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Azra Aksamija – Design to Live [NPR Interview]

Design to LiveThis fascinating book explores how raw creativity defies material scarcity.

Design to Live: Everyday Inventions from a Refugee Camp
Azra Aksamija

Paperback:The MIT Press, 2021
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Book Description:

The power of design to create a life worth living even in a refugee camp: designs, inventions, and artworks from the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan.

This book shows how, even in the most difficult conditions–forced displacement, trauma, and struggle–design can help create a life worth living. Design to Live documents designs, inventions, and artworks created by Syrian refugees living in the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. Through these ingenious and creative innovations–including the vertical garden, an arrangement necessitated by regulations that forbid planting in the ground; a front hall, fashioned to protect privacy; a baby swing made from recycled desks; and a chess set carved from a broomstick–refugees defy the material scarcity, unforgiving desert climate, and cultural isolation of the camp.

Written in close collaboration with the residents of the camp, with text in both English and Arabic, Design to Live, reflects two perspectives on the camp: people living and working in Azraq and designers reflecting on humanitarian architecture within the broader field of socially engaged art and design. Architectural drawings, illustrations, photographs, narratives, and stories offer vivid testimony to the imaginative and artful ways that residents alter and reconstruct the standardized humanitarian design of the camp–and provide models that can be replicated elsewhere. The book is the product of a three-year project undertaken by MIT Future Heritage Lab, researchers and students with Syrian refugees at the Azraq Refugee Camp, CARE, Jordan, and the German-Jordanian University.

Listen to an NPR interview with the author…

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Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities
and the life of the church." 

-Karen Swallow Prior


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Katie Selby is Associate Editor of The Englewood Review of Books. Prior to her family‘s recent transition to the Englewood Christian Church community, Katie served various churches and organizations in Nebraska, East Tennessee, India, and Ethiopia. She is an M.Div. graduate of Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan University.


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