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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

Designing A Well Environment

Wednesday February 23, 2005

A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at.
Lewis Mumford

Without the Utopians of other times, men would still live in caves, miserable and naked.
Anatole France

As a former professional urban planner (MCP from UNC-Chapel Hill) and long-time wellness promoter, I sometimes consult on the design of new communities. My role, usually carried out in two-day brainstorming sessions with architects, bankers, developers and others, is to describe the nature of the wellness concept and attempt to translate such a mindset to the design of upscale, exclusive, resort-like communities. The goal is to create well environments that promote, encourage, facilitate or otherwise reinforce a good and healthful life. 

Throughout this week, I'm participating in such a brainstorming session with developers in Texas. My "charge" or role in the process was outlined to me last week in a letter from the director of the brainstorming team. 

Piece of cake, don't you agree? Hahahaha. 

Lewis MumfordWell, all journeys of a thousand miles, and even 30 minute presentations, must start at the same place, namely, a first step (or initial words), so mine will begin with the Lewis Mumford quote, above. The word "utopia" has become synonymous with unreal and impossible, yet, in another sense, utopia can mean an ideal or vision of what could be that makes the world not only tolerable but exciting. Mumford described well communities in dozens of books on the history of cities, inspiring generations of city planners to "create well communities into proud cities, aiming bravely at the good life." His books on the history of cities were a major influence on my choice of city planning as a profession. Many years after graduating from planning school, I realized that the core of Mumford's ideas about great cities were wellness concepts. 

I will begin my 30 minute presentation with a brief reference to the nature of the wellness philosophy but then move on to a summary of Mumford's work. I'll mention that, "like us here today, Mumford desired environments where citizens could most naturally pursue healthful, meaningful lives." Then I'll point out that Mumford's ideas about communities "free of disquieting negative stresses in harmony with nature" were extensions of the same concepts of good living advanced by earlier utopians. These included but were not at all limited to such thinkers as Hippodamus, Plato, Sir Thomas More and, in his own time, Patrick Geddes and the father of high level wellness, Dr. Halbert L. Dunn. My mini-history overview will conclude this way: "We meet here today as part of a long, unbroken tradition of Utopians seeking to enable, promote and design environments for the good life, for others. In doing so, we enable the same for ourselves and our successors."

This, alas, will take about ten to fifteen of my precious thirty minutes! The next essay, set for Saturday of this week, will summarize what I offered regarding the five bullet points of the charge, given above, as well as my response to "ideas and suggestions for changing the way people live here, that is, how it can become a model wellness community."

To finish in time, I think I'm going to have to talk very fast.

Be well. Always look on the bright side of life.

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: applied wellness

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