Contract - 2012 Designer of the Year

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2012 Designer of the Year

27 January, 2012

-By John Czarnecki


  A 140-bed hospital and a nine-classroom school in Rwanda. A tuberculosis hospital and a vocational school in Haiti. A curriculum and training program 
for prospective architects in Rwanda. All are projects initiated by MASS Design Group, whose founders had been students in the Harvard Graduate School 
of Design (GSD) just a few years ago. With these and many more initiatives underway within the last four years alone, the story of MASS Design Group 
(see interview, page 128) is one of the power of young designers with tremendous vision, ideas, and energy coming together in collaboration and partnership.
MASS thinks big and executes. And it is on a trajectory to continue designing for dignity, to improve people’s lives through design, and to be a primary example for how designers can rethink their role in a world of increasingly global impact. For that, MASS Design Group is named the 2012 Contract Designer of the Year.
The idea for starting MASS was sparked when Michael Murphy, then 
a student at Harvard GSD, attended a lecture by physician and Partners in Health (PIH) cofounder Dr. Paul Farmer in December 2006 at Harvard College. Farmer talked about the work of Partners in Health (PIH), the many groups fighting AIDS, and better delivery of healthcare programs. He noted that the PIH work in delivering improved healthcare involved building hospitals, clinics, schools, and even homes. But that construction did not involve architects or designers. Murphy approached Farmer after the lecture and asked, “How can we get involved? How can we link in? How can we help?” According to Murphy, Farmer replied, “Architects? Why would I use an architect? We just drew the last hospital on a napkin.”



A connection, and the beginnings of MASS Design Group
While Farmer was dismissive at first, the conversation sparked a connection. 
A year later, Farmer called upon Murphy and Alan Ricks, a GSD classmate of Murphy’s, when PIH was asked to build a major new hospital for the Ministry 
of Health in Rwanda. Murphy and Ricks jumped on the opportunity, and MASS Design Group was born in partnership with PIH.
Prior to building the hospital, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), founded by President Bill Clinton, worked with PIH to identify the area of greatest healthcare deficiencies in Rwanda. CHAI identified Burera—a district with 400,000 people and only one doctor at the time—as the area with the most urgent need. The new 140-bed hospital, completed in January 2011 in the Burera town of Butaro, was featured in the October 2011 issue of Contract, and the jury of Contract magazine’s 2011 Healthcare Environment Awards selected Butaro Hospital as the winner in the Acute Care Facility category. To put it in context of public interest design, the 65,000-square-foot Butaro Hospital is far larger than any project completed by Architecture for Humanity to date.

