Living Heritage Atlas | Beirut is a design-based research project that contributes to the urban planning discussion on Beirut’s heritage by rendering visible the often-unrecognized social heritage of craftsmanship — with its crafts, public spaces, and local knowledge.

Living Heritage Atlas | Beirut recognizes that craftspeople are an exponentially marginalized and vulnerable group of individuals operating at the intersection of heritage, the infrastructure of making, and local economies at different urban scales. The project website displays over 800 entries of historic craft spaces and current craft workshops collected through interviews, archival research, fieldwork, and community-based engagement. Users of the online atlas can explore the heritage by the location, dates of operation, and type of craft captured in each image. The web tool was used to facilitate community engagement and more data collection. It was also deployed during heritage walking tours, a participatory mapping workshop, and a panel discussion on documenting craftsmanship. The work helped to legitimize craft peoples’ presence, and mobilize shared spaces to connect stakeholders working on the craftsmanship in Beirut.

The project has a multi-faceted scope: 1) it contributes to the urban planning discussion on heritage by rendering visible the often-unrecognized intangible heritage of craftsmanship–with its public spaces, workshops, and crafts–on interactive digital maps; 2) it constructs an archive of historic images and pictures using a web application that crowdsources visual materials from local archives, current residents as well as those who have moved away; 3) it promotes a hybrid and augmented experience by disseminating stickers linking specific location to the project digital archive; 4) it advocates for the protection and integration of intangible heritage by bringing together craftspeople, NGO representatives, and community stakeholders for discussion in community events and panel discussions.

Project Details

Principal Investigators:
Sarah Williams, Associate Professor of Technology and Urban Planning, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Azra Aksamija, Associate Professor, MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology

Beirut, Lebanon

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