Metro Weekly

National Building Museum showcases the work of MASS Design Group

The Gun Violence Memorial Project, featuring mementos from those lost to gun violence, leads the exhibit

national building museum
National Gun Violence Memorial: Elman Studio

Four glass houses, filled with actual mementos from people killed by gun violence, have been erected on the ground floor of the National Building Museum. Part of the Gun Violence Memorial Project, the installation intended both as a tribute to the dead (more than 40,000 lost to gun violence annually), and a call to action for the living.

Conceived by MASS Design Group and conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas in partnership with gun violence prevention organizations Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Purpose Over Pain, the exhibit combines architecture with memory and advocacy and is intended as a prototype for a future permanent national memorial.

Excerpts from interviews share stories about some of the victims and objects represented, with additional audio installations from sound artist Sam Stubblefield and StoryCorps. The exhibition concludes with a space for reflection and the ability to learn and get involved.

The museum presents the gun violence exhibition as one of two new shows highlighting the work of MASS Design Group. The Boston-based socially conscious nonprofit architecture firm is best known for developing the National Memorial for Peace and Justice to commemorate the more than 4,000 victims of racially motivated lynching in the nation’s history that opened in 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama.

Through the new exhibition Justice is Beauty, museumgoers learn about the firm’s work in designing innovative, community- and conservation-supporting structures in some of the world’s most troubled hotspots, from the GHESKIO Tuberculosis Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, featuring outdoor consultation spaces allowing for private medical visits in the open-air where transmission risk is lower, to the Ilima Conservation School in the Democratic Republic of Congo, built using materials made and sourced exclusively in and around the site in a way that served as a boon to the local economy. The exhibition includes models, videos, material samples, sketches, diagrams, and photographs documenting the firm’s projects.

“The work of MASS Design Group could not be more relevant, and we are excited for visitors to expand their thinking about the critical role architecture plays in our health and well-being,” says curator Susan Piedmont-Palladino. “The firm’s innovative model of humane, ethical, and inspiring architectural practice demonstrates that, with the right tactics and vision, design can benefit people, place, and planet.”

The Gun Violence Memorial Project and Justice is Beauty: The Work of MASS Design Group will reopen the National Building Museum on Friday, April 9, and run to Sept. 2022. The museum is located at 401 F St. NW. Call 202-272-2448 or visit

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