VR, Architectural History, Pedagogy and the Case of Lifta


  • Eliyahu Keller MIT Architecture
  • Mark Jarzombek, Prof. MIT Architecture
  • Eytan Mann Technion Institute of Technology, Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning




The Palestinian village of Lifta, located beneath the western entrance to the city of Jerusalem, holds a deep history within its site. Evacuated by the newly established Israeli military forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war – or the Nakba (‘The Catastrophe’) as it is referred to by the Palestinian population – the village and its remains are a unique locus of conflicted histories, archaeology and landscape, and of collective memories. This article presents the work conducted during an experimental design research workshop within the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. Taking Lifta’s site, as well as it historical and archaeological complexity, both real and imagined, as its archive, students developed their thematics following site-visits, interviews and research, and designed virtual experiences of the village, its multiple histories and narratives. The efforts provide epistemological and experiential cross-sections through the problematics of the site’s complex history. In the process of designing a possible platform for a critical historiography of Lifta, the projects aim to further the potential of immersive technologies as a pedagogical tool.


Architecture, History, Lifta, Israel-Palestine, Virtual Reality

Author Biographies

Eliyahu Keller, MIT Architecture

Eliyahu Keller is an architect and a PhD candidate in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art programme at the MIT Department of Architecture. He is the co-editor of SCATTER!, the forty-sixth volume of the department’s peer-reviewed journal ‘Thresholds’, published by the MIT Press in 2018. Eliyahu holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Israel, and a Master in Design Studies with Distinction from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His doctoral research investigates the relationships between the rise of nuclear weapons, apocalyptic thinking and architectural visionary representation during the Cold War in the United States and the Soviet Union.

Mark Jarzombek, Prof., MIT Architecture

Mark Jarzombek is a professor in the history and theory of architecture at MIT. He works on a wide range of topics – both historical and theoretical. He is one of the country’s leading advocates for global history and has published several books and articles on that topic, including the ground-breaking textbook entitled A Global History of Architecture(Wiley Press, 2006) with co-author Vikramaditya Prakash and with the noted illustrator Francis D.K. Ching. He is currently working on a book that interrogates the digital/global imaginaries that shape our lives. A chapter from that book, ‘Digital Stockholm Syndrome in the Post-Ontological Age’, was published in 2016 by the University of Minnesota Press as part of its Forerunners: Ideas First series.

Eytan Mann, Technion Institute of Technology, Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning

Eytan Mann is an architect and game developer, currently pursuing a PhD in Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology. Prior to the Technion, Eytan earned a BArch and MArch from Tel Aviv University, and a SMArchS degree in Design Computation from the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, where he also served as a researcher in the Design and Computation Group. His interests include digital humanities and heritage, spatial computing, gaming, and the history and theory of architecture. His research examines the relationship between new modes of remote sensing and user-interaction with the history and historiography of architecture in conflict zones.



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