A Future Aleppo workshop | Credit: UNHCR
A Future Aleppo workshop | Credit: UNHCR

Future Aleppo is a virtual reality project that came from a young Syrian man's dream of becoming an architect. Thanks to this initiative, refugee children can design the city of their dreams out of paper and 'visit' it via virtual reality.

The idea for the Future Aleppo project came from a Syrian adolescent refugee in Turkey, who hopes to become an architect. The project enables young refugees to create the cities of their dreams on paper and then explore them through virtual reality. 

It aims to give refugee children hope, and to urge them to continue dreaming about their futures, despite hardships and the homesickness for their country. 

A Syrian child's dream

Mohammed Kteish, who is now 16, began to build the city of his dreams on paper in his free time when he was still living in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Prior to the war, Mohamed was building a model of the city on the roof of his family home, but after the violence and bombings began, he had to move the work into his father's workshop. 

When he stopped going to school because of the conflict, he spent all his time building his paper model of Aleppo, rebuilding the most famous buildings in a modern, futuristic style. 

In 2015, Mohamed was forced to leave his work and flee to Turkey, but he did not give up on his dream and his model city was the basis for the virtual reality project Future Aleppo, thanks to producer Alex Pearson, who met Kteish in 2016. 

The hope of rebuilding one's country 

Thanks to UNHCR help, Mohammed's project has become a program of hope for refugee children living in Turkey, where Future Aleppo has become a series of workshops. With the help of the aspiring architect, the young refugees build buildings out of paper that later become a city. It can be visited through virtual reality. 

"These workshops are very important for us, because in the future we will go back to our country where we will be able to rebuild," Mohamed told the UN agency for refugees. An example of a Future Aleppo 'city of dreams' can be visited with a virtual reality headset and an app (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1oKrgbysv63-Md9snj24HdZT3ULK80p sq/view) installed on an Android smartphone. 

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