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Beyond the Building | Lecture by Michael Murphy

Thursday, February 19, 2015, 6:30 - 8:30pm

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Can architecture improve our health? Can architecture be used to radically improve people's lives? Conversely, can architecture injure the population it houses? Can architecture kill? Put differently, what is the role of architecture beyond the building itself?

MASS Design Group is an architecture and design organization committed to stretching the boundaries of what we expect our built environment to provide. We have seen architecture restrict people's access to essential services, but in the process of working on buildings as far afield as Rwanda, the Dominican Republic of the Congo, and Haiti, we've also seen design and the process of building generate systemic change, break the cycle of poverty, and radically improve people's health, livelihoods, and lives. This lecture will discuss our work, our process, and the opportunities through which architects and designers can apply their skills for impact.

Michael Murphy is the executive director of MASS Design Group, which he co-founded with Alan Ricks in 2010. Since leading the design and construction of the critically acclaimed Butaro Hospital in Rwanda, Michael has become a thought leader in architecture and healthcare design. He regularly speaks to a variety of audiences on how architecture can improve people's lives, and sits on the boards of the Clinton Global Initiative Advisory Committee and the Center for Healthcare Design, among others.

An architect by training, Michael was recently listed in the Atlantic Monthly as one of the "Greatest Innovators ofT oday." Under his and Alan's leadership, MASS has received or been named finalists for a variety of prizes, including the Curry Stone Design Prize and The Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Michael also works to spread MASS's design philosophy through a variety of mediums. He is a Rainer Arnhold Fellow with the Mulago Foundation, a member of the Social Venture Network, and along with Alan is published in the Huffington Post, Journal of Architecture, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Michael is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Harvard University's Graduate School of Design.

Lecture held in RM 315 | Foundation Building | 6:30pm

Open only to current students/faculty/staff of The Cooper Union


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.