Healthy City Design International: Research, Policy, Practice

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Dr Saul M Golden was invited to present a peer reviewed paper to a global forum for the exchange of knowledge on the research, policy and practice of designing healthy and sustainable cities and communities, organised by SALUS Global Knowledge Exchange in partnership with the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art. As Britain looks ahead to hosting the COP26 UN Climate Change conference in November 2021, cities around the world are on the frontline of the debate about sustainable futures. Issues around community also came into sharp focus during the pandemic as social and health resilience were tested to the limit. This paper presents research from a partnership between Ulster University's Urban Research Lab, and Belfast City Council, supported by Northern Ireland’s Departments for Infrastructure and for Communities. It argues that changes and aspirations for Belfast’s public spaces can more effectively contribute to the liveability of the city and the wellbeing (physically and mentally) of its inhabitants. It analyses how consultation can more effectively network neighbourhoods, and engage marginalised populations in private-led publicly supported proposals to re-use public spaces and reopen city centres with access and equality of use considered for all.
For transferable lessons, the paper sets out new urban-health focused collaborative practices intended to improve the consultation on, and implementation and long-term management of design, accessibility, and diversity of services within shared urban spaces in the Belfast City Centre - from plazas and streets to parking and other under-utilised areas. Methods include case study, stakeholder and physical mapping for selected projects, qualitative surveys, and roundtable workshops bringing together representatives from business, government, arm-length bodies, and voluntary-charitable organisations representing the widening spectrum of Belfast’s population. Case studies draw lessons for Belfast and other cities from a range of international exemplars on strategic to site-specific interventions, to evidence how health-based approaches can enhance meanwhile uses to encourage use of existing empty spaces for all generations, genders, and cultures.
The research analysis is framed by liveable cities and healthy-communities literature reviews, and by strategic community planning targets set out in key NI Government documents. Findings draw lessons from cross-sector processes to transform Belfast’s public spaces in line with Government, Community, and Business-led aspirations, and in response to immediate health and socio-economic threats from Covid-19. The research contributes to local and international knowledge on process that shape future interventions and public realm investment to foster more place-based inclusive, liveable, and sustainable cities with the wellbeing at their heart. The project has wider importance to inform environmentally and socio-economically sustainable regeneration processes and to contribute internationally relevant innovations for equitable, effective and flexible civic engagement to assist in solving complex urban health policy issues.
Conclusions set out evidence-based health and wellbeing-focused evaluations of public decision- making processes, including proposals for more effective collaborative data sharing across public, private, and voluntary sectors. The outcomes set proposals to improve inclusive, sustainable place- making processes as part of new data-sharing platforms to inform future public space management policy, urban design, and post-evaluation of public realm projects through ongoing/new partnerships.
Period12 Oct 2021
Event titleHealthy City Design International: Research, Policy, Practice: Back from the Brink: Designing for Climate, Community and Social Value
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • urban design
  • wellbeing
  • Community Engagement
  • #BelfastThrives