Amongst the gunfire and falling bombs, Mohammed Kteish dreamt of a better future for his city. On the rooftop of his ravaged building, he started turning that dream into reality by visualizing and then constructing a cityscape of his own.
Soon, his vision grew too large for the rooftop and his father Wael relinquished his garage to Mohammed’s project (Wael also felt much safer knowing Mohammed wouldn’t be working on the roof, where snipers might fire at him).
It wasn’t long before the model of Aleppo had fully occupied the garage. Their neighbor, Waad made a film about Mohammed and his project, which was screened on Channel 4 news.
In spite of the visibility that the film created, Mohammed’s life didn’t change much. Still the bombs fell and the guns fired and the decision was made that for the safety of the family it was time to move.
I met with Mohammed and his family in Gaziantep, Turkey where he started to rebuild the model he had had to abandon in the garage in Aleppo. We incorporated simple technology to make it interactive – something his brothers and sisters loved.
We agreed that the model could not only act as a beacon of hope; creativity over conflict, but also as a preservation of the personal history of their beloved city.
This project aims to help Mohammed realize his dream of becoming an architect who can one day return to rebuild Aleppo with the other exiled children of Syria, but also to create a digital platform that can retain personal testimonies and histories from the city.
Starting with a series of workshops, we introduced children from around the world to Mohammed’s vision using Virtual Reality. The experience takes them inside the paper city, where they could explore and learn as well as reconstruct the lost architecture alongside Mohammed.
With Mohammed as their guide, the children then have the opportunity to create their own buildings and record their own stories which will be incorporated into Future Aleppo and shared using Virtual Reality.
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