Thus, cities are landscapes of risk and protection (Fitzpatrick and LaGory). Problems and opportunities are rooted in various forms of contexts—infrastructure, campuses, neighborhoods, ecosystems, and supply chains—all requiring social organization as protection against hazard and risk. Context requires a different form of design problem solving than that for buildings. Buildings are essentially discrete or tame problems with discernable clients, scopes, and known solution types. Conversely, contexts are wicked problems defined by socio-environmental complexity framed by multivariate factors, and for which there are no singular right answers (Brown et al.; and Protzen and Harris). Indeed, framing the problem and developing transferable approaches are critical parts of solution seeking, which may not be altogether clear until well into the process. Like mitigating climate change and revitalizing cities, designing healthy places is among the classic wicked problems defining an ever-growing portion of the design professions’ work.
Wicked problem solving entails development of a vocabulary or set of heterogeneous elements to address multivariate forces operating throughout a context. For instance, in his classic Image of the City, Kevin Lynch employs five elements to understand the general logic of cities: node, element, path, district, and landmark. Likewise, formulation of an operating toolkit encompassing policy and best practices in each of the six designated competition platforms is important in framing individual projects. Toolkits—or grammars of context production—should be communicable and transferable for application in other places. Toolkits ideally provide a comprehensive set of strategies shared among various scales of agency, from the small property owner to developers and local government. Therefore, Designing Healthy Places solutions or scenarios should consist of three parts which graphically communicate: 1) framing of the problem, 2) formulation of a design toolkit that is transferable for use by others, including policy communities, and 3) development of a design project that operationalizes the toolkit.