“Buildings are not simply expressive sculptures. They make visible our personal and collective aspirations as a society. Great architecture gives us hope. Great architecture can heal.”
A few weeks ago I wrote about Bryan Stevenson. This week, Julia told me I had to watch an amazing TED talk she saw by Michael Murphy. It was about architecture that is built to heal. Michael Murphy has done incredible work around the world. In Rwanda, not only did Michael design a hospital that would prevent unnecessary infections, promote healing, and lift patient’s morale, he was wise enough to work and learn from Bruce Nizeye. Bruce, a local engineer, taught him about Ubudehe, a practice and culture where the community works collectively to support one another and solve problems. Hundreds came out to excavate the site with hand tools. Bruce started a guild where master craftsmen trained locals to make the furniture. Fifteen years after the Rwandan genocide, Bruce advised Michael to hire workers from all backgrounds, half of them women. This process initiated a healing for the community while the hospital was being built
This process is called Locally Fabricated or Lo-Fab and it’s four pillars are:
Train where you can
Invest, focus on how to bring dignity to the people that the building will serve.
A Lo-Fab hospital in Haiti saves lives from Cholera, a birthing center in Malawi seriously reduces the maternal and infant mortality rate.
Back here in the States, Michael saw that Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative were planning on building a memorial to those who were lynched in the South. Michael asked if he could design it. The collaboration will be a moving open structure, reminding one of the Parthenon until you get close and realize that the columns are pillars hanging, suspended above the ground like so many were from public town squares. The names of those who were unjustly taken will be inscribed on these pillars. In a field outside the building, there will be duplicate pillars waiting for each county where lynching took place to claim and display them. This is not to shame these counties but as Michael said, it will allow the nation to, “heal from over a century of silence.” Michael also pointed out that countries like Germany, South Africa and Rwanda have built memorials to commemorate their atrocities in order to mend their wounded psyches. America has yet to build this kind of memorial.
Brene Brown says in her book Rising Strong, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”
This applies to us in America. When we look at our story, we were farmers who fought the most powerful army in the world to create the first nation without a king or emperor. We created a Republic for the people by the people and during the Second World War we made the world safe for democracy. The shadow part of our story that we have yet to reckon with is slavery, bigotry, the genocide and subjugation of Native Americans, institutional misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and too many other phobias. Because we are unwilling to rumble with this shadow, it sadly becomes necessary to have an organization in 2016 called Black Lives Matter.
This is the Land of the brave. If we are set on “Making America Great…” let us love ourselves in the process of owning our story head on. Not through posturing, pride and insulting one another but through recognizing that we have people like Michael Murphy, Bryan Stevenson, Brene Brown and countless others who are not only resources but are cheering us on toward our real greatness. Namely, standing for up for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all of our citizens. Equality and harmony are what make us strong.
The third part of Brene Brown’s Rising Strong process is called The Revolution, “where we own our truth in order to write a new, more courageous ending which will transform who we are and how we engage with the world.”
That is a modern revolution worth having.
As more of us are willing to do this kind of work on ourselves, connections and links are made to build, not a wall, but a structure that brings dignity to the people it serves. That is something we need now more than ever.