Health, and the information around it, is messy. As are our bodies and the systems intended to help sustain them. No anatomical chart, in its immaculate precision, can articulate the ooze of our fluids and secretions, or our sensations of pain and fear; or the strain of accumulating medical bills; or the clash between the cult of wellness and rampant addiction; or the inequality of access to basic hygiene, nutrition, and medical care. Like health itself, our power—as individuals, citizens, and designers—to heal or to harm ourselves and the spaces in which we dwell is full of contradictions.
These contradictions are what generated this issue of Harvard Design Magazine. “Well, Well, Well” explores some of the tensions and transformations of the landscape of health and illness. As both designers and inhabitants, we create this landscape, and in turn, must navigate our own well-being within it. And as the rules of wellness continue to change—along with political events, science and technology, and nature itself—design and planning must adapt and respond accordingly. Architecture’s panaceas are not without expiration dates, and might even turn out to do more harm than good—but ultimately design has the power to promote and support health and healing in preemptive and progressive ways.