Themed Book Lists

15 Books on Health and Design

Design as good medicine

July 30, 2014

Good design can make you healthier. From titles focusing on the design of health-care facilities, gyms, playgrounds, and spas to products for increased well-being, to classics on creating walkable. livable communities, to visions for our future as human beings, here are 15 books on health and design. (Updated January 14, 2020.)

From Hidden Beauty: Exploring the Aesthetics of Medical Science (Schiffer Books)
Advanced Textiles for Health and Wellbeing Marie O’Mahoney

From the Publisher. From medical implants to spacesuits, advanced textiles have the potential to transform human habitats and transportation, protect the environment and support personal health and wellbeing. The world’s most creative designers and engineers are working together to develop high-performance fabrics that are sustainable, fireproof, soundproof and anti-bacterial, and offer protection against extreme weather conditions and man-made disasters.

Advanced Textiles for Health and Wellbeing celebrates the latest technological advances in fibers and fabrics. The first part of the book looks at the materials themselves, including synthetic and hybrid fibers, new weaves and knits, three-dimensional materials, coatings, biotechnology and nanotechnology. The second part considers the design innovations that have been made possible in clothing, transport, and the natural and built environment.

More than 200 colour illustrations demonstrate the beauty and ingenuity of the latest advanced textiles and their exciting applications, which impact on all aspects of our lives. An authoritative glossary of technical terms and a list of suppliers complete this indispensable guide.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities: 50th Anniversary Edition Jane Jacobs

From the Publisher. Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of its initial publication, this special edition of Jane Jacobs’s masterpiece, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, features a new Introduction by Jason Epstein, the book’s original editor, who provides an intimate perspective on Jacobs herself and unique insights into the creation and lasting influence of this classic.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities was described by the New York Times as “perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning. . . . [It] can also be seen in a much larger context. It is first of all a work of literature; the descriptions of street life as a kind of ballet and the bitingly satiric account of traditional planning theory can still be read for pleasure even by those who long ago absorbed and appropriated the book’s arguments.” Jane Jacobs, an editor and writer on architecture in New York City in the early sixties, argued that urban diversity and vitality were being destroyed by powerful architects and city planners.

Also see The Death and Life of Great American Cities (original edition).

Design for Care Peter Jones

From the Publisher. The world of healthcare is constantly evolving, ever increasing in complexity, costs, and stakeholders, and presenting huge challenges to policy making, decision making and system design. In Design for Care, we'll show how service and information designers can work with practice professionals and patients/advocates to make a positive difference in healthcare.

Design Meets Disability Graham Pullin

From the Publisher. Eyeglasses have been transformed from medical necessity to fashion accessory. This revolution has come about through embracing the design culture of the fashion industry. Why shouldn’t design sensibilities also be applied to hearing aids, prosthetic limbs, and communication aids? In return, disability can provoke radical new directions in mainstream design. Charles and Ray Eames’s iconic furniture was inspired by a molded plywood leg splint that they designed for injured and disabled servicemen. Designers today could be similarly inspired by disability.

Design for the Real World Victor Papanek

Critic and author Alice Rawsthorn comments on Design for the Real World:

“Irascible though he was, Papanek was also thoughtful, sensitive, gutsy, and perceptive. He wrote Design for the Real World a little over 40 years ago, and most of its principles are as relevant now as they were then, if not more so. Dividing his book into two parts, the first entitled “How it is” and the second “How it could be,” Papanek explains clearly and persuasively that design should be more honest, humane, responsible, empowering, and inclusive, less about showy styling, and more about improving the quality of all of our lives, not least those who are disadvantaged, disabled, or excluded. Countless books have since been published on sustainable and inclusive design, but every designer should still read this one.”

