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Design and Health at Taubman College

The Covid-19 pandemic has foregrounded the health impact of the spaces we occupy. The HVAC system that might be spreading pathogens matters in a new way. The cramped and lightless room that weakens our mental health seems more consequential amidst the “anthropological shock” of the shutdowns.[1] Though the impact of these design choices has always been there, it is now more apparent than ever that design can change health, for better and for worse.

The students and faculty in the Design + Health group at Taubman College study the intersection of health and design. We interpret this nexus broadly both in terms of subject matter and scale; we look at wearable devices, furniture and ergonomics, immersive spaces and XR, hospitals and other institutional buildings, and urban design. Our motivation is to increase accessibility, inclusion, equity, and alterity in the face of many current and historical examples of design-driven health inequality, redlining, disabling urban environments, and institutional facilities that lack access to natural light.  Our group is concerned about the gaps between quantitative analysis and lived experience, and we think architecture and design has an urgent need to close these gaps.

This inherently interdisciplinary work is pursued by Design + Health faculty with a wide range of background and research interests, including commercial hospital design, disability culture, surgery, and architecture history. Interested students can take a wide variety of courses within Taubman College including studios, history electives, and elective seminars, or enroll in courses through allied schools, such as the School of Public Health. We are an inclusive community and welcome a range of questions, participations, and pursuits. Please email one of our faculty members if you are interested in getting involved in our work.


Robert Adams

Robert Adams, M.Arch

Associate Professor of Architecture

Andrew Ibrahim

Andrew Ibrahim, MD, MSc

Assistant Professor of Architecture
Assistant Professor of Surgery

Joy Knoblauch

Joy Knoblauch, PhD

Co-Director of the Architecture Doctoral Program
Associate Professor of Architecture

Upali Nanda

Upali Nanda, PhD

Associate Professor of Practice in Architecture

Featured Winter 2022 Courses

ARCH 509 - Topics in Disability, Design, Health, Wellness

ARCH 562 - Architectural Design VI - Propositions
Robert Adam Studio  - Criptographies

ARCH 609 - Disability Studies

URP 556 - Health Cities Integrative Seminar

Student Work

 “Therapeutic Wayfinding: Transforming the Corridor into a Healing Environment” - Aidan Barron, Chun-Li Chen (Julie), Elyssa Bakker, Irene Routte

Health By Design Course Website:



September 10, 2021
Lecture with Dr. Bon Ku: https://taubmancollege.umich.edu/events/2021/09/10/lecture-bon-ku

October 29, 2021
Medical School + Taubman Library Annex: Redesigning Hospitals to Optimize Performance

Additional Programming

Health & Design Fellowship: Two year fellowship designed to train architects in rigorously quantitative analytics and econometrics to handle to large datasets with the ultimate goal to evaluate and improve our design.


Health and Design Quantitative Lab Meeting (Wednesdays, 1pm): weekly meeting where students fellowship present their research-in-progress for collaborative feedback. Contact iandrew@umich.edu to attend

The Design Health Cluster meets Friday at 9a to coordinate health and design teaching and events, share research, and enjoy community. Contact jknoblau@umich.edu to attend.

Featured News and Projects

U-M Poll Involving Nanda, Ibrahim Shows Inequality among Older Adults’ Ability to Isolate a COVID-19-positive Person

Knoblauch: Disrupting Cultural Norms for Wellness

What comes next? A Surgeon’s 3 predictions for the future of healthcare design

[1] Adam Tooze, Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy. New York City: Viking, 2021.

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