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Workshop: Urbanism as Culture: What Do Destruction and Reconstruction Mean in Syria?

An eye-opening workshop on destruction and reconstruction in the Syrian context

On Sunday 3 November 2019 we held a fascinating & highly informative discussion on destruction and reconstruction in the Syrian context at our centre. The event explored the multi-dimensional nature of Syria’s built environment from a community perspective and attempted to re-frame or re-construct the urban sphere as a cultural phenomenon.

The Syrian urban landscape has suffered tremendous levels of destruction. Multiple organisations have mapped the ongoing destruction across the country. A comprehensive damage assessment analysis conducted by UNOSAT to eight of Syria’s largest cities (Aleppo, Damascus, Daraa, Deir ez Zor, Hama, Homs, Idlib and Raqqa) has found that between 2013 and 2017 there was a total of 109,393 detected damaged structures.

However, the damage to the built environment in Syria cannot be reduced to levels of destruction. An increasing number of studies have suggested that destruction cannot be merely treated as the physical manifestation or collateral damage of the conflict. Rather, it is a systematic weapon in a wider strategy to manipulate urban arrangements for socio-economic and political interests. It is a deliberate act and a weapon of war, linked to post-conflict reconstruction and with far-reaching structural implications. This means that the extent of devastation in Syria’s urban landscape can only be assessed when acknowledging the social, economic, cultural and political dimensions that shape the built environment of the syrian cities and villages.

Understanding the socio-economic, cultural and political dimensions will shape our perspective to the different layers of the city and their importance, which will provide us with a better frame for analysing and evaluating the ongoing destruction and reconstruction practices.


Hani Fakhani

Hani is a Syrian architect and urban practitioner. His works focus on housing and reconstruction through research and practice. He is the co-founder of Sakan Housing Communities; a social enterprise seeking social, economic, and institutional recovery of war-torn communities in Syria through strategic affordable housing programs. As a researcher, has contributed to a number of initiatives and research projects with international organisations and think tanks on topics related to housing, displacement, urban development and reconstruction in Syria and the surrounding counties. Hani holds an MSc with distinction in Building and Urban Design in Development from University College London and a Bachelor degree of architecture from Damascus University.

Houda Fansa

Houda is a Syrian architect. She holds a double master’s degree in Urban Sustainable Development from Damascus University and Université de Marne La Vallée, Paris-Est.

Houda was awarded the Chevening scholarship in 2016 where she completed an MSc in Building and Urban Design in Development at The Bartlett Development Planning Unit at University College London. During her master’s course, she combined soundscapes with urban design, bringing out the effect of voices and sounds on people and their environment. She is currently working for a Syrian radio station as a news presenter and produces her own show about urban issues called “The City Talks”.

Sawsan Abou Zainedin

Sawsan is a Syrian architect and urban development planner based in London. Her work tackles the impact of urban processes on social justice and peace. She has worked in research, and international and local development with academic institutions, think tanks, INGOs, Syrian civil society organisations and media outlets. She is the co-founder of Sakan Housing; a start-up social enterprise aimed at developing inclusive and socially just housing programmes to aid recovery in Syria.

Sawsan is a Chevening scholar. She holds MSc in Urban Development Planning with distinction from the Bartlett’s Development Planning Unit of University College London. She holds a post-graduate diploma from the Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies at Erasmus University, and a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Aleppo.

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