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MASS Design Group : Massachusetts Architect Office

MDG: Contemporary American Architect Practice – Boston Studio, MA, USA

post updated 25 March 2024

MASS Design Group Named WSJ Magazine’s Architecture Innovator of the Year

18 Nov 2020

MASS Design Group – Architecture Innovator of the Year

MASS was named WSJ Magazine Architecture Innovator of the Year for our origins in healthcare and designing architecture as a medium for healing, through our public-health expertise and ability to reimagine spaces for everyday life. Recognized for a range of initiatives, starting with our COVID-19 Response Team work, the award was based on work designing hospitals and clinics around the world with a focus on reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

COVID-19 support started with the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program and doctors at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, asking for advice on how to keep clients, patients, and healthcare workers safe from infection. “We are committed to the belief that architecture has the ability to provide healing, rejuvenation, and restoration for everyone,” said MASS Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer Alan Ricks.

“We are truly humbled to be recognized among such visionaries. Our collective believes in the power of architecture to improve lives, spread dignity, and advance justice. This award confirms that those aspirations are now shared by the public as well.”
—MICHAEL MURPHY, MASS Co-Founder and Executive Director

“Everywhere we work, be in the U.S. or Rwanda or elsewhere, we look for local solutions that produce results and help society move forward.”
—CHRISTIAN BENIMANA, MASS Senior Principal and Design Director

Leveraging its expertise from a dozen years of design of medical environments to reduce the spread of contagious disease, MASS applied the lessons to the development of guides for restaurants and foodservice, carceral environments, the construction industry, and housing in senior and Native communities. Work recognized included the Butaro District Hospital; Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice; The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund; African Leadership University; and the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture.

Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture building:
Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture building
image © MASS Design Group

Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture:
Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture building Africa
image © MASS Design Group

“Helping build a climate positive future is imperative. Our projects move beyond just issues of energy use and efficiency, to holistically design the project ecosystem.”
—SIERRA BAINBRIDGE, MASS Senior Principal and Managing Director

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Montgomery, Alabama, USA
National Memorial for Peace and Justice Montgomery, Alabama, USA
image © MASS Design Group

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Montgomery, Alabama, USA
National Memorial for Peace and Justice Montgomery, Alabama
image © MASS Design Group

Read more about MASS’s WSJ Architecture Innovator Award

Watch the 2020 WSJ Innovator Award Honors

GHESKIO Cholera Treatment Center building:
GHESKIO Cholera Treatment Center building
photograph © Iwan Baan

Butaro District Hospital building:
Butaro District Hospital building
photograph © Iwan Baan

Celebrating Our First Decade


JUSTICE IS BEAUTY is a monograph of our work that celebrates the projects, people, and partnerships that have formed the backbone of our practice since the beginning. Click here to purchase.

An exhibit on MASS’s work will be on display at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., slated to open in 2021. The exhibit will also include the second iteration of a new national memorial to the victims of gun violence, developed by MASS in partnership with conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas; gun violence prevention organization Purpose Over Pain; and other nonprofits, survivor networks, and community allies.

The Gun Violence Memorial Project
The Gun Violence Memorial Project USA
image © MASS Design Group

The Gun Violence Memorial Project America
image © MASS Design Group

Previously on e-architect:

27 Mar 2020

Michael Sorkin of MASS Design Group Dies

Architect Michael Sorkin has died from COVID-19

COVID-19 takes the sage: Michael Sorkin rest in peace

Remember our elders:

In many traditions, the elders are not simply “the old people” – they are the culture bearers, the harbingers of language, the repository of rituals. They are our legacies – what binds our past to our future – in human form. When we lose our elders, our legacy too is threatened. The ligaments which bind their knowledge to the generations ahead of us is now no longer their responsibility. It is ours. And unless we record their legacy, culture, language, and wisdom, they are lost.

I fear about how much was lost yesterday with the passing of Michael Sorkin. He was many things to many people over his long career: a dedicated teacher, the last of the great practitioner critics, and a tireless advocate for a more environmentally and socially just architectural reckoning. To me, he was an elder, a beacon for what I hoped to one day practice and understand.

