EDRA is about the study of environment-behavior relationships and all the factors that come into play in between. Inherent in EDRA’s mission is the belief that places do matter in peoples’ lives—from the homes in which we raise our families and build memories to the hospitals where we heal our bodies and souls. But at a time when over 54 million people in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home, one may wonder what place means for those living at the borders of both nations and societies. At EDRA, we push those questions further, with the goal of uncovering knowledge that will inform the work of design educators and professionals. At EDRA, we do not stop at the question of whether places matter or not. Instead, we focus on the how, asking how do places matter and what are those processes that implicate places in our lives?
Take for example, EDRA43 in Seattle. With a theme that focused on Emergent Placemaking, it brought together plenary talks on issues as divergent as urban planning and indigenous design. Sessions helped us unravel notions such as authenticity in design and “measuring thinking, feeling, and doing.” In the workshops I participated, we asked “How can research be translated into practice?” and explored the role that digital technologies play in redefining the way places attain meaning and how they are constructed. For every presentation I attended, in the back of my mind were the discussions I would be missing. During breaks, how could I put a price on getting an informal chance to talk with doctoral students, our upcoming researchers, whose rejuvenating ideas fill me with excitement about what is to come in environmental design research? Priceless were also opportunities to get insights from senior and distinguished EDRA members on anything from career advancement to theoretical development.
As I write this piece, I am getting ready for EDRA44 in Providence, May 29-June 1, 2013. The deadline for submissions is Sept. 21, 2012. Healthy + Healing Places is the conference’s theme and studies have long documented the detrimental effects of unsupportive places to health—the toxins we breathe, neighborhoods that lack spaces for children to play, office settings that induce stress, etc. As the forum where designers, academics, policy makers, and health practitioners will join forces to set in motion policies and practices that support health and well-being, EDRA44 is destined to make a difference. Join us as we push boundaries and ask: What does health mean? How do space and place intertwine with health and healing? Where can power differentials, inequality, and marginalization appear in health-related discourses? And how do design education, research, policy, and practice contribute to these dialogues? Charting new territories for how design relates to health, EDRA44 can help us imagine the future.