Destroying cities during war targets people’s sense of home: architect

This is the fourth episode in a 5-aspect series known as The Strategy of Property discovering the a number of and contested meanings of property. In this episode, Suggestions explores how conflict and togetherness are produced as a result of architecture and city scheduling. Scroll to the bottom for other episodes in this collection.

In Homs, Syria, architect Ammar Azzouz lived on a slim road with apartment properties of 4 floors.

“In Homs there was a feeling that anyone realized everybody. So you ought to know the tale of each individual relatives dwelling on the avenue, on each individual flooring,” he said. 

“There is a attractive perception of neighborhood and a attractive feeling of belonging. I often say when I notify my pals about what it implies to be exiled, I say it indicates that nobody is aware about your final name and no person cares about it.”

When he still left Homs in November 2011, the metropolis “was previously a internet site of anxiety, and already the theatre of the battlefield,” he mentioned. 

‘A town of city decay’

By 2014, approximately 50 for every cent of the town experienced been closely wrecked, and yet another quarter was partly destroyed.

“So it is a town of ruins, it really is a metropolis of city decay, and it truly is a metropolis that it truly is synonymous with displacement and destruction.”

Now based in England, Azzouz scientific tests urbicide, which suggests the killing of a town, and domicide, which signifies the killing of house. He is the creator of a forthcoming e book named Domicide: Architecture, War and the Destruction of Dwelling in Syria

In 2011, Ammar Azzouz and his students at the Faculty of Architecture ended up in course when the studio glass shattered from an explosion in a constructing next to them — absolutely everyone evacuated. He says fear and division had been previously existing at the university, ‘it was already a web page of war.’ (Debbie Humphry)

“It’s not only about the destruction of the tangible dwelling of the people today, but it can be also destruction of the perception of household,” he stated. “We are perhaps residing in the comfort and ease of cities of exile, but nevertheless witness the reduction of our home and [feel] the pounds of the battle practically on our shoulders, no subject where by we are.”

“People today who nonetheless stay in Homs, they tell me they sense a perception of disorientation. One particular man or woman, for occasion, advised me it wasn’t only about the destruction of his have spouse and children dwelling, which triggered a enormous sense of grief and injury for him and his relatives. But it truly is also about the modifying deal with of the metropolis and the altering men and women close to them.

“There are people today who have been displaced 25 occasions inside of Homs in the final 10 yrs. So it is also about the sense of exile mainly because the faces, the common folks all over you are no lengthier there.”

A town scene of Homs right before the war exactly where people are celebrating after a football match. (Submitted by Ammar Azzouz)

Urbicide is a brutal tactic of war in numerous conflicts, including the current Russian war from Ukraine, and it has deep roots in background and religion. MIT professor Nasser Rabbat, who designed a class on the record of urbicide, traces it all the way back again to the Biblical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. 

“Why does God punish moral infractions with the destruction of the whole town? And it can be definitely not the reality that he is destroying the walls and the doors and the window. But the city, for all intents and reasons, is the most refined social device that we have produced to produce a idea of connectivity,” he stated. 

A Russian soldier walks in front of the ruined Metallurgical Merge Azovstal plant, in Mariupol, japanese Ukraine, June 13, 2022. Leveling metropolitan areas like Mariupol is a brutal and frequent tactic of war, in accordance to scholars who review urbicide — the intentional killing of a city. (The Related Push)

“We are likely back to the notion of citizen — just observe the word. We are heading back again to the idea of staying an active political agent in an environment that is incredibly well defined, which is this city.

“So when God arrives and destroys it, God is destroying the attempt of humanity to arrange, and that is his punishment. I’m actually destroying what makes you sense that you are part of a more substantial team, which really presents you a feeling of belonging, a feeling of stability, a perception of safety.”

Visitors in this episode:

Ammar Azzouz is an architect and writer from Homs, Syria, now based mostly in England. He is an architectural critic and analyst at Arup, as properly as a study associate at the University of Oxford. His e book Domicide: Architecture, War and the Destruction of Property in Syria will be released by Bloomsbury in 2023. 

Nasser Rabbat is a professor and the director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT. He has revealed quite a few articles and numerous publications on subjects ranging from Mamluk architecture to Antique Syria, 19th century Cairo, Orientalism, and urbicide.

Marwa Al-Sabouni is a Syrian architect primarily based in Homs. She is the author of The Battle for Dwelling: The Eyesight of a Young Architect in Syria and Setting up for Hope: To an Architecture of Belonging, equally printed by Thames and Hudson.

Hiba Bou Akar is an assistant professor in the Urban Organizing system at Columbia Graduate Faculty of Architecture, Setting up and Preservation. Her analysis focuses on scheduling in conflict and submit-conflict metropolitan areas, the problem of city safety and violence, and the function of spiritual political corporations in the creating of towns. She is the author of For the War But to Come: Preparing Beirut’s Frontiers.

Nada Moumtaz is an assistant professor in the Section of Research of Religion and Around and Center Japanese Civilizations at the University of Toronto. She experienced and labored as an architect in Beirut, Lebanon, and is the creator of God’s Home: Islam, Charity, and the Modern-day State.


*This episode and the Idea of Residence Collection was generated by Pauline Holdsworth.