Configuration of the Syrian Identity. Reconfiguring the City, Reconstructing the Memory.
Cities abandoned from a governmental standpoint, not planned and not thought through, are as serious issues as a city suffering from war. Not only two are the side effect of political decisions, both lead to destruction. The outcome of an abandon city could make people’s lives harder, and unhealthy, slowly destroying the welfare needed for better generations, for a better social life and interaction as well as for promising future and preserving the memory and culture of that city. Creating very complex problems and issues that takes decades to solve if the solution and the will to collaborate existed. While the destruction witnessed by a war, is immediate, it does affect people directly, and the issues it costs, just like an abandon city, require decades to solve. The absence of the State’s intervention, planning and action in either spreading the awareness, educating people about family planning, or in long-term visions and plans for the cities would only accelerate such problems to reach a complex phase that could not be contained nor solved. The urban planning of the Syrian cities was always dealt with as an immediate response to problems that need immediate solutions. The absence of a long-term vision for these cities has led to a lack of identity in the urban and social fabric. The vigorous wars on the Levant area had contributed in destroying the historical layered Syrian identity and has divided the people residing in the cities. The present artificial borders of Syria are not based on any kind of ethnic consideration, cultural history or languages. This colonial division was one of the many reasons that put the current Levantine generation in an artificial box, and now they are convinced that they do not only belong. However, they must fight to protect their territories and existence within each of their countries, their provenance and their neighborhoods. Syrian cities witness physical borders and virtual ones. Looking at any city, a chaotic scene is the dominant feature. A chaos that is only seen normal for the native residents. An organic growth dictates these cities. The cities that kept victims of colonialism and occupation, didn’t witness any attempt in taking serious steps towards organized, planned, thought through growth. The speed that that growth happened with, made the overpopulated cities’ reality only worse, and more complex than being easily solved. The civil war Syria is undergoing now is only a result of this ignored division and long-term non-progressive stability. It is also the result of long years of fighting for existence between different empires and political forces that divided the Levant into different groups that could not manage to unite. This paper explores the role of architecture in dividing this community. The changes that happened to the urban built environment of the Syrian cities under different political regimes and how that affected Syrian social life. It also explores the possible role of architecture in creating a built environment that would support interaction and communication between different Syrian groups and help bringing them together.