A building designed by MASS Design Group.
Courtesy The Monacelli Press

MASS Design Group’s Model for Building a More Just Society Through Architecture

By Aileen Kwun
January 25, 2020
2 minute read

“Architecture is not agnostic about ethics,” writes Michael Murphy, founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group. “As with art, the political is inherent in architectural choices. Architecture points forward, it must consider the environment and the society around it.” The collective nonprofit’s new book, Justice Is Beauty (Monacelli Press), gathers work from its first 10 years of practice, taking stock of the progressive and public-facing projects around the world for which MASS—short for Model of Architecture Serving Society—has come to be known. Among these are the Butaro District Hospital in Rwanda; the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama; and the recent Gun Violence Memorial Project installed at the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Negotiating between the pursuits of beauty and justice—the age-old “bread and roses” problem—Murphy rejects the notion that they are mutually exclusive: “The two are intertwined in the built world. Instead, we should ask: what is the societal impact of beauty? Or what does a more just society construct?” Project case studies, essays, conversations, beautiful photography from Iwan Baan, and a foreword by Chelsea Clinton make a powerful case for architecture as an avenue for change, justice, and dignity—building a more equitable world that places people before profits.