worked in architectural practices in both London and Glasgow.

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    The crescent was temporarily transformed into a pocket park and a pavilion for an interactive obstacle course. Photo courtesy of NLA.
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    Life-size figures held the exhibition panels, showing community members how to be active within the space. Photo courtesy of NLA.
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    The exhibition and associated program of events officially opened with a community sports day. Photo courtesy of NLA.
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    The FitLondon conference, a multi-disciplinary conference focused on promoting Active Design in London. Photo courtesy of NLA.