Nadine Gerdts, a Senior Critic in the Department of Landscape Architecture at RISD, also teaching interdisciplinary studios and seminars that link social, cultural, and environmental issues to design with the Department of Architecture and Department of Teaching + Learning in Art + Design. Her work is centered on the cultural and environmental dynamics of urban landscapes. She has worked extensively with youth in urban public schools and with neighborhood organizations on projects that strengthen the livability of cities, focusing on transportation and open space infrastructure.
Transit Equity: Comparative Study of Urban Neighborhood Bicycling Models
Gerdts is currently researching how bicycle use and bicycle sharing programs generate benefits in low and moderate income urban neighborhoods. These systems, adding to enhanced urban livability, have broadly publicized environmental and social benefits and are critical components of some of the best examples of progressive contemporary urban design and planning in cities across the globe. This research will develop a system of documentation to measure the impact and value of several models of urban bicycle transit systems in underserved urban neighborhoods. Gerdts is interested in innovative planning and design solutions that enhance transit system connectivity, reduce dependence on cars and offer urban residents “active design” modalities for increased public health through quotidian travel.
Place Matters: Design for Population Health – Design + Policy + Population health Symposium
With colleagues at Brown’s School of Public Health and RISD’s Division of Graduate Studies, Gerdts coordinated and participated as a panelist in the 2014 Place Matters symposium, supported by BRCIC, the Brown | RISD Committee for Institutional Collaboration. The symposium, designed as a first step in exploring the feasibility of a Brown/RISD Institute of Public Environments and Population Health, brought prominent scholars, policy makers, artists and designers to Brown and RISD to share work, methods and problem-solving strategies. The symposium provided visibility for collaborative work on-going across Brown and RISD and provided opportunity for the Institute’s planning committee to meet with others who shared their own models for cross-disciplinary work. The symposium attracted interested faculty, students and stakeholders from the broader community.
After the public forum, representatives of state and city agencies and community groups participated in a follow-up panel with RISD and Brown faculty and students, providing additional opportunities to tie problems “on the ground” in Rhode Island to on-going work across the country and globe. Both “bottom-up” and “top-down” methods of working were promoted through wide ranging discussion of creative strategies currently being deployed by colleagues using different disciplinary approaches. The value of a discussion teaming artists and designers with epidemiologists, health behaviorists, economists, planners, engineers and health policy experts helped broaden and enrich the creative thinking that is already underway at both Brown and RISD and will open up new avenues for future collaborations.
Street Patterns and the Impact of Urban Form on Population Health: Olneyville, RI Case Study
Presented April 2014 at Brown University, School of Public Health Poster Sessions
With Julie de Jesus, RISD, MArch ’14
This research project builds on findings developed through the RISD Public Health and Public Space Initiative, established through RISD Graduate Studies, with a RI Foundation strategic planning grant in summer 2013. Nadine Gerdts and Enrique Martinez (RISD Senior Critic, Architecture) co-directed the Public Health and Public Space Initiative with a team of graduate student researchers who developed a pilot project in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence exploring best methods to support healthy behavior and enhance community health advocacy through design, planning and public art.
Study Objectives for Street Patterns Research
This study of walkability and environmental conditions in Olneyville worked with the findings from the 2011Olneyville: Action for a Healthier Community report, which documents neighborhood opinions concerning the safety and condition of streets. Residents interviewed for the study, also identified obesity as a significant and common public health issue.
Building from data gathered from several detailed study of economic development opportunities, community health, safety and housing needs and assessments of the community’s social and physical fabric and housing, this study focused on examining the existing conditions of the neighborhood’s built environment to understand where physical infrastructural issues are contributing to both the perceived and real impediments to greater foot traffic throughout the neighborhood.
Through a series of photographic elevations of selected streets, observations are recorded and are used to give greater detail to some of the data gathered from interviews with neighborhood residents in the Olneyville Community Contract, Healthy Olneyville Community Action Plan and the 2012 environmental audit, the Olneyville Street Audit Baseline Report/ Active Neighborhood Checklist.
Many features of Olneyville point to a neighborhood, that by most measures used by urban planners and open space and walking advocates, should be easily and regularly walkable. There are many short, interconnected blocks, a centrally located public school and playing field, post office, banks, and many small locally owned restaurants and grocery stores. Knowing that tools such as Walkscore and city planning maps do not easily take into account specific street character, topography, traffic patterns or the quality of public infrastructure or building conditions, analysis of this photographic inventory should add a more nuanced and critical point of view to examining the questions of walkability and ways to encourage walking for both recreational and utilitarian purposes that might ultimately impact and improve the population health of the community.
Contact Nadine Gerdts