With offices in Boston, Kigali, Rwanda, Bozeman, Mont., Sante Fe, N.M., and Poughkeepsie, N.Y., MASS Design Group has pursued its mission of socially conscious design by leveraging the power of its collaborations with nonprofits, activists, and communities around the globe.
What’s the firm's approach to architecture?
I believe that architecture is one of the most potent, profound, nimble and beautiful arts. It’s richness is its constraints and its real-world applications. It forces us to imagine ourselves as part of something greater than ourselves and allows us to dream for something better for ourselves. In this we see a distribution of dignity. A right that architecture is constantly fighting for. — Michael Murphy, AIA, MASS founding principal and executive director
What projects is the firm most drawn to?
We are most drawn to what we call "lighthouse projects": the work of partners who are seeking to make transformative change in how they serve their communities, and who have reached the inflection point where a building (or some form of spatial transformation) is essential to make that happen. — Patricia Gruits, MASS senior principal and managing director
What have you learned over the years about the art of collaboration in architecture?
That the practice of architecture is inherently built to achieve results born out of collaborative processes, though the practice itself is structured in a way that does not foster this collaboration. At least not in a way that is initiated, curated, and driven by architects. Our biggest challenge is to claim that responsibility back from the supply-chain systems and into the design studio, where innovation can happen in a way that influences the systems beyond the boundaries of our disciplines. — Christian Benimana, MASS senior principal and managing director
What is the greatest challenge facing architects today?
Forty percent of all carbon emissions are the result of infrastructure and buildings. It’s hard to imagine facing the most existential threat to our planet without changing the way we build and what we build. But as with all these issues, they are intersectional and interrelated. How environmental restoration and regeneration is interrelated with social and economic justice must be considered as within the purview and responsibility of the building trades—without which, environmental restoration and protection will be impossible to achieve. — Sierra Bainbridge, MASS senior principal and managing director
What are you most proud of as a firm?
The team that we have built. One of our earliest goals was to create an organization that would be a home for people to do work focused on the public good as a career. We are happy to see that so many of the people that helped start this a decade ago are still here. Many of the original founding collective are now in other stages of life and mentoring the next wave of incredibly talented designers and colleagues who have joined us more recently. From our original Kigali, Rwanda, and Boston offices, to adding teams in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Sante Fe, N.M., we’ve grown our capacity while keeping our core principals intact. — Alan Ricks, AIA, MASS founding principal and chief design officer