5. WELLNESS + CITIES
Urban Infrastructure Just Might Save Cities
By Robbie Hammond and Omar Toro-Vacay
The role of the city has been reimagined countless times over the centuries (they’ve been trading posts, political and artistic centers, and, recently, concrete jungles of retail and offices). But the pandemic served as a wake-up call for just how unwell our cities are—sparking a new recognition of the inextricable relationship between the health of the cities and the health of city dwellers. Global cities are now at another historical inflection point where they are rebuilding themselves around the wellness needs of their citizens. “Urban wellness infrastructure” is no longer perceived as a luxury—it’s a necessity.
This trend examines diverse, creative ways that an urban wellness infrastructure—the melding of capital improvements and business opportunities that holistically address social, mental and physical health—is being embraced all around the world as a solution for accelerating growth, fueling post-pandemic recovery and cultivating healthier, happier citizens.
There are so many powerful examples. Developed 20 years ago on an abandoned railway line in the heart of Manhattan, the Highline is a pioneering example of this trend—a wellness destination in its own right where people exercise, socialize and take in natural beauty in the heart of the city. The Highline has inspired over 60 such projects across America. The 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington, DC, a new public space project that connects neighborhoods and helps cross racial and economic divides, is an example of the new community-building urban wellness infrastructure.
In Singapore, the government is striving to become an “urban wellness haven,” creating a whole slate of programs and initiatives that showcase the city’s unique natural and wellness resources. In Monterrey, Mexico, a successful collaboration between private and public organizations, DistritoTec, is creating a thriving new community with wellness at its core—a model Mexico plans to replicate.
To remain vital in the next century, cities must become places not to survive but to thrive. That’s only possible with a new wellness infrastructure.
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