Innovations Out of Africa: Cities


Cities constitute a small percentage of the total surface area of the planet though African cities are experiencing one of the highest rates of growth and are least represented in global studies. Yet new perspectives on African urbanization show vibrant communities, infrastructures and spaces that shape lives, the environment and have regional impacts.


Michael Murphy

MASS Design Group, Boston, MA

Michael Murphy is the executive director and co-founder of MASS Design Group, an architecture and design collaborative with offices in Boston and Kigali. As a designer, writer, and teacher, his work investigates the social and political consequences of the built world. Murphy focuses on how environments shape behavior, and his research and
writing advocate for a new empowerment in architecture that calls on architects to consider the ethical nature of their design decisions while simultaneously searching for beauty and meaning.

Murphy is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, has taught at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, the Boston Architectural College, and the Harvard Graduate school of Design, and is a 2018 Santa Fe Art Institute Equal Justice Resident. His essays on architecture have been widely published and MASS's work has been featured in The New York Times, Time Magazine, Fast Company, The Atlantic, Wired, Mark Magazine, Metropolis, Architectural Record, Detail, and many others. MASS recently won the 2017 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Architecture Design. MASS was also a recipient of the Zumbtobel Group Prize, shortlisted for the Aga Khan award for Architecture, and a finalist for the TED Prize and the Buckminster Fuller Prize. Murphy has lectured around the globe, most recently giving a keynote address at the 2017 American Institute of Arhictects Conference. His talk at the 2016 Annual TED Conference, Architecture That’s Built To Heal, has reached over 1 million views online.

Michael is from Poughkeepsie, NY and earned a Master of Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Chicago.

Melissa McHale

PhD, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Urbanization and Health, One Health Institute, CSU

Melissa McHale is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, at Colorado State University, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Wits City Institute, at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. Her focus is on urban ecology and sustainability which encompasses transdisciplinary study of complex social-ecological systems, social drivers of urban ecosystem structure and function, and global urbanization patterns and processes.

Dr. McHale has also developed an internationally renowned research and education program in South Africa, where she provides students with unique opportunities to work with underprivileged communities on their greatest sustainability challenges.

Adrienne Cohen

PhD, Department of Anthropology and Geography Programs, CSU

Adrienne Cohen is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research focuses on expressive culture, political-economic change, and transnational migration in urban Africa. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Guinea, West Africa, as well as among Guinean migrants in the US. Her current book project focuses ethnographically on dancers and musicians in Guinea’s capital city of Conakry working in troupes called “ballets.” These performing artists, whose profession was originally the outgrowth of socialist cultural policies, are reinventing the contours of their practice in a capitalist economy. Dr. Cohen uses dance as a medium through which to examine the complex relationship between affect, sociality, and political economy in a contemporary African city.