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Architects at the time of war

Dr. Ammar Azzouz, Arup

Awards RIBA President's Awards for Research 2018
Category Cities & Community

Destruction of homes in Homs, 2018. ©Zaher Abdelmawla

The urban nature of the Syrian conflict has caused heavy physical damage to cities and displaced half of the population. From those displaced, there are 6.5 million people internally displaced within Syria, occasionally for several times.

The Syrian refugee crisis has attracted significant attention by media, researchers and policymakers, yet responses to crises inside Syria were not equally considered. This research addresses this gap and contributes to the knowledge of cities at war. It aims to understand the roles of architects at the time of war, and focuses particularly on the possible ways to support them in their struggle to save their cities and protect their heritage. To do so, interviews and a workshop were undertaken remotely from London with architects living in Homs, Syria (the city of the author).

Despite the mass destruction and the monumental displacement, architects in Syria are showing incredible levels of resilience: there are academics teaching urban reconstruction courses at universities, there are local charities supporting communities to rehabilitate their partially damaged houses, and there are young architects gathering together to rethink the architects’ role at the time of war. Individually and collectively, these initiatives have shown the resilience of communities at the time of extreme crises, and the hopes to bring what is left of the country together.

From the workshop organised with 25 architects in Homs, several creative ideas have been raised to that help to empower and support architects in conflict zones remotely e.g. providing online training courses, creating a digital library in Arabic on cities at war, and establishing collaborative research projects with academics outside Syria. It is hoped that this research will influence academics, professionals and policy-makers to create practical projects to support architects in their struggle to survive, to sustain lives and envision a future.

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