• Design to Live: Everyday Inventions from a Refugee Camp
    Azra Aksamija, Raafat Majzoub, and Melina Philippou
    Malek Abdin, Mohammad Al Mez’al, Mohsen Albawab, Rejan Ashour, Muteeb Awad Al Hamdan, Zeid Madi, Mohammad Yaghan, and Amani Yousef Al Shabaan
    MIT Press, 2021
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology–Future Heritage Lab

Future Heritage Lab, A cultural shelter/adobe interpretation of the Palmyra Arch of Triumph, 2017, Al Azraq Refugee Camp, Jordan. Courtesy of MIT Future Heritage Lab.

Design to Live is a collaborative project that demonstrates how refugees employ art and design to transform their living environment and restore humanity within circumstances that deprive it. Featuring more than twenty projects by Syrian refugees at the Azraq Refugee Camp the book offers a new way of understanding design as a subversive worldmaking practice and as a tool for reclaiming agency in conditions of forced displacement. The projects—including a vertical garden, an arrangement necessitated by regulations that forbid planting on the ground; a front hall, fashioned to protect privacy; a baby swing, made from recycled school desks; and a chess set, carved from broomsticks—showcase the discrepancy between standardized humanitarian design and the real socio-cultural needs of refugees. This bilingual book in English and Arabic is the product of a three-year joint project of the MIT Future Heritage Lab and the Syrian refugees at the Azraq Refugee Camp, supported by CARE-Jordan and the German Jordanian University.

Azra Aksamija, the principal investigator of this project, is an artist and architectural historian, associate professor in the Program in Art, Culture and Technology, Department of Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is the director of the MIT Future Heritage Lab (FHL), an artistic research and action lab working on creative responses to conflict and crisis. Aksamija holds graduate degrees from Technical University Graz, Princeton University, and a PhD from MIT. In her interdisciplinary work, Aksamija explores how social life is affected by cultural bias and by deterioration and destruction of cultural infrastructures within the context of conflict, migration, and forced displacement. Her recent exhibitions include the Royal Academy of Arts London, Queens Museum of Art in New York, Hamburger Maghnhof Berlin, and the 54th Art Biennale in Venice. She is the recipient of the 2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

The book authors are a group of 20 young Syrians living in Al Azraq Refugee Camp. The age range of writers is diverse, from 16–30. These authors are advised by a group of respected elderly community leaders in the camp, to ensure the transmission of knowledge across generations. The group includes: Hana’a Ahmed, Kifah Akeel, Hussein Al-Abdallah, Hasan Al-Abdallah, Hatem Al-Balkhy, Wa’el Al-Faraj, Nagham Alsalha, Heba Caleh, Mohammed Al-Hamedy, Ahma Al-Hassan, Jar Al-Naby Abazaid, Yassin Al-Yassin, Mustafa Hamadah, Jameel Homede, Abdulkarim Ihsan, Ahmad Khalaf, Rawan Maher, Mohammed Mizail, Jameel Mousli, Mohammed Shaban.

Melina Philippou is a Cypriot architect and urban researcher based at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is the programming director of MIT Future Heritage Lab (FHL) and a project coordinator for this book.

Omar Al-Darwish is a Syrian-Jordanian engineer, a graduate of the German-Jordanian University, based in Amman. Parallel to his work as engineering researcher in the FHL, he directs the curriculum development at the International Robotics Academy in Amman and runs a startup Solar Academy.

Zeid Madi is a Palestinian-Jordanian architect and urban researcher, a graduate of the German-Jordanian University, based in Amman. He works as the architectural researcher in the FHL and is in charge of FHL’s local coordination of this book in Al Azraq Camp.

Muteeb Awad Al Hamdan, English teacher and interpreter from Syria, collaborates on this book as a coeditor. He is supervising the writing process in the camp and helping with the coordination of entries.

CARE Jordan facilitates the realization of the project as the humanitarian host organization based at the camp and provides technical consultancy.

Mohammad Yaghan is a Jordanian architect and Professor at the German-Jordanian University (GJU) School of Architecture and Built Environment. He specializes in Islamic geometry and calligraphy and heads the academic collaboration between MIT/FHL and GJU in Amman. He is the academic advisor for this book in Jordan.

Rejan Ashour is a Jordanian architect and lecturer at the GJU School of Architecture and Built Environment. She specializes in Islamic geometry and calligraphy. She is the academic coadvisor for this book in Jordan.

Incorporated in 1861, the mission of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. The Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) was founded in 2009 from the merger of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies and the Visual Arts Program and is an academic program and research center that facilitates the exploration of art's broad, complex, global history and conjunction with culture, science, technology, and design via critical artistic practice and practice driven theory. The program's mission is to promote leadership in critical artistic practice and deployment, developing art as a vital means of experimenting with new registers of knowledge and new modes of valuation and expression; and to continually question what an artistic research and learning environment can be and do.