Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Interior Design

First Advisor

Christiana Lafazani

Second Advisor

Roberto L. Ventura

Third Advisor

Emily Smith

Fourth Advisor

Jen Fell

Fifth Advisor

Sara Reed

Sixth Advisor

Camden Whitehead


How might interior environments play a role in promoting life long well being? According to Passarino, et al., genetic variety only accounts for about 25% of the variation of human longevity. A combination of diet, environment and exercise comprise the greatest factors. The amount of time Americans spend indoors presents a challenge to increasing physical activity: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that Americans spend 93% of their lives indoors (Roberts, 2016). Therefore, if physical activity is crucial to living longer, the design of interior environments could logically be a critical factor in promoting natural movement and sustaining lifelong well-being. National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner identified five “Blue Zones” throughout the world where people naturally live longer: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Oligastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. These regions have unusually high concentrations of centenarians who had grown old without noticeable signs of heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes (Buettner, 2015). Buettner identified nine common principles that universally characterize well-being in the Blue Zones. The first, and most crucial to design in the built environment, is to “move naturally.” Healthy centenarians, Buettner says, “live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving” (Buettner, 2015). This research will seek to translate Blue Zone principles aimed at promoting continued well-being through natural movement that can inform principles for the creation of interior environments. RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES Further analysis of Blue Zones principles will address specific conditions and behaviors that encourage natural movement. A literature review and case studies will be presented that show a correlation between natural movement within the built environment and measurable increases in healthy outcomes. The example projects include La Maison de Verre, Paris, France; L’Unité d’Habitation à Marseille, France; and Tea House, Bethesda, Maryland. Interior design that encourages regular natural movement occurs primarily in the design of a building’s major circulation systems and its program (Center for Active Design, 2010). Corridors, elevators and lobbies that connect other spaces in the program encourage walking. Elements like stairs, bicycle storage and furniture that produces micro-movement promote activity when they are visible, safe and attractive. Programmed spaces that encourage physical activity like dance/movement studios and those that promote healthy diets also lead to increases in healthy behaviors, which ultimately lead to increased longevity. Using these guides, a building in Richmond, Virginia will be redesigned as a micro-Blue Zone that could be used as a model for promoting increased life long well being. This two-level adaptive reuse, mixed use commercial project will address vertical transitions, social spaces and outdoor relationships that encourage residents and visitors to move throughout the day.


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