Working with MASS to build the best hospital in rural Africa

“We didn’t choose MASS over 10 other firms,” Farmer says. “We were looking 
for partners. Real partners who would feel responsible not just for designing something but for actually being part of a process that would leadButaro Hospital to a real high-quality facility for, in this case, people in northern Rwanda. We started working with MASS because they actually listened to us when we said, ‘we need you to help us build the best hospital we can build in the middle of rural Africa.’”
As the partnership with PIH began, MASS cofounders Murphy and Ricks moved to Rwanda and immersed themselves in the whole culture of global health, and their collaborative work with PIH even included training local residents to build. The $4.4 million hospital was constructed at two-thirds the cost of a typical project and completed in two-thirds the time while creating more than 12,000 local jobs, 4,000 of which are skilled positions.
While Butaro Hospital (pictured right) was being built, the formation of MASS Design Group—MASS is an acronym for Model of Architecture Serving Society—and its partnership with PIH took deeper root with additional projects (see list on page 47) primarily in Rwanda and Haiti. Today, under Murphy as executive director and Ricks as chief operations officer, MASS has 21 full-time staff, with eight in Rwanda, four in Haiti, two in Los Angeles, and seven in Boston. The firm also has four interns in Rwanda and two Harvard GSD students working part-time in Boston. A 501(c)(3) pending, not-for-profit firm, MASS completed Butaro Hospital on a primarily pro bono basis, but it also takes on for-fee projects.
“We receive fees for our projects, and we are getting an increasing amount of projects that come in for full fee,” Murphy says. “However, we always want to have a core mission-based understanding that if the organization cannot fully afford it, that doesn’t necessarily mean the project is not in our interest. We built Butaro Hospital with a majority of pro bono hours. Pro bono—for the public good—is often misconstrued as meaning totally free work. If we consider what we did in Butaro as simply free work, the impact would maybe only be a building. But if we think about pro bono as research and development or even call it market exploration, then pro bono becomes a different kind of resource and activity.”
MASS’s work in Butaro has resulted in an additional project adjacent to the hospital: housing for the doctors, with phase one to be complete this summer. This includes four duplexes, a roadway and pedestrian path, and all infrastructure including electrical, a water well, and waste management, etc. Future phases will include additional housing, a community center, and a training center.
In Kigali, Rwanda, MASS’s second completed built project, the Girubuntu School (pictured left), opened in July 2011. This seven-building school for Girubuntu—a nonprofit charity organization in Rwanda that had its origin in serving orphans affected by the genocide—now educates 300 underprivileged children. With a mix of interior rooms and exterior teaching areas, the school offers unique settings for education. “For Girubuntu, we used similar principles that we implemented in Butaro Hospital—local labor, local material, and an aesthetic that’s directly attuned to Rwanda to make it an inexpensive but also deeply dignified building,” Murphy says.
MASS recognized early that working in Rwanda in partnership with an organization like PIH was filling a key gap in terms of architecture and design. “Partners in Health had previously never used architects in Rwanda not because it didn’t want to, but because they weren’t available,” Murphy says. “And, in fact, the few architects who were available only served the highest-end clients. We have to fill that middle market. And we can do it not only with our work at MASS, but we are also teaching a whole class of architects in Rwanda to do that as well. We see that as not only a viable mission but also a viable market strategy.”
Ricks further explains the training program for architecture students. “We partnered with the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology to enable it to create the first professional school of architecture in the country,” Ricks says. “That program is now in its third year, headed by Sierra Bainbridge, our country director of MASS in Rwanda. The program is training 25 students annually and will graduate the first class of professionally trained architecture students in Rwanda in two years.”
MASS’s work has extended to Haiti as well. In Port-au-Prince, construction is beginning on the new GHESKIO Tuberculosis Hospital (pictured below) designed by MASS that will replace a multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis facility destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. This state-of-the-art hospital will provide tuberculosis patients—who are still being housed in temporary tents—an effective and dignified setting for long-term treatment in 32 patient isolation suites. With lessons learned from Butaro Hospital, simple-but-effective methods of passive ventilation and infection control will reduce in-hospital transmission of tuberculosis in this high-risk population. Local workers will be employed to construct the building with sustainable materials such as compressed earth blocks fabricated on-site.
Significantly, MASS’s experience and knowledge in designing buildings and healthcare systems in other challenging countries is being applied stateside. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center asked MASS to apply what it had learned in Rwanda to its healthcare delivery program, particularly for the care of cerebral palsy patients. The initial study is complete, and a design and improvement proposal is forthcoming. “What Cincinnati Children’s Hospital saw in our work was not simply that we were working for rural Rwanda, but that we were trying to build an architecture of dignity,” Murphy says. “They saw a different kind of process that was focused on patients and patient care.”
In October 2011, Herman Miller announced a partnership with MASS, including an employee volunteer program in which Herman Miller lends resources and employee support to MASS projects in Rwanda and Haiti. Herman Miller 
will also sponsor a fellow in a forthcoming MASS Design Group fellowship program. “This partnership is an ideal way to support an exciting organization that shares a similar philosophy on how space can contribute to better health,” says Beth Nickels, president of Herman Miller Healthcare.

A partner, a translator, and an implementing body

Murphy envisions MASS as not just a nonprofit or a design firm, but a partner 
in multiple ways with various entities. “We see MASS really as a partnership organization, as an implementing body,” he says. “There are so many projects 
out there and so many new markets to be explored that large organizations don’t necessarily have the resources to dive into those markets, to activate those new sectors, to do the kind of research and development that’s required to prove relevance. That’s where an organization like MASS is needed—a translator, an implementing body that can partner with organizations large and small, as well as governments, to help them achieve their impact on the ground.”
“When we arrived in Rwanda, we found that not only was architecture not 
a part of the solution, architecture was actually the problem,” Ricks says. 
“The poorly built environment was leading to people getting sicker, contracting diseases like tuberculosis, and eventually killing them. So there’s a tremendous opportunity for architects to become part of the solution. And that’s something that we see as scalable and replicable, and makes for smart business as well.”
Ricks was named by Forbes magazine in December 2011 to its 30 Under 
30 list of “disrupters,” or change-makers, in the Art & Design category. 
The accolades will undoubtedly build for MASS, which also had designed 
an installation called Bottle Service (top of page 42) that was named a finalist 
in the 2011 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program.
For Farmer and PIH, that encounter with Murphy five years ago has proven 
to be fruitful. “I’m proud to brag about MASS, by the way. I’m very proud of what it has done and will do,” Farmer says. “MASS has really done what we dreamed it would do, which is to bring expertise from architecture, design, and engineering into the work we have to do anyway. It was pretty remarkable the way the whole thing played itself out. But I would say it’s still playing itself out now, and we’re just beginning to engage in this work together.”

Click here to read a Q&A with Michael Murphy and Alan Ricks.




