“Architecture is the art of reconciliation between ourselves and the world, and this meditation takes place through the senses.”

-Juhani Pallasmaa

The above lines coined by Juhani Pallasmaa have become even more relevant, given the current scenario. Through the course of architecture, one learns that recognition comes to those who prioritize novel and sculptural forms. I feel that such structures rarely concur with the user. Through this tenure, I realized that architecture means much more than building something ground-breaking. It’s more than the beauty and aesthetics of a structure. It is about how an architect devises a space that correlates to both the individual and its corresponding environment. 

At first, it was a struggle to understand this concept, rather the mystical connection between architecture and an individual, but books and ted talks helped me grasp the symbiotic relationship between the two. “Architecture that’s built to heal,” by Ar. Michael Murphy is among them. 

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Ar. Michael Murphy ©ted.com

Michael Murphy, the co-founder of the MASS design group in Boston, spearheads the organization to create community-centric structures with healing as a core concept. The ted talk conducted by him revolves around the evidence that architecture is indeed a vast area, deciphered in several distinctive ways. According to him, every student is taught that architecture is about visionary structures, and design should consist of a unique and original approach. But is that what architecture stands for?

He questions the role of architecture and the fraternity in planning and designing. According to him, designers tend to miss aspects of a building and its environment, which in turn makes people sicker. The architect explains the effect of a poorly designed space with a simple example. “In a small hospital in South Africa, patients who come with a broken leg walk out with a multidrug resistant strand of tuberculosis. The problem arises due to a lack of ventilation and sunlight in the hallways and rooms of the hospital. As a solution, he says one can move the hallways to the exterior of the built-form, which shall provide ample of both ventilation and sunlight.” 

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Butaro District Hospital, Rwanda, Exterior View ©massdesigngroup.org

Other than the physical aspects of planning, the architect also addresses the experience an environment provides. Individuals, designers, and architects must realize that for every dimension of health or wellbeing, there is a corresponding aspect to our surroundings. Human beings have an inner connection with their habitat. We often interact with the buildings themselves and their macro and micro surroundings, without realizing the considerable influence that such built environments hold. The architecture of a place or an environment becomes visionary only when the user experiences a balance. 

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Butaro District Hospital, hallways ©massdesigngroup.org

MASS design group designed the Butaro-District Hospital in Rwanda, providing both inpatient and out-patient services. The hospital developed in a manner where-in it reduces the transmission of air-borne diseases through systems and helps restore harmony between the patients and their atmosphere. A simple method of cross-ventilation, giving each patient views of the landscape through large windows and high ceilings to circulate air comfortably shows improvement in the health of the users. Moreover, the well-planned exterior landscape ensures the better circulation of refreshing air, a greater sense of privacy, and a better reduction of stress and pain perception in patients. The architect proves that simple design strategies that are site-specific can be thought of to construct better habitats that simultaneously prevent us from exploiting our environment.

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Butaro District Hospital, landscape ©massdesigngroup.org

The issue at hand-addressed is that man is moving further away from nature in the lookout of the future, with various new technologies that now have started forming their habitat. Our current architectural practices promote illness by creating an environment of an afterthought. These afterthought environments don’t allow us to interact with people, our surroundings, and our nature. Often inhabitants don’t think much about the built environment. They don’t anticipate that it can affect us so much and that it can be a source of disharmonies through physical, emotional, and mental stressors. 

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Butaro District Hospital, inside the large-windowed rooms ©massdesigngroup.org

To conclude, the talk focuses on factors that affect the overall phases of designing a space, which consists of; the need of the user, experience of the user, effect of technologies chosen to built, a.k.a. Ecological Footprint, and Human Handprint of those who help engineer it. If accurately taken into consideration, these factors provide us architects with an opportunity to change the vibration of our life’s reflection. It is possible to influence a positive and healthy environment for a larger group of people if we change the way we design.  

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Buildings that heal, Memorial of Peace and justice by MASS design group ©wbur.com

Constituting and respecting our natural elements and materials will help us create a healing habitat, which in turn will help restore and rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul. Architects are the agent of changes, and architecture can give us hope, it can heal.  


Ansha Kohli is whimsical andenigmatic when it comes to her life. Wanting to pursue a career in architecture journalism after completing her graduation, she is on the road to seek something new and exciting, and subsequently enthusiastic to share as well as understand different philosophies associated with art and architecture.