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Design That Heals

Director: Thatcher Bean

Country: United States



n the thick of epidemic catastrophe, can architecture help to heal? Dr. Jean William Pape, a Haitian infectious disease specialist, believes it can. He has dedicated the last 35 years to combating diarrheal diseases that harm and kill his nation’s poor, and along side his colleagues at Les Centres GHESKIO, has achieved remarkable improvements in community health in Haiti and beyond.

On Jan 12, 2010 an earthquake rocked the capital of Port-au-Prince, killing over 150,000 people and all but destroying the city's already weakened public infrastructure. GHESKIO staff triaged and cared for thousands of injured and sick following the disaster using donated military cots and tents.

Just nine months later, as the country was beginning to recover, Dr. Pape’s worst nightmare came true. An outbreak of cholera swept the city's crowded neighborhoods and relief camps. GHESKIO’s staff now braved a whole new challenge - how to combat one of the worst cholera outbreaks in over a century in a place with almost no sanitation infrastructure. On the front line of an international effort to stem the tide of an epidemic, GHESKIO used every means at their disposal to combat the disease, including innovations like world’s first mid-outbreak cholera vaccination campaign.

Asking what else could be done, Dr. Pape invited the architecture firm MASS Design Group to help address the underlying problems that had allowed such an outbreak to occur in the first-place.

Together they envisioned a facility that would not only create a healthy and dignified environment for patients, but would act to disrupt the vicious cycle of infection taking place through the re-contamination of water by cholera waste. Moreover, it would be built by Haitians using locally available materials, maximizing its social and economic impact on the surrounding community.

Design that Heals is an uplifting story about leadership, innovation, and human resilience. As the building comes together, it reveals a powerful statement of what seemingly disparate fields can accomplish when they work together. As Dr. Pape achieves remarkable victories over such a complex health issue through an integrated approach to health and wellness, viewers are prompted to ask - what more can we all do?

Director Biography

Alan co-founded MASS Design Group, a non-profit focused on social impact through the design and construction process. He manages global operations for the 60+ person firm with projects in over a dozen countries that range from design to research to policy—a portfolio that continues to expand the role of design in advancing a more just world. Alan is a Lecturer in Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and has an appointment as an Expert-in-Residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab. He is a Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum for the 2014-2019 term and recently gave a TED Talk, which chief TED curator Chris Anderson described as “a different language about what architecture can aspire to be.” He is a regular speaker and writer on the role of architecture in catalyzing social change. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Colorado College and his Master of Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Thatcher Bean initially worked worked with Ricks in 2013 to document the construction and use of MASS Design Group’s health infrastructure in Haiti, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The resulting films accompanied two TED talks, The SXSW Eco Conference, touring exhibitions, and multiple film festivals. As the Film Director at MASS, Thatcher is working to explore how video can be used as a unique tool to assess and convey the impact of our built environment.

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