2012 Designer of the Year

27 January, 2012


Bruce Rogovin

  A 140-bed hospital and a nine-classroom school in Rwanda. A tuberculosis hospital and a vocational school in Haiti. A curriculum and training program 
for prospective architects in Rwanda. All are projects initiated by MASS Design Group, whose founders had been students in the Harvard Graduate School 
of Design (GSD) just a few years ago. With these and many more initiatives underway within the last four years alone, the story of MASS Design Group 
(see interview, page 128) is one of the power of young designers with tremendous vision, ideas, and energy coming together in collaboration and partnership.
MASS thinks big and executes. And it is on a trajectory to continue designing for dignity, to improve people’s lives through design, and to be a primary example for how designers can rethink their role in a world of increasingly global impact. For that, MASS Design Group is named the 2012 Contract Designer of the Year.
The idea for starting MASS was sparked when Michael Murphy, then 
a student at Harvard GSD, attended a lecture by physician and Partners in Health (PIH) cofounder Dr. Paul Farmer in December 2006 at Harvard College. Farmer talked about the work of Partners in Health (PIH), the many groups fighting AIDS, and better delivery of healthcare programs. He noted that the PIH work in delivering improved healthcare involved building hospitals, clinics, schools, and even homes. But that construction did not involve architects or designers. Murphy approached Farmer after the lecture and asked, “How can we get involved? How can we link in? How can we help?” According to Murphy, Farmer replied, “Architects? Why would I use an architect? We just drew the last hospital on a napkin.”



A connection, and the beginnings of MASS Design Group
While Farmer was dismissive at first, the conversation sparked a connection. 
A year later, Farmer called upon Murphy and Alan Ricks, a GSD classmate of Murphy’s, when PIH was asked to build a major new hospital for the Ministry 
of Health in Rwanda. Murphy and Ricks jumped on the opportunity, and MASS Design Group was born in partnership with PIH.
Prior to building the hospital, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), founded by President Bill Clinton, worked with PIH to identify the area of greatest healthcare deficiencies in Rwanda. CHAI identified Burera—a district with 400,000 people and only one doctor at the time—as the area with the most urgent need. The new 140-bed hospital, completed in January 2011 in the Burera town of Butaro, was featured in the October 2011 issue of Contract, and the jury of Contract magazine’s 2011 Healthcare Environment Awards selected Butaro Hospital as the winner in the Acute Care Facility category. To put it in context of public interest design, the 65,000-square-foot Butaro Hospital is far larger than any project completed by Architecture for Humanity to date.

