You’ve Heard of Architecture’s Eco Footprint, Here’s Why You Should Care About its “Human Handprint”

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By Luke Hopping
Michael Murphy of MASS Design Group delivers an impassioned TED Talk about dignity, healing, and architecture.

MASS Design Group operates on a simple premise: "Architecture is never neutral. It either heals or hurts." Along with the four tenets of its "lo-fab" theory of building—hire locally, source regionally, train others when possible, and invest in dignity—this credo has guided the eight-year-old nonprofit’s prodigious humanitarian work, which includes designing health clinics, schools, and memorials in divided communities from Rwanda to Alabama. 

Each building MASS erects is constructed with significant support from local craftspeople, who the firm trains and empowers to take on future projects. The idea is the more people the process touches, the more the community will gain in workforce education and economic opportunity. It’s a valorous cycle of teach-a-man-to-fish that MASS calls the "human handprint," and in the long run, it can uplift a community as much as new housing or a hospital.

In a recent TED Talk, cofounder Michael Murphy expands on the power of architecture to heal divisions at home and abroad. Watch below.