|MASS Design Group, The Monacelli Press
Justice Is Beauty documents the projects and partnerships of MASS Design Group, a non-profit firm with a mission “to research, build, and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity.”
After a decade in practice, MASS approached OverUnder for help in organizing, editing, and curating a body of work that encompasses more than thirty architectural projects built or currently under construction in places like Rwanda, Malawi, Haiti, and the United States. The OverUnder team worked with MASS's directors and research leaders to develop a robust narrative strategy that would encompass many voices—architects, landscape architects, engineers, builders, furniture designers, writers, film makers, researchers—who represent the collective vision of this young firm.
Arranged around thoughtful essays from two founders, Chelsea Clinton, and health professionals such as Dr. Paul Farmer and Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, the book chronologically traces ten years of work through conversations, projects, and writings. Each type of content is given its own graphic treatment as part of a series of interspersed sections within the larger framework of the book. Cinematic photography by Iwan Baan supports in-depth visual essays for each commission, and the illustrated conversations covey the complexity of process, informed collaboration, and regional engagement that characterizes MASS’s working method.
The cover is deceptively simple. A half Obi, illustrated with one of Baan’s photos, conceals the full title of the book, which calls into question the false dichotomy of the phrase “Justice Or Beauty.” The deboss pattern itself is derived from a cross-section of the volcanic brick that MASS has used to transform building practices in emerging places.
This year-long effort of editing and designing has produced a richer narrative of the voices behind the projects, the obstacles overcome on the path to implementation, and the deep and personal relevance of architecture in the civic realm for diverse world populations.