"Aleppo, Patterns of Damage: Beyond Winning the War"
Abstract: The city of Aleppo split in half over the course of the war, between a regime-controlled western side and a revolutionary eastern side. How did this divide manifest itself in social, political, economic, architectural, and urban terms? Or rather, how can we see and map this division in a way that teaches us something about what was at stake in the conflict? Columbia’s Center for Spatial Research (CSR) developed a series of experimental methods to follow and record damage in Aleppo during the five years of “active civil war.” CSR created a documentary archive, as well, for viewing the damaged city on a multi-layered map. Between the multiple forms of media we spatialized, and the data we collected from a variety of sources, what can we learn about Aleppo? We are exploring patterns of urban damage, to ask what they reveal of the traces of tactics and strategies of designed destruction, organized violence that exceeds that of “military necessity” (as problematic as that criterion itself can be). The data raises very specific questions: how do changes in control over two major highways into and out of the city enable the siege and ultima-te victory of regime forces? What role do Aleppo’s “informal” neighborhoods, and various historic masterplans for their ‘renewal,’ play in the civic rebellion and its transformation into civil war? How, and where, has Law 10/2018 re-introduced new violence into the so-called reconstruction efforts? With the vast majority of eastern Aleppo’s urban fabric in ruins, questions of land ownership, real estate speculation, and the lack of housing — all already prominent before the outbreak of military violence — continue to consolidate the economic, political, and spatial division of Aleppo’s residents.

Biography: Laura Kurgan is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, where she directs the Center for Spatial Research and the Visual Studies curriculum. She is the author of Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics (Zone Books, 2013). Her work explores the ethics and politics of digital mapping and its technologies; the art, science and visualization of big and small data; and design environments for public engagement with maps and data. In 2009, Kurgan was awarded a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship.
Kurgan, Luara. "Aleppo, Patterns of Damage: Beyond Winning the War." Paper presented at "Reconstruction as Violence: The Case of Aleppo," Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 10-11, 2019.
Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT
reconstruction process