Previously On View: December 10, 2021 through March 19, 2023

See exhibitions currently on view.

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.





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. Additional support is provided by the Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program Fund.


Illustration of a yellow school bus parked on a city street. Beside the bus, a clear rectangular tent structure with the words Covid-19 Mobile Lab in red letters.
Field Hospitals
Emergency hospitals and clinics are erected during wars, disasters, and epidemics. Since the 19th century, field hospitals have been prefabricated off-site or made with cheap, readily available materials. Built for temporary use, these rough facilities often stay in use well past their intended lifespans. In spring 2020, emergency hospitals were built in New York City...
Drawing of the inside of an ICU installed in a shipping container. Caregivers help a patient lying in bed.
Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA), 2020
Italy was the first country in the European Union to be hit hard by COVID-19. CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati in Turin, Italy created an open-source design and working prototype for an intensive care unit utilizing a shipping container. One unit can house two patients. Windows admit light and allow clinicians and family members to view patients....
A collage of four images, from left to right: the illuminated exterior of a cholera treatment center; a figure putting on a multi-colored mask with a clear section over the lips; a hand holds a lozenge-shaped green plastic device; a person wearing blue and white scrubs against a pink background.
Design and Healing: Creative Responses to Epidemics Exhibition Videos
Dots, Lines, Color and Humans (with Audio Descriptions) Dots, Lines, Color and Humans (without audio descriptions)   Brainwaves project explainer  (with audio descriptions) brainwaves project explainer (without audio descriptions)   cura (with audio descriptions) Cura (without audio descriptions) For more about the exhibition, visit   For more on Cooper Hewitt’s Accessibility Initiatives, please visit:...
Red book cover with white text that reads “The Architecture of Health: Hospital Design and the Construction of Dignity.”
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.