The range, quality and types of sports equipment and services are improving greatly. However, if you speak of architecture, city planning or interior design, what are the ways to create integrated solutions that encourage people to naturally, happily, or without even noticing, to take those extra steps? Check these projects for some inspiration.

 

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Last week I was observing for my thesis and taking part in a seminar on board of a passenger ferry going from Helsinki to Stockholm and back again in three days. What struck me was that the percentage of obese passengers was very high – with the average adult traveler being either a retiree or a parent with small kids. After three days of mostly intensive sitting and listening, little to no exercise and a good number of snacks and extensive buffet meals later I left the boat feeling physically rather unwell. As my thesis is dealing with those big Caribbean and Mediterranean cruises I was wondering whether I was working on something leading to human dystopia. My thesis partner and I were joking that there should be casual walking tours around the ship that would be both entertaining as well as physically engaging.

Lifestyle choices related to food and health are one of the big Western mega-trends certainly – fueling a booming and compelling industry. Take cycling, or running, as an example. Both have become more and more popular for commuting to work (enabled by increasing number of offices that include facilities for changing clothes and showering). Nike+ let’s your friends cheer for you as you run. Sports have designated snacks. What does not logically follow however, is that a visible share of e.g. cyclists seems to go for that technical cycling suit, shoes, and fancy racing bicycle: making sports about societal status, income, and even educational background, as much as good supportive gear. There are debates on whether wellbeing is becoming exceedingly exclusive, reserved only for families that can afford it. The societal (cultural, not only medical) implications of this are frightening.

Let’s face it, as industrial designers we’d be more likely to think of that smart wristband counting steps, uploading exercise and changing color to indicate hydration levels, rather than a paper map. Therefore I find the following examples quite refreshing: three strategies to having people choose stairs. [divider]![/divider]

Who: the city of Turku
What: Porrastelukartta – a friendly looking city map outlining three walking routes taking you onto 285, 917, or 1256 steps of stairs on the way. Available for free online, an probably in Turku libraries, cafes, or other similar places as paper version.
Turku stair-tour walking map

 

Who: Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
What: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY, gradual ascension throughout the exhibition. Frank LLoyd Wright also said referring to the spirit of the time: “If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger”.
interiors and stairs architecture with people walking through an exhibition

 

Who: Volkswagen Group
What: thefuntheory.com, an initiative that demonstrates ways to change people’s behaviour through “something as simple as fun”.

>> This post questions a socio-cultural phenomenom. But what are the ways to actually counter exclusion-by-design? Check out these educational case studies by Helen Hamlyn Research Centre.