4.373 / 4.374
Advanced Projects in Art, Culture and Technology

UG: 4.301 or 4.302 or permission of instructor; G: permission of instructor
Limited to 20
Required of: 
Architecture minors

U: 4.373; G: 4.374

Culturally Sensitive Design introduces a cross-disciplinary and inclusive model for education and civic innovation through the lens of art and design, with a focus on creative responses to conflict and crisis.

The course will investigate the role of art, design, and cultural history in the context of humanitarian assistance through the basic medium to facilitate displaced population, the refugee camp. Communities living in fragile environments, such as the refugee camps, beyond war and trauma have to address the loss of their history, identity and memories. This ​course springs from an understanding that culture is a basic human need, and essential for conflict resolution. An understanding of cultural contexts in creative expression and the re-interpretation of cultural heritage in the built environment within the context of refugee camps is therefore indispensable. The class will rethink design in refugee camps not only as a medium to address the practical needs of refugees but also their emotional, cultural and aesthetic needs. ​Culturally Sensitive Design ​explores representation, interpretation and meaning, and how these relate to historical, social and cultural contexts resulting to the making of objects that improve the life for refugees.

The course involves a collaboration of MIT students (graduate and undergraduate) with refugee learners at the Al Azraq camp in Jordan and students from the School of Architecture and Built Environment
(SABE) of the German-Jordanian University (GJU) in Amman-Jordan towards the design and prototyping of a community & education space in the Al Azraq refugee camp.​ ​This space will function as a satellite location of the​ ​MIT Future Heritage Lab​ ​in the camp, under the auspices of the humanitarian organization CARE.

The course extends MIT’s education impact to the youth of the Al Azraq refugee camp and the host community in Jordan, one of the top ten host countries in the world. The course empowers refugee youth with creative problem solving that improves life in the camp, validates the expression of intellectual and cultural diversity and benefits psychosocial well-being. At the same time, it allows host community learners to embrace bold experimentations in education as a viable alternative to traditional educational environments and residential audience to work on real life problem solving and direct their skills and talents to make the world a better place.

The course is developed through the J-WEL Grant in Education Innovation. Interested students will have an opportunity to build on this course in the summer in the Al Azraq Camp. Students of all backgrounds and disciplines are welcome.

Additional work required of students taking graduate version.