Building for Well-Being
We know that architecture is essential to creating buildings, but what is its role beyond the structures themselves?
Michael Murphy, co-founder and CEO of MASS Design Group, was invited to address a group of local architects and others interested in this question at a lecture sponsored by Shaw Contract Group and AIA Jacksonville. Murphy is considered by many to be an innovator in healthcare architectural design. His firm began in 2008 while he and his co-founder were collaborating with Partners in Health, a nonprofit group devoted to providing healthcare to the world’s poor, and the Rwanda Ministry of Health on the design of the Butaro District Hospital in Rwanda. MASS Design Group now has projects in countries spanning three continents, and their work “seeks to provide infrastructure, buildings, and the human and physical systems necessary for growth, dignity, and well-being.”
Before launching into his lecture, Murphy asks his own questions about the profession of architecture: “What do we do? What do we provide to society? Is it an object or is it a process? Is it something visible or some deeper systemic strategy?” He then begins a discussion about his work and architecture in general that, in part, serves to answer these questions.
“When we think about going to the hospital, we think about going there to get better, to heal, but as some of us know who work in hospital architecture, that’s not always the case,” Murphy says. He describes some hospitals in Africa that have waiting rooms not designed for airborne disease infection control and where, in some cases, it might be more dangerous to go to a hospital than to not be treated at all. This leads him to ask if buildings can make us sick, then how can they make us better? “And this notion that a building can heal is really, for us, a profound aspirational statement of what architecture does,” Murphy states.
While considering the design of his firm’s first project, the Butaro District Hospital, Murphy mentions that Florence Nightingale was an inspiration. Nightingale’s environmental theory from her Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not includes “five essential points in securing the health of houses” and those simple ideas – pure air, pure water, efficient drainage, cleanliness, and light – are all brought up again and again as Murphy describes his firm’s approach to healthcare design. The hospital in Rwanda utilizes natural cross ventilation to help reduce transmission of airborne diseases and, in the patient wards, beds are positioned to face a window because there is evidence that those who face windows may heal quicker.
Article written by Eva Dasher