Abstract: 2011 marked a turning point in the modern history of Syria, this period witnessed the destruction of the built environment throughout the country and the mass displacement of more than ten million Syrians from their homes. Now after more than eight years of violence and conflict, debates on the future reconstruction of Syria have begun to emerge. Many of these debates focus on monumental and iconic sites, such as Palmyra and the Old City of Aleppo, which have elicited international attention from journalists, politicians, policy-makers and researchers. This significant interest in ancient and iconic sites have also lead to the neglect of more humble, lesser-known and everyday spaces and places that mattered the most to many in Syria. In addition, only a few scholars have focused on the impact of war on the urban practices and everyday life in urban Syria. In this presentation, therefore, I argue that beyond urbicide, the killing of urbanity, there is a need to examine the impact of war and the destruction of homes, what I term domicide. I utilize an anthropological approach to the urban and I have interviewed Syrians who still reside in Homs, a city that has been divided, sieged, destroyed and ruined. This talk shows how the loss of the built environment has also meant a loss of sense of home even for those who still reside in the city. Today, with the increasing interest in reconstructing Syria, there are fears that impacted communities will not have the ownership and the right to shape the future of their cities. There are fears that reconstruction will bring new cycles of destruction to cities and countryside to create a place of forgetting where certain societies are prohibited to mourn, grief and remember.
Biography: Ammar Azzouz is an architect at Ove Arup & Partners, London. He studied architecture in Homs, Syria, and completed his PhD in architecture at the University of Bath. He is a former Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research at the University of Cambridge. His research interests include local and international responses to destruction and displacement in Syria and the politics of reconstruction. His recent article ‘A tale of a Syrian city at war: Destruction, resilience and memory in Homs’, was published in the journal CITY in 2019.
Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT