William Sullivan

How do landscapes that we design, especially urban landscapes, impact the health and wellbeing of people? My students and I examine this question by measuring the impact of urban design on a person’s ability to recover from stressful experiences, the influence that views from high school classrooms have on a student’s capacity to learn, and the effect that urban green spaces have one’s physical activity, mental health, and relationships with others. In these studies, we assess people’s hormones, heart rates, brain waves, psychological states, and ability to pay attention. We have found that regular contact with urban green infrastructure—places with trees, grass, rain gardens, and the like—has profound, positive impacts for individuals and communities. These urban green spaces need not be large or pristine to convey a variety of broad-ranging out-comes. They must, however, be easily accessible from a person’s home or workplace. My students and I share our findings with scientists, designers, planners, and policymakers in an effort to create healthier communities where people can thrive.

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