Working with MASS to build the best hospital in rural Africa

“We didn’t choose MASS over 10 other firms,” Farmer says. “We were looking 
for partners. Real partners who would feel responsible not just for designing something but for actually being part of a process that would leadButaro Hospital to a real high-quality facility for, in this case, people in northern Rwanda. We started working with MASS because they actually listened to us when we said, ‘we need you to help us build the best hospital we can build in the middle of rural Africa.’”
As the partnership with PIH began, MASS cofounders Murphy and Ricks moved to Rwanda and immersed themselves in the whole culture of global health, and their collaborative work with PIH even included training local residents to build. The $4.4 million hospital was constructed at two-thirds the cost of a typical project and completed in two-thirds the time while creating more than 12,000 local jobs, 4,000 of which are skilled positions.
While Butaro Hospital (pictured right) was being built, the formation of MASS Design Group—MASS is an acronym for Model of Architecture Serving Society—and its partnership with PIH took deeper root with additional projects (see list on page 47) primarily in Rwanda and Haiti. Today, under Murphy as executive director and Ricks as chief operations officer, MASS has 21 full-time staff, with eight in Rwanda, four in Haiti, two in Los Angeles, and seven in Boston. The firm also has four interns in Rwanda and two Harvard GSD students working part-time in Boston. A 501(c)(3) pending, not-for-profit firm, MASS completed Butaro Hospital on a primarily pro bono basis, but it also takes on for-fee projects.
“We receive fees for our projects, and we are getting an increasing amount of projects that come in for full fee,” Murphy says. “However, we always want to have a core mission-based understanding that if the organization cannot fully afford it, that doesn’t necessarily mean the project is not in our interest. We built Butaro Hospital with a majority of pro bono hours. Pro bono—for the public good—is often misconstrued as meaning totally free work. If we consider what we did in Butaro as simply free work, the impact would maybe only be a building. But if we think about pro bono as research and development or even call it market exploration, then pro bono becomes a different kind of resource and activity.”
MASS’s work in Butaro has resulted in an additional project adjacent to the hospital: housing for the doctors, with phase one to be complete this summer. This includes four duplexes, a roadway and pedestrian path, and all infrastructure including electrical, a water well, and waste management, etc. Future phases will include additional housing, a community center, and a training center.
In Kigali, Rwanda, MASS’s second completed built project, the Girubuntu School (pictured left), opened in July 2011. This seven-building school for Girubuntu—a nonprofit charity organization in Rwanda that had its origin in serving orphans affected by the genocide—now educates 300 underprivileged children. With a mix of interior rooms and exterior teaching areas, the school offers unique settings for education. “For Girubuntu, we used similar principles that we implemented in Butaro Hospital—local labor, local material, and an aesthetic that’s directly attuned to Rwanda to make it an inexpensive but also deeply dignified building,” Murphy says.
MASS recognized early that working in Rwanda in partnership with an organization like PIH was filling a key gap in terms of architecture and design. “Partners in Health had previously never used architects in Rwanda not because it didn’t want to, but because they weren’t available,” Murphy says. “And, in fact, the few architects who were available only served the highest-end clients. We have to fill that middle market. And we can do it not only with our work at MASS, but we are also teaching a whole class of architects in Rwanda to do that as well. We see that as not only a viable mission but also a viable market strategy.”
Ricks further explains the training program for architecture students. “We partnered with the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology to enable it to create the first professional school of architecture in the country,” Ricks says. “That program is now in its third year, headed by Sierra Bainbridge, our country director of MASS in Rwanda. The program is training 25 students annually and will graduate the first class of professionally trained architecture students in Rwanda in two years.”
MASS’s work has extended to Haiti as well. In Port-au-Prince, construction is beginning on the new GHESKIO Tuberculosis Hospital (pictured below) designed by MASS that will replace a multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis facility destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. This state-of-the-art hospital will provide tuberculosis patients—who are still being housed in temporary tents—an effective and dignified setting for long-term treatment in 32 patient isolation suites. With lessons learned from Butaro Hospital, simple-but-effective methods of passive ventilation and infection control will reduce in-hospital transmission of tuberculosis in this high-risk population. Local workers will be employed to construct the building with sustainable materials such as compressed earth blocks fabricated on-site.
Significantly, MASS’s experience and knowledge in designing buildings and healthcare systems in other challenging countries is being applied stateside. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center asked MASS to apply what it had learned in Rwanda to its healthcare delivery program, particularly for the care of cerebral palsy patients. The initial study is complete, and a design and improvement proposal is forthcoming. “What Cincinnati Children’s Hospital saw in our work was not simply that we were working for rural Rwanda, but that we were trying to build an architecture of dignity,” Murphy says. “They saw a different kind of process that was focused on patients and patient care.”
In October 2011, Herman Miller announced a partnership with MASS, including an employee volunteer program in which Herman Miller lends resources and employee support to MASS projects in Rwanda and Haiti. Herman Miller 
will also sponsor a fellow in a forthcoming MASS Design Group fellowship program. “This partnership is an ideal way to support an exciting organization that shares a similar philosophy on how space can contribute to better health,” says Beth Nickels, president of Herman Miller Healthcare.

A partner, a translator, and an implementing body

Murphy envisions MASS as not just a nonprofit or a design firm, but a partner 
in multiple ways with various entities. “We see MASS really as a partnership organization, as an implementing body,” he says. “There are so many projects 
out there and so many new markets to be explored that large organizations don’t necessarily have the resources to dive into those markets, to activate those new sectors, to do the kind of research and development that’s required to prove relevance. That’s where an organization like MASS is needed—a translator, an implementing body that can partner with organizations large and small, as well as governments, to help them achieve their impact on the ground.”
“When we arrived in Rwanda, we found that not only was architecture not 
a part of the solution, architecture was actually the problem,” Ricks says. 
“The poorly built environment was leading to people getting sicker, contracting diseases like tuberculosis, and eventually killing them. So there’s a tremendous opportunity for architects to become part of the solution. And that’s something that we see as scalable and replicable, and makes for smart business as well.”
Ricks was named by Forbes magazine in December 2011 to its 30 Under 
30 list of “disrupters,” or change-makers, in the Art & Design category. 
The accolades will undoubtedly build for MASS, which also had designed 
an installation called Bottle Service (top of page 42) that was named a finalist 
in the 2011 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program.
For Farmer and PIH, that encounter with Murphy five years ago has proven 
to be fruitful. “I’m proud to brag about MASS, by the way. I’m very proud of what it has done and will do,” Farmer says. “MASS has really done what we dreamed it would do, which is to bring expertise from architecture, design, and engineering into the work we have to do anyway. It was pretty remarkable the way the whole thing played itself out. But I would say it’s still playing itself out now, and we’re just beginning to engage in this work together.”

Click here to read a Q&A with Michael Murphy and Alan Ricks.

 


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