Architecture and design affect your attitude, your health, and even your life. Architect Michael Murphy, executive director of MASS Design Group, and Ken Oringer, one of Boston’s most notable chefs and restaurateurs, talk to Billy Shore about how good design can drive systems change. “We see architecture as a crucial piece … of our daily lives and as a systems approach to how we live either more productive or less productive lives,” says Murphy. Oringer knows the importance of design in his restaurants. “We work 16-hour days, and you have to create an environment that can make everybody happy … and inspire creativity,” he says. Murphy describes a hospital his group designed for a village in Rwanda that had to address tuberculosis. Because TB spreads through the air, they had to mitigate risk by designing better ventilation, creating outdoor waiting areas, and eliminating hallways. “A hospital is an incredible system… but it’s only successful if we’ve designed it well enough to influence medical policy on how we’re designing hospitals in the future,” Murphy says. Chef Oringer faced a similar challenge redesigning 3 school kitchens in the Boston public school system. “If we create spaces where the kids get excited to eat, that’s the start of getting kids to be motivated by [good] food,” he observes. He is currently talking to the Mayor about redesigning 30 to 50 more Boston school kitchens next year and eventually all of them. Murphy is inspired by this plan. “If we can solve it one place, can it affect an entire system?,” he asks.

Oringer – a long-time supporter of the No Kid Hungry campaign – believes chefs need to be leaders because food is the common denominator in our world. “Chefs have the DNA to take care of people,” he says. Murphy believes there are similarities in his field. “Architects don’t become architects for the paychecks. It’s a passion industry,” he explains. He and his partners set up the non-profit MASS (which stands for Model of Architecture that Serves Society) to bring great design to organizations and communities that would not be able to afford it otherwise. Part of its mission is to build a pipeline of projects and partners around the world to change the system. “I want to work with innovators or thought leaders or organizations who are doing real big systems change work,” he concludes.

Listen to gain a deeper understanding of how the built environment affects our lives and can be used to drive systems-level change.

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