4.302 / 4.S33
Foundations in Art, Design and Spatial Practices — Future Heritage Lab - Inventions in the Refugee Camp Azraq, Jordan

4.111 or 4.021 or 4.02A
Required of: 
Preference Given to: 
Course 4 majors and minors

Undergraduate students register for 4.302
Graduate students register for 4.S33

Refugee camps should not be understood just as makeshift shelters, but as civic spaces where crucial social healing and cultural encounters can take place. This class explores how art and design could inform a new understanding of refugee camps as spaces for transcultural exchange and creation of new heritage dynamics. We will collaborate with a group of inventors from the Syrian refugee camp Azraq in Jordan; this group includes artists, artisans, fashion designers, craftsmen, poets, writers, journalists, computer scientists, recycling experts, toymakers of all ages and genders. We will document the problems, inventions, memories, and craft of the Azraq camp residents, helping them to produce four books about their experiences of living and working in the camp. To that end, we will also research and analyze inventions from other refugee camps and equivalent environments across the world. These books will provide a basis for collaborative design interventions in the Azraq camp, including new cultural spaces, cultural fabrics, mobile solutions, and water and food projects. Our research and inventions will be aimed at demonstrating more efficient, ethical, and culturally sensitive approaches to humanitarian relief. The long-term objective is to reinvent and advance education in the refugee camp, while preserving cultural memory and threatened heritage of communities affected by conflict and crisis.

The Future Heritage Lab involves collaborations across cultures, disciplines, and institutions, involving inventors from MIT, German-Jordanian University, humanitarian organizations CARE and UNHCR, and the Azraq camp. At MIT, this class will collaborate with a research group of students from various disciplines. Graduate students are welcome to join this group and can receive course credit as an Independent Study. You will learn artistic methods that engage with historical, cultural and political contexts, with a special focus on inventions by Islamic societies. The projects are created while learning to work in the public realm though spatial, sculptural, performative, and process-oriented artistic methods, and using a specific medium, such as welding, weaving, sewing, wood, and casting. A limited group of students will have an opportunity to join us for a workshop in Amman and Azraq camp during the Spring Break. The course results will be exhibited at MIT and in the Azraq camp.

ACT undergraduate courses are not open to graduate students.