I first met Michael in 2011. It was my thesis presentation, and he was on the jury. My topic was about a progressive publication of architects from the 1970s led by Giancarlo De Carlo, who advocated for social and political responsibility in our profession. I had discovered it on my own, but Michael, the architectural critic of The Nation and then The Village Voice, was not surprisingly a frequent contributor to Space and Society.

I was nervous about his response. But instead of the familiar gutting and rejection common to architectural juries, Michael smiled wide, raised his right arm, fist clenched and said, “Right on comrade.” He was a hero of mine now, and he grabbed me by being himself: funny, righteous, and kind. He was building the army.

Memorial to Peace and Justice, Montgomery, Alabama, USA, by MASS Design Group:
Memorial to Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama
image courtesy EJI / MASS Design Group

I saw the battlefield in full force a few years later in 2016, when I was invited to participate in a series called “Cocktails and Conversations” in New York City. This series invites a speaker to choose an interviewer for a public conversation. I was nervous to face a New York crowd of architects, so I invited Michael to prod me on stage and talk broadly about activism in architecture, hoping to focus more on his work and less on mine. But by the time of the event, November 18th, the world had turned upside-down. Only a week before, Donald Trump had been elected.

Never to be constrained by rules, Michael rejected the format of the polite conversation and invited other activists to join us on stage. He drafted a ten-point manifesto. And he turned a polite conversation into a chaotic, unbridled, therapeutic town hall to bring up the issues he cared about most: the carceral state, the destruction of the environment, the privatization of the public sphere against the public good, and the complicity of our profession in structures that reinforce inequity.

Michael’s life long message – often hidden behind the starchitecture and celebrity of our profession – was suddenly felt viscerally by the profession around us. “What will you do now?” He seemed to be asking. “Will you carry the torch? Will you link the wisdom of our years of work to the world you build tomorrow?”

Michael was a sage in our profession, a visionary, a teacher, but also a mensch. He often said that he’d love to make architecture “less evil, more kind.” He was able to hold both anger and compassion together like only a true elder can do.

We sat down recently in December, over tea. He was surviving another bout of cancer treatment, so martinis (our usual toast) were not on the menu. We talked about his legacy and what he would leave. He asked me who would fill the gaps in public discourse, in new practice models, in writing and criticism. He was asking: who would step up?

The coronavirus, like all epidemics, reveals the cracks in our systems. In this case, not just the medical system but the architectural system as well. Much as Michael signalled throughout his career: if architecture is tethered to a private marketplace, the building industry, left fragile, will collapse in the face of market corrections, and with it, the public rights it delivers.

Well collapse is upon us. On the horizon is global construction stoppage, supply chain interruption, and a massive abandonment of building and design labor. All the communities we serve will be abandoned too, as housing, hospitals, schools, public spaces, and green infrastructure plans get shelved once again, leaving behind a public asking: why, in the moment of our greatest need for public service, are industries so unprepared to serve the public?

Michael predicted this, too. And his hybrid non/for-profit practice offered a way of working, that could help us now. A practice that did not abandon the public in times of stress, as its hybridity remained somewhat insulated from mercurial market shifts we see around us.

All that is to say, Michael was one of the elders that would have guided our industry through its forthcoming restructuring. It is only too clear that we have lost an oracle and a soothsayer. Someone who exposed the cracks in the system, and sought to use the tools of our profession –- his experimental practice, his acerbic critical voice, his gregarious teaching –- to carry forward a movement.

What cruelty. What more sobering news can there be than the reality that Michael was one of the vulnerable he always fought for? Now a victim to the vicissitudes he sought to protect others from. We are not just compiling numbers of the dead, we are losing our stewards of cultural memory, languages, practices, life, and the kind of avuncular wisdom that can hold anger and love together so that we keep moving.

Michael Sorkin was that elder, for all of us in architecture. I don’t know what lies ahead, but we can be assured that Michael would want us to pick up the torch, with more vigor and determination, if not only for his legacy than for ours.

