What if we could design buildings that change and evolve as we do? Ones that could help us monitor our own state of wellbeing and adjust temperature, color, and even texture accordingly to make us more comfortable and optimize our health? Designs that ultimately could reverse the aging process? While such concepts may seem a bit, correction, exceptionally farfetched in A&D today, this type of knowledge and technology is coming. Such introductions will have profound effects on design as we know it.
Last night, I attended “The 9 Visual Rules of Wellness” preview event, sponsored by Frito-Lay and Quest Diagnostics, at the Steelcase Showroom in New York City, that showcased to healthcare, wellness, and media professionals the upcoming personal health initiative TheVisualMD.com. Created by Deepak Chopra and Alexander Tsiaras, TheVisualMD.com presents a combination of digital technology and medical scans that for the firs time allows for the complete visualization of body’s constant processes (both growth and decay) to demonstrate the impact of our personal choices and give a tangible diagram to finding a more sustainable way of life.
Chopra began the presentation by discussing how our current models of wellbeing are flawed as “the mechanisms of illness are not the origins of illness…At the deepest level, our bodies are not structures but processes in the midst of change. It’s always changing but maintains a balance.” He went on to point out that since our bodies are just a recycling of elements (citing that 60 percent of our DNA is the same as a banana, while 98 percent is the same as a chimpanzee, which garnered a stir of laughter from the audience) there are those markers that can be changed, such as slowing the progress of aging, by taking control of our biological turnover through, for example, sugar tolerance, hormone levels, and fat content. “We have data that shows one person reversed their ‘age’ by 30 years in four months.”
After a short video that depicted the process of human life from conception to birth, Tsiaras detailed the ideas behind TheVisualMD.com. “We were using the term “marvel.” As we watch the design of the body…it’s so perfectly organized in structure and architecture, it’s a miracle…We tried to figure out programs where physician and patient could be responsible to measure their biomarkers back to health.”
Here are Chopra and Tsiaras’ “9 Visual Rules of Wellness:”
1. Baseline Your Health: Pick a start date. Have your physician define your current biomarkers with a simple blood test. This is the first step toward analyzing and quantifying your current health and lifestyle.
2. Define Your Wellness Mission: What are your goals? Identify them, and create an action plan.
3. Develop and Maintain Nutritional Balance: Taking in the right combination of nutrients is key to your success.
4. Get Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise: You can improve your strength, brain function and body image at any age.
5. Never Smoke. If You Smoke Now, Quit: Smoking decreases your quality of life and life expectancy.
6. Take a Moderate Approach: Excess in anything you do, or consume, upsets the balance between body and mind.
7. Make Sleep a Priority: Healthful sleep patterns positively affect all aspects of wellness.
8. Manage Your Stress: Chronic stress robs your body of its ability to heal and maintain health.
9. Embrace Joy: A joyful outlook in daily life improves your health in ways that may surprise you.
So what does all this have to do with design? Everything. Whether you are a designer for healthcare, corporate spaces, hospitality venues, educational buildings, etc., the ideas and concepts of wellbeing must be taken into account. Designers must ask themselves, “Is this material sustainable?” and “How can my design help to improve the quality of life for those within and those in the surrounding community?” In our Healthcare Environment Awards this year, our Conceptual category winner, Patient Room, proposed what hospital rooms might be like 10 years from now, incorporating high-tech displays and communication tools to increase doctor-patient interaction to better the level of service healthcare providers could give, thereby increasing healing time.
Similarly, I see TheVisualMD.com, while not inherently design-related, as a stepping stone or even a building block to an overall improved well being in our built environments. It proposes significant potential for expanding the capabilities and ideologies of design to a point where each element in a building has a direct affect on the quality of life for those within; potential for designing “living” buildings that change and adjust to those who occupy them to optimize wellbeing and, quite possibly, slow aging. Are such ideas really that farfetched afterall?
Just imagine the possibilities! What benefits and changes do you see more advanced visualization technology (and a greater understanding of the human body) bringing to design?