Design with the Other 90%: Cities Cynthia Smith

From the PublisherDesign with the Other 90%: Cities is the second installment in Cooper-Hewitt's ongoing and acclaimed exhibition and book series. It looks at some of the myriad challenges created by accelerated urban growth and presents design solutions that address the consequences. Exploring the multidisciplinary, overlapping relationships between urban planning and design, education, social entrepreneurship, climate change, sanitation and water, migration, public health and affordable housing in these communities, Design with the Other 90%: Cities looks at the efforts of international and locally based organizations, designers and communities collaborating with settlement residents to give them a chance at a more prosperous life.

Ecological Urbanism Mohsen Mostafavi Editor
Gareth Doherty Editor

From the Publisher. While climate change, sustainable architecture, and green technologies have become increasingly topical, issues surrounding the sustainability of the city are much less developed. The premise of the book is that an ecological approach is urgently needed both as a remedial device for the contemporary city and an organizing principle for new cities. “Ecological Urbanism” approaches the city without any one set of instruments and with a worldview that is fluid in scale and disciplinary approach. Design provides the synthetic key to connect ecology with an urbanism that is not in contradiction with its environment. The book brings together design practitioners and theorists, economists, engineers, artists, policy makers, environmental scientists, and public health specialists, with the goal of reaching a more robust understanding of ecological urbanism and what it might be in the future. With contributions by Homi Bhabha, Stefano Boeri, Chuck Hoberman, Rem Koolhaas, Sanford Kwinter, Bruno Latour, Nina-Marie Lister, Mohsen Mostafavi, Matthias Schuler, Sissel Tolaas, and Charles Waldheim, among others.

Healthcare Spaces No.6 Roger Yee

From the Publisher. Professionals, architects, and interior designers serving the healthcare industry will find exciting new approaches to their work in Healthcare Spaces No.6. The wide range of recently completed projects presented in this edition graphically display how knowledge, creativity and determination can transform such varied spaces as patient rooms, surgical suites, emergency rooms, imaging centers, staff lounges, catheterization laboratories, LDRP suites and wellness centers into functional and aesthetic venues for both healthcare provider and patient. With over 90 outstanding examples of modern healing environments and 250+ color images from leading design firms, this book will prove to be an excellent method of assessing how public and private institutions are coping with the opportunities and challenges of managed care, advances in medical science and technology, ageing populations, and the drive towards patient-focused care. Healthcare decision makers and their architects and interior designers will be inspired by innovative the featured new healing environments that embody design concepts they can study and adapt for their own use.

Hidden Beauty: Exploring the Aesthetics of Medical Science Norman Barker

From the Publisher. This collaborative project by a scientist and artist from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine asks the reader to consider the aesthetics of human disease, a dynamically powerful force of nature that acts without regard to race, religion, or culture. Here more than sixty medical science professionals present visually stunning patterns of different diseases affecting various areas of the human anatomy. Captured with a variety of imaging technology ranging from spectral karyotyping to scanning electron microscopy, we see beauty in the delicate lacework of fungal hyphae invading a blood vessel, the structure of the normal cerebellum, and the desperate drive of metastasizing cancer cells. However, appreciation of the imagery produced by disease, which smacks of modern art, is bittersweet; we simultaneously experience the beauty of the natural world and the pain of those living with these disease processes. Ultimately, this series of images will leave the viewer with an understanding and appreciation of visual beauty inherent within the field of modern medical science.

Imperfect Health Giovanna Borasi Editor
Mirko Zardini Editor

From the Publisher. As health becomes a central focus of political debate, are architects, urban designers, and landscape architects seeking a new moral and political agenda to address these concerns? Imperfect Health looks at the complexity of today’s health problems juxtaposed with a variety of proposed architectural and urban solutions. Essays by Margaret Campbell, David Gissen, Carla C. Keirns, and Sarah Schrank deal with different aspects of the topic of health in the context of architecture such as: “An Architectural Theory of Pollution” and “Strange Bedfellows: Tuberculosis and Modern Architecture—How ‘The Cure’ Influenced Modernist Architecture and Design.” The book is published in collaboration with the CCA, Montreal on the occasion of the exhibition “Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture,“ curated by Giovanna Borasi, CCA Curator of Contemporary Architecture, and Mirko Zardini, CCA Director and Chief Curator.