May you rest in peace, Michael Sorkin, and know that the generation that follows you will carry on what you’ve left behind. Right on, comrade.

Michael Murphy
Founding Principal and Executive Director

For more information on how MASS is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the website:

Role of Architecture in Fighting COVID-19

Copyright © 2020 MASS Design Group, All rights reserved.

Address: 334 Boylston St. Suite 400, Boston, MA 02116, USA

We at e-architect send our condolences to Michael’s family and to his colleagues at the MASS Design Group.

Sadly he is not the first architect to die in this global pandemic:

Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti dies of COVID 19 coronavirus

Gregotti Associati

Dec 30, 2017

MASS Design Group News

MASS Design Group News

MASS On Stage:

Christian Benimana’s TEDGlobal 2017 Talk Released

On Thursday, December 21st, 2017, TED released a talk by MASS’s own Christian Benimana, about his vision for training the next generation of African architects and designers at the African Design Centre. The 13-minute talk, which was recorded at the TEDGlobal 2017 conference in Arusha, Tanzania, highlights the challenges Mr. Benimana faced to become an architect, and his vision to train young African leaders who share his aspirations.

Mass Design Group TED Talk

Project Groundbreaking:

MASS Breaks Ground on New Redemption Hospital in Liberia

New Redemption Hospital in Liberia

On Tuesday, December 19, 2017, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, hosted the groundbreaking ceremony for a new national hospital for Liberia, New Redemption Hospital, located in Caldwell, Montserrado County, just north of the capital city, Monrovia.

The ceremony included the participation of Dr. Bernice T. Dahn, Health Minister, Dr. Peter Coleman, Senator of Grand Kru County, Ms. Larisa Leshchenko, Liberia Country Manager for the World Bank, as well as delegations from MASS and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).

The New Redemption Hospital is to be a state-of-the-art teaching and tertiary care facility with a mission to renew trust in Liberia’s post-Ebola healthcare system. The hospital will have a total of 155 beds with a primary focus on pediatric and maternal care.

MASS Design Group 2017 Review

MASS Year In Review:

Construction Begins On The University Of Global Health Equity

In January, site work for the future home of the Butaro, Rwanda campus of the University of Global Health Equity began. Construction is well underway and scheduled for completion in 2018.

MASS Publishes Report On The Impact Of Design On Clinical Care In Childbirth

In February, MASS completed a report with Ariadne Labs, a joint center between Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T. H Chan School of Public Health, on research and analysis of how design impacts clinical processes, decisions and outcomes during childbirth. The study earned some positive press including from Becker’s Hospital Review and Quartz.

New District Hospital In Rwanda Hits Milestone

In March, MASS completed construction documents for Nyarugenge District Hospital, a 120-bed facility located in the most densely populated district of Rwanda. The hospital will be our first hospital to use our design standards for the Rwanda Ministry of Health in an urban context.

MASS Co-founder Michael Murphy Headlines AIA National Conference

In April, MASS Co-founder and Executive Director, Michael Murphy, keynoted day one of the AIA annual conference, A’17, alongside design leaders Liz Diller, Alejandro Aravena, and Francis Kéré.

The ADC Hosts African Architecture & Pedagogy Symposium

In May, the ADC sponsored a first of its kind symposium gathering top architects, planners, and scholars from all over Africa to discuss the most pressing issues facing our cities. The symposium created a rare opportunity for these leaders to convene in Africa to discuss the severe shortage of skilled designers needed to produce a healthy and sustainable environment.

MASS Launches Hudson Valley Design Lab in Poughkeepsie, NY

In an effort to be proximate, MASS launched the Hudson Valley Design Lab in Poughkeepsie New York in June. This hybrid office is both a design think-tank and an outreach exhibition gallery that is working to be a local catalyst for changing the perception in our fringe cities and creating regional networks towards projects that aim to empower communities.

Phase One Of New One Acre Campus Opens

By July, the staff of One Acre Fund (OAF) had completely moved into phase one of the new Kakamega, Kenya campus. MASS is currently working with OAF on phase two, which is set to start construction in 2018.

