To prepare for a character in a film, I had to learn how to use a wheelchair. A visceral realisation about what cityscapes do to our bodies came during my first practice. Pushing myself around the streets of Manhattan, I immediately experienced how slanted the sidewalks are. This slant is meant for purposes of water run-off, but it meant that every single push was a fight with one arm so as to not be pulled into the gutter! It was exhausting, and I had to adopt a zigzag pattern to try and balance the exertion on either side.
Now I am also aware of it while walking.: one hip is constantly compensating for being lower than the other. We know that human bodies weren’t designed to move (walk or wheel) on hard concrete pavement, yet city inhabitants do this all day long, and it has a huge impact on our bodies’ alignments. Children can realign their bodies by swinging and climbing on colourful playgrounds, but where can adults go? What might we do to help alleviate the impact and misalignment that, over time, these city surfaces cause on our bodies?
Aimee Mullins asks: How do we alleviate the influences urban surfaces place on our bodies?
Urban Movement Design answers:
It’s true. Our bodies are undergoing more and more intense stressors in the world we have designed around us. But the human body/mind complex is a brilliant, wholly interconnected organism that holds within it a great wisdom. When properly accessed and maintained, it can accommodate for increasing compromise and abuse. We are creatures with amazing bounce-back ability. We just forgot how to access it! This is where our Infinity Seat comes in. We have designed pieces that hold the body, free of gravity and stress, like a baby being held in the womb. These positions help to restore balance and harmony to the body’s internal environment and nervous system. Once we restore a stress-free internal environment with a strong and balanced nervous system, we are able to appropriately accommodate for our external environments and circumstances.
Urban Movement Design is working to bridge the gap between our internal environments and our external environments through design interventions that draw out an invisible layer of connection, interconnection and harmony between the individual and the city: like a handshake between my body and yours, and between the body and the city.
This diagram illustrates just some of the physiological wear and tear that the body would undergo in Aimee’s example. Here we see stress exhibited within the skeletal, muscular and glandular systems. As in any stressful event, the nervous system records this ‘trauma’ and sends the message of alarm throughout the entire organism.
The Diagram above shows the body being held in the passive position of the Infinity Seat. Free of gravity, the spine resets itself and compression is eliminated from the knees, hips and back. Within 30 seconds, a sense of calm takes over.
These Diagrams (see gallery below) show some of the active sequence of positions through which the Infinity Seat assists the body in accessing and strengthening different areas and systems within the body once it has accessed its harmonized internal environment in the first Diagram above.
With Infinity Seats installed throughout cities around the world, we could use our shared environments to promote and create balance within us and between us. So what are we waiting for?