Wellness: the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort
The built environment is a physical, (temporarily) permanent representation of our community and ourselves. We live, work, love, and play in buildings and the space between them, and the organization and character of those buildings reflect the culture and values of our society.
The quality of our built environment can be a barometer for the health and wellbeing of our communities, whether they be the city, town, neighborhood, or the street where we live. When a neighbor moves out, the street may lose a bit of vibrancy, life, and activity – all signs of a healthy community. If the house is left vacant over time, the building itself may by physically deteriorating or even falling into disrepair; the same can be seen in a downtown when a business closes and the storefronts are boarded up.
Our work at Crosskey is often focused on repairing or transforming structures that have lost vibrancy, and achieving this effort takes a community of people working together. Architects are partners in performing the work of design and construction, but we require the inspiration of a group of people and their hard work and dedication to give our projects a reason for being.
Change takes a family deciding to open a restaurant in the building downtown. It takes a developer working with local leaders to bring affordable housing to an abandoned mill or factory. It may take a group of citizens contacting their local government about a property falling into disrepair and it takes persistence to obtain funding, support, and approval from agencies and planning boards to create positive, physical changes. All of this and more are part of the process to work towards the physical wellbeing of our built environments, and it can start with something small.
Last month, Crosskey employees signed a petition to stop the planned demolition of the Reid and Hughes Building in Downtown Norwich, Connecticut. The building, dating to the 1880s, is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, yet it has been vacant for many years and has fallen into disrepair. There is currently a proposal by the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development to repair and convert the Reid and Hughes building into a mix of commercial space and twenty units of affordable housing, with half designated for formerly homeless veterans. If this plan is allowed to move forward the project could contribute to the health and wellbeing of the community in more ways than one.
Building wellness in our communities takes consistent, deliberate effort and we are happy to be a part of the story of transformation in any way that we can.
By Erin Marceno, M. Arch