MASS Finalist In International Design Competition

In September, MASS, with John McAslan + Partners, presented in the final round to the jury of the United Kindom National Memorial to the Holocaust. While the submission was not selected, MASS was pleased to be a finalist with such firms as Zaha Hadid Architects, Foster + Partners, and Adjaye Associates, among others.

MASS Breaks Ground On Housing For Oncology Patients

In September, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in Butaro, Rwanda, for a new block of housing for patients receiving cancer care at the Butaro Ambulatory Cancer Center.

MASS Awarded Cooper Hewitt National Design Award

In October, MASS was awarded the prestigious Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, National Design Award for Architecture. The Award was given by Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, Chelsea Clinton.

MASS Ranked #8 In US For Design

For the second year in a row, MASS was listed in the top 10 of the design category, in the annual Architect Magazine firm ranking that was released in November.

Maternity Waiting Village featured on CNN’s Inside Africa

In December, CNN published a piece on maternal health in Malawi that featured MASS’s work on the Maternity Waiting Village in Kasungu. The short film was originally broadcast on CNN networks across the African continent.

23 Aug 2016
Memorial to Peace and Justice, Montgomery, Alabama, USA
Memorial to victims of lynching in Montgomery, Alabama
image courtesy EJI / MASS Design Group
Memorial to Peace and Justice in Montgomery
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) unveiled plans this week for the Memorial to Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. Designed in collaboration with Boston-based MASS Design Group, the new memorial is intended to acknowledge victims of lynching throughout American history.

Winners of the 2012 Curry Stone Design Prize for the Butaro Hospital in Rwanda:

Video, Nov 13, 2012:
Film on YouTube

MASS Design Group – Key Project

Key Projects by MASS Design Group, alphabetical:

Butaro Hospital, Burera District, Rwanda
Date built: 2011
Butaro Hospital Rwanda building in Burera
photo : Iwan Baan
Butaro Hospital
The architects studio was brought in by PIH in 2008 to help plan and design a first-rate facility that would help reverse these conditions.
In the design of the hospital, MDG and PIH sought to create a more holistic model of architecture that included the design of an appropriate, state-of-the-art hospital while also fully choreographing the process of construction to employ, educate and empower the local community.

More architecture projects by MASS Design Group online soon

Location: 46 Waltham Street, Boston, MA 02118, United States of America

Boston Architects Practice Information

Architect office based in Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America

Boston Architect Office




MASS creates well-built environments using appropriate design, local investment, and innovation to break the cycle of poverty. We collaborate with governments, NGOs, private sector firms, and health care experts to advocate for the most underserved and provide scalable models of community-based development and training.

MASS has shown that innovation, driven by interdisciplinary research and immersion in the field, can deliver well-built environments that are efficient, effective, and empowering. By addressing immediate infrastructural needs and simultaneously building systems to address the social determinants of failure, our work constructs agency, serves as an engine for economic growth, and assures long-term sustainability. We build capacity at all levels—from training unskilled laborers to assisting government ministries in writing policies that establish more holistic and appropriate project outcomes.


Michael Murphy, Co-Founder and Executive Director

Michael co-founded MASS in 2008 to provide design services for underserved populations in the most resource-constrained environments. In addition to leading the design and construction of the Butaro Hospital in Rwanda, completed in January of 2011, Michael has been the recipient of the 2010 Design Futures Council Emerging Leader Scholarship, and has taught courses on design for infection control and design thinking for business entrepreneurs at Clark University and Harvard University’s School of Public Health.

Alan Ricks, Co-Founder and Creative Director

Alan received his Bachelor of Arts from Colorado College and his Masters in Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Alan manages the Boston office working on projects including the Butaro Hospital in Rwanda, GHESKIO Tuberculosis Hospital in Haiti, research on infection control and health facility design for the WHO, and policy development for the Liberian Ministry of Health. Alan is an adjunct faculty member at Clark University and has been a guest critic at Colorado College, Harvard, Northeastern, and the University of Texas.

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