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13 Architects Draw Their Visions Of A Rebuilt Syria

“Architects must be ready to act on day one of peace,” say the organizers of the project.

Syria is in ruins–its homes, civic buildings, monuments, landmarks, and heritage sites reduced to rubble. Assad’s war isn’t over, but the United Nations, World Bank, and a number of other national and international organizations are already imagining what the country’s reconstruction could look like. Individual architects and designers, too, have their ideas for what to build: Outdoor markets filled with people, structures with gray water systems, networks of public squares.

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These are a few of the images from Sketch for Syria, a new exhibition at Università Iuav di Venezia (IUAV), an architecture university in Venice, Italy. Researchers Jacopo Galli, Luna Rajab, and Marco Ballarin mailed sketchbooks to 150 prominent practitioners around the world and handed out dozens of physical copies to architects in five Syrian cities and included an open-ended brief: Draw your ideas for Syria’s reconstruction.

[Photo: Università Iuav di Venezia]
“We believe that architects will act–physically and metaphorically speaking–as bridge builders for the future of Syria,” Galli tells Co.Design by email. “Providing a series of bottom-up, site-specific design ideas that could act as drivers toward the reestablishment of an enduring peace.”

The project was meant to raise awareness within the architecture community about what will be a significant challenge over the coming decades, as opposed to finding specific solutions. Architects from 26 different countries returned sketchbooks; about 60 sketchbooks came from Syrians still living in the country and some from abroad.

[Photo: Università Iuav di Venezia]
There wasn’t a consistent theme in the drawings–some proposed ideas at the scale of individual buildings, others at the scale of entire regions–but many addressed the loss of historic sites and monuments. Some architects sketched abstract concepts, like Alvaro Siza’s illustration of fists clenching rubble, and others got more philosophical, illustrating a beautiful dinner table to communicate the return to normalcy and everyday routines. They expressed their ideas in watercolor, poems, photographs, and even in sewing. Galli noticed that Syrian participants often suggested concrete ideas, like designer Ahmed Al Sahli’s shade structure that would protect people from the blistering sun.

[Photo: Università Iuav di Venezia]
“Architects must be ready to act on day one of peace (hopefully [coming] very soon), and only by starting in advance we will be able to provide valuable ideas,” Galli tells Co.Design.

At least 1.2 million homes, 1,500 places of worship, and 4,000 schools in Syria have been destroyed. At least 3 million buildings have been damaged. The country will never be the same, but it will recover–eventually–and architects will be there. See some of the ideas in the slide show above.

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.

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