TED's 31 days of Ideas - Day 27: Architecture that's built to heal

Architecture that's built to heal

By Chee Pearlman

One evening, while still a student studying architecture, Michael Murphy took a break from an all-nighter to attended a lecture by Dr. Paul Farmer, a health advocate for the global poor. Farmer's plea for smarter hospitals in the developing world stopped Murphy cold, causing him to question the way architecture is taught and practiced. Soon after, he and fellow student Alan Ricks spent a year in Rwanda with Farmer, designing and building a new kind of hospital, one that sourced materials and labor locally to engage the community it serves. From gorgeous hand-cut stone walls to bespoke furniture for the doctors' housing, the growing hospital complex became a source of local enterprise and pride.

Michael Murphy's TED Talk, "Architecture that's built to heal," brims with youthful idealism that he has now channeled into a mature practice. He tells of upending the codified process of building and turning it into an ethically driven endeavor. And his work doesn't turn its back on beauty. The dozens of hospitals, schools and treatment centers designed by MASS Design Group around the world are expertly crafted to suit the contexts where they are built. For Murphy, each project is a proving ground for how socially minded priorities can be the engine for an architect.

The beauty of this talk is the permission it gives young people in the design professions to hang onto their idealism. It takes serious drive to change the way things work and to truly make a difference. If anyone in the creative disciplines needs proof that this is worth doing, this is a talk for you.