While just another architecture student at Harvard University, Michael Murphy met legendary global health advocate Dr. Paul Farmer, and asked him what architecture firms he worked with. When Dr. Farmer said that he and his organization, Partners in Health, didn’t have the luxury of an architect, Michael and his friends pledged their own time and talent to build the next big facility: a hospital in rural Rwanda. The breathtaking Butaro Hospital has become one of the most celebrated structures of our time. MASS Design Group, which he co-founded, now works in over 10 countries–building cholera centers in Haiti, creating national healthcare policy in Liberia, and using local materials, creating jobs, and exceeding expectations everywhere they go. Michael also sits on the Clinton Global Initiative Advisory Committee, the board of the Center for Healthcare Design, and is an Expert in Residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab.
Michael speaks at places like the Aspen Ideas Festival and the CGI Annual Meeting on contemporary trends in architecture and health, including the way in which people can heal faster if they are in well-designed spaces, how building projects can transform communities (providing jobs and meaning), and the dignifying power of beauty. Michael is trained as an architect, but he thinks like a philosopher–challenging audiences to ask deep questions about the spaces and places that they inhabit.
I haven’t ever seen buildings like this. In the process of making them, MASS created a different language around what architecture can aspire to be.
Why is the category of humanitarian architecture even necessary? The two terms should be synonymous. Because sound building practices can and should lead to social justice.