12 Sep Helping Build Healthy Cities
Hi! My name is Robin Mazumder. I recently joined URL in January to start my PhD where I am exploring how urban design impacts mental health. Prior to starting my PhD, I worked in community mental health as an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists bring a unique perspective to health care in that we put a focus on the environment, specifically looking at how an individual’s physical and social environments influences wellbeing. After working in community mental health for a few years I began to notice how urban design was impacting the health of the clients I worked with. Over time I became more involved in municipal issues and urban planning initiatives in Edmonton, where I was living before I came to Waterloo. I felt that as a heathcare professional, I could offer a valuable perspective to urban planners. When I caught wind of the work Colin and the URL team was doing I knew right away that I needed to go back to school to study this topic in more detail. My long term goal is to produce research that informs urban design and planning practices that make for happier and healthier cities.
Right now I’m launching a study that examines the impact that boring buildings have on our mood, and consequently our mental health. I’ll be using virtual reality for that study which I am quite excited for. The virtual worlds that our programmer, Richard, can build are absolutely amazing. I am always in awe of how realistic the different virtual environments are. But, as great as virtual reality is, experiments done in the field aka the “real world” provide insights that we just can’t get from an oculus rift. Accordingly, two members of the URL team, myself and Hanna Negami, are taking off to Vancouver to collaborate on an experiment with the Happy City team where we’ll be taking Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference participants on urban walking tours of Vancouver’s West End and using different tools and instruments to understand how participants respond to different urban settings. We can’t get into too much detail on the methodology, but check back to see the results of the study!