Participants joined Van Alen Book Club for a boozy Sunday brunch edition of our monthly discussions of books on the urban experience. As part of our fall festival, u feel ok?: Health & NYC, we read the turbulent chronicles of the oldest public hospital in the United States as told by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Oshinsky. Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital explores the complex history of the hospital from its founding in 1736 as a six-bed almshouse and pesthouse, maligned over time as a site of degradation and death, to its evolution into a revered institution offering outstanding services for all. Oshinsky tasks us to reflect on how cities respond to diseases and proffer humane medical services, and offers valuable lessons for reconsidering present-day metropolitan health systems through his depiction of the hospital’s enduring commitment to treat the underserved.
This event was part of u feel ok?: Health & NYC, Van Alen’s fall program festival from November 11-13 exploring: How does the shape of the city impact our health? What is the physical imprint of healthcare in a city as dense as New York? How can designers and everyday citizens create spaces for everyone to thrive? We prescribed the urgent topic of health to design and other arenas like transportation, land value, and race, through four days of back-to-back debates, tours, and provocations across New York City.