Building on the Francis effect

University of Virginia, The Lawn
Photo copyright: Jenny Roe. University of Virginia, The Lawn

This autumn I become my own study in human adaptation, as I moved across the Atlantic to America to become the Professor in Design and Health at the Architecture School, University of Virginia.

My relationship with the USA began in 1980s as a student in literature, exploring its unique historical, cultural and social dynamics through some of the literary heavyweights of American literature, including Poe and Faulkner, both early literary students here at the University of Virginia. It was during those formative years I became drawn to the complexities and richness of its history, and – through subsequent visits – gained a compelling insight into the spirit and values, which have shaped the country.

Within days of my arrival, Virginia was on red alert following the tragic on-air slayings of two journalists during a live TV broadcast. What kind of place had I arrived in I wondered? Despite multiple fatalities this year from guns, I still believe I have arrived at a hopeful juncture in America’s history with Pope Francis recently laying out a bold vision for a compassionate America and challenging Congress to act on climate change, poverty and discrimination. His words seized the imagination of the public – whom now hold the potential to help build that vision in how they vote at the ballot box next year.

A humane America is the context at the heart my own vision for the Center for Design and Health – and for transformative research that can bridge health and design, and generate a hopeful architecture that fosters human flourishing, inclusivity and compassion.

“…That dream [of Martin Luther King] continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people”

Pope Francis address to USA Congress, 24 September 2015

...That dream [of Martin Luther King] continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of 'dreams'. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people