About the Exhibition

This exhibition, curated by MASS Design Group and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, was organized during the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic revealed what some have known for a long time: breathing is spatial. This fact has implications at the scale of the body, building, city, and planet. Everyone on Earth has been affected by the pandemic. Unequal access to housing, jobs, and health care ensured that COVID-19 hit marginalized communities harder than others.

This exhibition presents architectural case studies and historical narratives alongside creative design responses to COVID-19. Every designer, artist, doctor, engineer, or neighbor featured in the exhibition asked, “How can I help?” They used open-source collaboration, rapid-response prototyping, product hacking, and social activism to create medical devices, protective gear, infographics, political posters, architecture, and community services—all with the shared aspiration to reduce structural barriers that keep us from accessing the care we all deserve.


A selection of objects featured in the exhibition.


Red book cover with white text that reads “The Architecture of Health: Hospital Design and the Construction of Dignity.” A page from the book is also shown with architectural illustrations.      Book cover with graph paper background with black, underlined text that reads “Health Design Thinking” and a yellow, diagonal banner that reads in all caps “Coming Soon.” A line illustration of a person is also featured with a stethoscope and red heart. A page from the interior of the book is also shown.


Curatorial team: MASS Design Group (Regina Chen, Jeffrey Mansfield, Michael Murphy, Morgan O’Hara and Maggie Stern). Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (Ellen Lupton, senior curator of contemporary design, and Julie Pastor, curatorial assistant)
Exhibition designer: MASS Design Group (Annie Wang)
Graphic designers: Span (Alyssa Arnesen and Bud Rodecker) and Rick Valicenti


Design and Healing: Creative Responses to Epidemics is made possible with major support from Crystal and Chris Sacca. Generous support is also provided by Lisa Roberts and David Seltzer and the Lily Auchincloss Foundation.


Virtual Book Talk: The Architecture of Health with Michael Murphy and Michael Kimmelman
What is architecture’s impact on the physical and social wellness of society? Why are our buildings making us sicker? MASS Design Group explores these questions and more in its latest book, The Architecture of Health: Hospital Design and the Construction of Dignity (Nov. 2021), published by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (Artbook DAP, distributors). The book examines how our built world was shaped by disease and reveals how historical examples can offer us caution and inspiration. Join us for a virtual book talk with author Michael Murphy, Founding Principal and Executive Director of MASS Design Group, in conversation with Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for the New York Times.