'Causing health' – A design talk with Tye Farrow 26 June 2019

As part of our shared learning approach at MCA, we were delighted to receive visiting Canadian architect Tye Farrow who gave an interesting overview on the topic of designing for health.

Posing challenging questions like: ‘What would happen if we embrace architecture that causes health? What if health is the way of judging every public space and building we occupy?’ 

Tye’s presentation of Farrow Partnership Architect’s projects included the impressive Credit Valley Hospital's Cancer Care and Ambulatory Care facility in Ontario and the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, Israel which exemplify his design ideas and approach.

Tye farrow CROp2

Farrow’s purpose is to ‘cause health’. Rather than an angle on current wellness programmes focusing on illness prevention, he embraces the idea of design actively causing health and promoting a societal change where ‘community assets can be mobilized to create a new normal’.

Similar to society’s changed attitudes to smoking, he endorses the idea of abandoning a passive approach to the built environment; where the public actively reject purely functional buildings in favour of an expectation of optimistic design encouraging social engagement, connections with nature, cultural meaning and creates a positive legacy.

Farrow believes building design should avoid dullness and promote healthier behavioural outcomes like walking and taking the stairs; these simple principles can cause health - an approach that extends beyond the medical environment to all building types.

Sacred hearrt

Sacred Heart Hospital, Castlebar by MCA Architects

Nature, neuroscience and architecture

Specialising in master planning and healthcare design Farrow Partners’ projects, such as the Credit Valley facility and St. Mary’s Hospital in British Columbia have a palpable connection with the natural world; use of natural light, forms and materials are married with a collaborative and sustainable design approach.

Speaking about emerging schools of research that combine neuroscience and architecture Tye believes there is a ground swell of international support for this idea, with strong scientific evidence demonstrating the impact of the built environment on our mental and physical wellbeing. By embracing this ‘causing health’ approach in public policy, he believes it will eventually help reduce dependence on an already over laden medical infrastructure.


In discussion with the MCA team, Tye explained the importance of communication and inclusivity within the project stakeholder engagement process. Farrow Partners use basic physical building models at early project stages, this acts as an aid for users to help perceive how the building design might look and work. Ultimately benefiting the project and design process, this method helps achieve informed decision making and stakeholder ‘believe-in’ through clarity of understanding, thereby reducing programme delays later down the line.

Knowledge sharing and continuous improvement at MCA

Shared learning is a big part of our approach at MCA, as it informs our design and progress as a practice. We send a big thank you to Tye in Toronto for taking the time to share his insights and research with us on a topic that affects us as designers and users of the built environment.

For more information on Farrow Partner’s projects go to: http://farrowpartners.ca/