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The Cambridge City Seminar Series: Infrastructures of Memory: A tale of a Syrian city at war: destruction, resilience and memory in Homs

Ammar Azzouz (Arup)
When Feb 19, 2019
from 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Boardroom, Department of Architecture
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Since 2011, the war in Syria has reshaped the lives of millions of Syrians with the displacement of over ten million people – more than half the population – inside and outside Syria, and the severe destruction of historical and modern cities and countryside. In Homs, the third largest city in Syria and the focus of this paper, entire neighborhoods have been turned into rubble, destroying the familiar and reshaping the urban, social and cultural fabric of the city. However, despite this mass destruction and displacement, local architects, urbanists and residents are showing incredible levels of resilience; rehabilitating their partially damaged homes and providing shelter to the internally displaced population. Based on a series of interviews with architects and urbanists who remained in Syria, and with members of the Syrian diaspora, this paper explores the emerging relations between the urban past and present as citizens struggle to survive, to sustain lives and to envision a future. Memories of the pre-war Homs, and the surviving parts of the city, have become imagined and material places of refuge for many Homsis in the work of remembering, reflecting and seeking to reconstruct a vanished past - but also might be used to rethink the city, and to imagine its future. By engaging with Syrians, and narrating their stories in the time of war, this paper brings the element of human agency to the question of Syrian reconstruction; a dimension that too often is lost in studies of the Syrian crisis and of cities at war.

About Ammar: Ammar Azzouz is a London-based architect working at Arup. His research focuses on responses to destruction and displacement inside Syria, and the impact of war on everyday life. He was a visiting scholar at the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research, Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge in late 2018. He tweets @AzzouzAmmar 

About the City Seminar: The City Seminar Series this year, co-hosted by the Department of Geography and the Department of Architecture, will convene around the theme ‘Infrastructures of Memory’. The intention of this series is to explore a variety of techniques, technologies, rituals, performances and materialities of memory and remembrance, and how they may reinforce or subvert prevailing power relations.