[MIT Architecture] "Future Heritage", Azra Akšamija


Thursday, April 22, 2021, 6:00pm



MIT Architecture | Spring 2021 Lecture Series
In collaboration with the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology
6:00 PM, webcast

Our global society is facing an unprecedented epoch. Aside from the existential threats of climate change, which loom in all our lives, we have seen, in the pandemic and its mismanagement in many countries, a not very pretty picture of social, political, and economic inequalities that we can no longer ignore. Our generation is faced with an ongoing erasure of natural resources and cultural infrastructures. We are also continuously affected by the power grab of the privileged class and its strategy of division and fear. On top of the pandemic, we are also facing many chronic social ills: racism, xenophobia, and social alienation.

These challenges are putting us to an existential test; as in other periods of violence and injustice, we have to ask ourselves who we are in a peculiarly pressing way.  Furthermore, we have to  find strength, inspiration, and hope in a moment of in which weakness, banality, and despair seem so easy to surrender to. Art and design offer creative and critical tools to expose the brutality of the world we live in and amplify the voices of those who have been silenced.

In this lecture, Azra Aksamija will present the recent work of the MIT Future Heritage Lab, an experimental laboratory that invents creative responses to conflict and crisis at the intersection of art, culture, and preservation technologies. Facilitating transcultural exchange and collaborations across borders, the lab brings together a wide network of individuals and organizations from various places to jointly imagine utopian programs, perform ameliorative gestures, and realize transformative projects. The lab’s work rests on the belief that culture is an essential human need. The lecture will feature the recent work of the lab produced across MIT, a museums in Canada, Austria, and UAE, as well as in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan.


Azra Akšamija

Azra Akšamija, Ph.D. is an artist and architectural historian based on Boston, MA. She the founding Director of the MIT Future Heritage Lab (FHL) and an Associate Professor in the MIT Department of Architecture, Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT). Her work explores how social life is affected by cultural bias and by the deterioration and destruction of cultural infrastructures within the context of conflict, migration, and forced displacement. Akšamija is the author of Mosque Manifesto: Propositions for Spaces of Coexistence (2015) and Museum Solidarity Lobby (2019), and the editor of Architecture of Coexistence: Building Pluralism (2020). Over the past twenty years, her artistic work has been exhibited in leading international venues, including the Generali Foundation Vienna, Secession Vienna, the Royal Academy of Arts London, Queens Museum of Art in New York, Biennials in Venice, Valencia and Liverpool, Design Week Festivals in Milan, Istanbul, and Amman. Her most recent work was shown at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization (2019), the Kunsthaus Graz (2019), Kestner Gesellschaft Hannover (2020), the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto (2020), and Venice Architecture Biennale (2021). She holds master’s degrees in architecture from Graz University of Technology (2001), Princeton University (2004), and a Ph.D. from MIT (2011). She received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2013 for her artistic design of the prayer space in the Islamic Cemetery Altach, the 2019 Art Prize of the City of Graz, and an honorary doctorate from the Monserrat College of Art, 2020.