ReAct Beirut: Recording and Activating Beirut’s Living Heritage

PIs: Sarah Williams, Associate Professor of Technology and Urban Planning, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and Azra Aksamija, Associate Professor, MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology

Through oral histories, place-attachment mapping, performative preservation, and creative digital recording tools, ReAct Beirut develops a holistic heritage mapping approach to document and activate the city’s public spaces. ReAct Beirut enriches the current heritage discussion with a spatially specific tool for advocacy and decision- making, in contexts of conflict and crisis.

Building on the Civic Data Design Lab’s citizen science and data action approaches, Future Heritage Lab’s performative preservation, and the Khan Streetschool’s participatory design, ReAct Beirut is a data-informed, heritage-focused, and action- oriented response to the multifaceted crisis of Beirut. The project has a multi-faceted scope: first, it contributes to the urban planning discussion on heritage by rendering visible the often-unrecognized social heritage--with its public spaces, social activities, historic businesses, landmarks—on an interactive community-made map; second, it constructs an archive of social memories and local practices by 1) using a web application that crowdsources stories of current residents as well as those who have moved away and 2) organizing share your-story events in the public spaces of Beirut; third, it activates public spaces as dynamic grounds for educational and cultural production.

Funding for this research was provided by the Dar Group Urban Seed Grant Program at the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Spring 2021