The Master of Design Studies degree program at the U of A is adding a fourth concentration of study — in Health and Wellness Design — beginning in Fall 2022. The U of A and the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design launched the Master of Design Studies in Spring 2018, with enrollment beginning in Fall 2019. Initial areas of concentration were in resiliency design and in retail and hospitality design, and a concentration in integrated wood design was added in Fall 2021.
“The initiation of the M.Des. health and wellness design concentration marks a significant step forward for the graduate program and for the school,” said Dean Peter MacKeith. “Our commitment to serve the needs of society and to address the pressing issues of the state, nation and world through architecture and design is clearly demonstrated in this concentration. We look forward to building this important program with campus partners, professional allies and our alumni, as well as through regional collaborations in medical education and healthcare.”
Jennifer Webb, the school’s assistant dean of graduate programs and an associate professor of interior design, said the concentration in health and wellness design is one of the most relevant design specializations in the architectural and design disciplines, with a demand for design knowledge across all market segments.
“This program stretches across every project type — education, workplace, healthcare, hospitality, home, parks, cities and so on — and at every scale,” Webb said. “For example, air quality is impacted at a global scale through natural events such as volcanic eruptions and climate change, at a regional scale through manufacturing or agriculture, and at the scale of a room through materials off-gassing or combustion for heat and cooking. And it all comes back to human health and wellness. Our wellness is directly tied to that of the natural and built environments.”
The health and wellness design concentration will prepare professional interior architects and designers, landscape architects and architects to address critical issues of health and wellness through the built environment. Course work addresses theoretical structures, evidence-based design strategies and financial implications of health and wellness outside of the traditional healthcare system and informed by the broader social, economic and political climate. The development of the health and wellness concentration utilizes existing courses across the U of A campus as electives to provide rich, cross-disciplinary learning that directly supports a range of advanced design studio courses.
One course offered in this concentration is Health and Wellness in the Built Environment. This course aims to examine the reciprocal relationship between human health and well-being and the natural and built environments. Students will build an understanding of the language, trends and standards that currently inform the collective understanding of health and wellness in the environment. That understanding will be extended by applying and analyzing the knowledge constructs to case studies.
Instructors in this concentration will include Webb and Jinoh Park, an assistant professor of interior design. Both faculty members are WELL Accredited Professionals (WELL AP).
Webb said that competing building certification programs further underscore the demand for health and wellness expertise from design professionals. The International WELL Building Institute claims more than 3.24 billion square feet of certified construction, and Fitwell’s VIRAL Response strategies have been implemented in more than 100 million square feet of interior space. The distribution of these metrics reveals dramatic and continuous growth over the last 10 years. While these issues have always been important, they have been further highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Master of Design Studies in the Fay Jones School provides a post-professional degree for individuals seeking expanded design expertise and professional advancement. It is a one-year, three-semester program with multiple concentrations. Utilizing strengths across the U of A campus, each concentration combines course offerings with a professional residency to immerse students in these dynamic fields. Each concentration offers specialized knowledge on emerging and critical issues, extending design education in contemporary settings. The concentrations culminate with workplace experience in professional practices, business settings, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations.
Five students who recently completed their Master of Design Studies degrees will graduate in May 2022. Two additional students previously have received their graduate degrees from the program.