The Fabric of Health–an Alumni Council Grant Project

The Fabric of Health–an Alumni Council Grant Project

Loeb Fellows (‘96) David Kamp and Rick Reinhard partnered with the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus and the University of Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning to create a unique conceptual strategy for health development, supported by a Loeb Fellowship Alumni Council Grant. Kamp reports on “The Fabric of Health.”

The shiny, new buildings of the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus stand out on the skyline of old, historic Buffalo, NY, as beacons to the new “eds-and-meds” economy. Today, the Medical Campus hosts 12 thousand employees and produces $1.5 billion in annual economic impact; by 2020, those numbers are expected to grow by 30-40 percent, promising to transform the Queen City’s post industrial economy.

Amid the code blues at Kaleida Hospital, the chemotherapy regimes at Roswell Park Cancer Center, the anatomy classes at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the Nobel Prize-winning research at the Hauptmann-Woodward Research Institute, lies a somewhat neglected block of six late 19th-century brick bungalows and their yards.

Rick Reinhard and I, working with the local partners of the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus organization and the University of Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, amplified on BNMC’s notion of a “Green Commons” to create a unique conceptual strategy for health development in our Loeb Fellowship-funded design project, “The Fabric of Health.”

Through my global work at the intersection of landscape architecture and public health, I have come to believe the designed environment can be instrumental in promoting health–both in helping individuals cope with ill health and in shaping individual choices that promote health. Designers have a pivotal role in helping shape what I call the fabric of health.

This phrase asks us to focus on exploring the threads that build health at every scale–from personal needs woven through communal ones to policies governing our overall environmental health.

Reinhard, who in 2000 as a consultant to former Buffalo mayor Anthony Masiello, helped create BNMC and the first plan for the Medical Campus, says “Buffalo is back, and the Medical Campus is one of the reasons why.”

“But,” he continues, “greenspaces have been a critical component in Buffalo’s infrastructure since Frederick Law Olmsted arrived in 1868 to create the city’s park and parkway system. The Medical Campus needs breathing room as well.”

Through the project we initiated an active community dialogue: “How does this place, this strategy advance health?” Promoting the idea of health activism within a fabric of health, we explored how the built environment can help define our individual and collective perceptions of health. Three key elements included:

Restorative Gardens. Amid the massive scale of the surrounding area, using the restorative qualities of nature and design intimacy to help restore a sense of balance, perspective and individual connection.

Science Walk. Balancing the dynamic between personal and public settings to create a pedestrian experience between the metro station and the medical campus that is welcoming, educational and engaging.

Green Linkages. Using nature to ameliorate competing scales and ensure the medical campus could be linked to the adjacent smaller-scaled residential neighborhoods in meaningful ways.

A key element to the design is how it links the Medical Campus to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Medical Campus station on Buffalo rail transit line.

Matthew Enstice, president of BNMC, noted that the “Green Commons” project adds to his organization’s community health focus, one that has been aided by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson and other foundations.

Robert Shibley, Dean of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, said the Loeb Fellowship work provides an excellent example of design that “fits right in with our school’s Urban Design Project” and its commitment to make Buffalo’s center city a livable, walkable community.

In essence, this project explores the role of design to strengthen the continuum of health. By putting individual human health on a continuum with environmental health, design can help coalesce individual choices into collective ones to make our communities, our cities, and our world more vibrant and equitable.

Call it seed money if you will, funding from the Loeb Fellowship provided a critical first step towards realizing this important project. Discussions are underway between our team of Loeb Fellows and local partners to take this concept into more detailed analysis, planning and design.

Read more about the Fabric of Health project.

Rick Reinhard has spent more than three decades working on improving cities. He has managed urban revitalization organizations in five cities: Washington, DC; Atlanta; Buffalo; Richmond, VA; and Derry, Northern Ireland. He was chief of staff to the mayor of Buffalo and, as consultant to the mayor, developed the strategic plan for the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus. He was also chief operating officer of a Canadian real-estate development corporation focused on Niagara Falls. Reinhard directed the Public Infrastructure Initiative at the Urban Land Institute. He began his career as legal affairs reporter for a newspaper in his hometown of Syracuse. Today he is chief administrative officer of the General Board of Church & Society, the DC-based, global, social activism arm of the United Methodist Church. He has a BS in biology from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Business and Public Management from Rice University and was a Loeb Fellow in 1996. 

David Kamp, FASLA, LF, NA, is the president of Dirtworks, PC, Landscape Architecture. Kamp's career has focused on advancing the effectiveness of design and nature to influence individual, public and environmental health. A frequent guest lecturer, he has been recognized with numerous awards, including an honorary fellowship at University College Falmouth, UK, in recognition of his contributions to the landscape architecture profession. Kamp has been featured in several national and international documentaries, including GardenStory, broadcast on PBS. A Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, he has also been elected as a National Academician of the National Academy, joining an illustrious group of America’s most influential artists and architects. He was a Loeb Fellow in 1996. 

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