Making Healthy Places Andrew L. Dannenberg Editor
Howard Frumkin Editor
Richard J. Jackson Editor

From the Publisher. The way in which we construct our built environment—from a single building to a neighborhood to an entire region—affects the health of humans and the natural environment in myriad ways. Haphazard development patterns and unhealthy buildings have contributed to skyrocketing obesity rates, an increasing number of asthma cases, environmental degradation, eroding neighborhood relationships, and unpredictable and dangerous changes to our climate, among other consequences.

Making Healthy Places: Designing and Building for Health, Well-Being, and Sustainability draws on the expertise of top leaders in the health and urban planning fields to suggest action steps for improving human and environmental health by changing the way we design and plan our communities. The contributors to Making Healthy Places, including Jim Sallis, Karen Glanz, Jonathan Samet, Ichiro Kawachi, Reid Ewing, Bill Sullivan, Tim Beatley, analyze issues from food and water supply to mental health and social networks, exploring the many connections between design, human health, and environmental sustainability.

Making Healthy Places follows and expands upon the groundbreaking work Urban Sprawl and Public Health, published in 2004. Its chapters address the different approaches of the public health and planning and design fields and show the promise of taking a much-needed cross-disciplinary approach to creating livable, healthy communities. Special attention is given to considerations important to designing for the most vulnerable populations, such as persons with disabilities and persons with low incomes. Practical tools are offered for reconsidering policy, effectively engaging the community, and filling in the gaps in current research agendas.

Medicine by Design Annmarie Adams

From the Publisher. Medicine by Design examines how hospital design influenced the development of 20th-century medicine and demonstrates the importance of these specialized buildings in the history of architecture. Annmarie Adams uses the “Royal Vic”—along with other hospitals—to explore issues in architecture and medicine, including the role of gender and class in both fields and the transformation of patients into consumers.

Neo.Life: 25 Visions for the Future of Our Species Jane Metcalfe Editor
Brian Bergstein Editor
Jennifer Morla Designer

Neo.Life: 25 Visions for the Future of Our Species is a book about the future of human beings, as viewed by some of today's most creative minds working at the intersection of biology and technology. You'll find essays, interviews, fiction, and visual art that explore the powerful new tools and ideas redefining the frontiers of our biology.

Oasis Sven Ehmann
Sofia Borges

From the Publisher. As our lives become busier and less predictable, our underlying desire for personal refuge has gotten stronger. Whether done alone, in pairs, or as a community, rituals of wellness inspire a sense of calm and self-awareness within our increasingly chaotic world. Oasis showcases a stunning selection of baths, spas, retreats, and other relaxing getaways that not only cater to our personal well-being, but also push the creative frontiers of architecture, interior design, and quality of service.

This book brings together a rich assortment of contemporary locations for indulging both our bodies and our minds—places to let go, be pampered, relax, and refocus. From public saunas to choice health clubs and five-star resorts, the spectrum of retreats ranges from minimalist spaces of tranquility to glamorously opulent temples of body care. While some examples provide an oasis amid the bustle of city life, others can be found in sweeping natural landscapes framed by dramatic vistas.

The lavish photographs in Oasis are accompanied by texts that reveal how the featured operators, architects, and designers are addressing and re-imagining our physical and mental need for escape and tranquility.

Walkable City Jeff Speck

From the Publisher. Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive. And he has boiled it down to one key factor: walkability. The very idea of a modern metropolis evokes visions of bustling sidewalks, vital mass transit, and a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban core. But in the typical American city, the car is still king, and downtown is a place that’s easy to drive to but often not worth arriving at.
Making walkability happen is relatively easy and cheap; seeing exactly what needs to be done is the trick. In this essential new book, Speck reveals the invisible workings of the city, how simple decisions have cascading effects, and how we can all make the right choices for our communities.

Bursting with sharp observations and real-world examples, giving key insight into what urban planners actually do and how places can and do change, Walkable City lays out a practical, necessary, and eminently achievable vision of how to make our normal American cities great again.

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