Our Director of Architecture Nouha has just completed her Masters of Architecture at the University of Westminster!
In her final project Syria: Healing Landscapes, Nouha explores how to generate a movement for rebuilding Syria by healing and activating its landscapes. The project takes its starting point in an important and strong source of unity; a heartfelt pride in Syria’s diverse natural landscapes, which are associated with both identity and culture.
Nouha emphasises that healing is a process linked with developing and growing, which requires the ability to imagine possibilities and futures with an open heart while simultaneously reconnecting with one’s identity. Healing is directly connected to the feeling of being able to change, connect and create. There is healing in hope, and there is hope in agency.
The project aims to transform urban and regional fringes through a network of interventions across the Syrian landscapes where each node is selected to reflect local strengths and challenges. The network is complementary; every node is empowered by its relations and the network’s accumulated strength is greater than the sum of its parts.
The strategy capitalises on forging new patterns of collaboration and awareness of the richnesses and values of the different corners of the country. It is designed as a Programme, as the programme approach enables a high level of flexibility although accommodating complexity. It is able to move across existing patterns of administrative structures without depending on a complete change of those. In the context of Syria, it allows an instant response.
A Node of Hope | House of Architecture & Healing
The House of Architecture & Healing is a node of the Healing Landscapes Network, which provides platforms to discuss and reflect on the future of Syria. It features a public park landscape with rammed earth pavilions emerging from the landscape housing a space for public debates to discuss future visions and how to rebuild communities, urbanities and regions through new experimental ideas and processes. It also includes work spaces for the Healing Landscapes programme team, editorial teams and other teams working on projects for Syrian public benefit. Exhibition spaces on the site showcase current projects and innovative architectural works. The node re-introduces the much-loved Damascus Fair as a space for exchange and learning in the park landscape with a pop up network of temporary pavilions to be designed by Syrian architects and designers, and which will tour Syria to engage the Syrian fringes and connect the network nodes. The landscape is inviting the curious public of all ages to engage in giving and testing ideas and learning about what is happening in the different parts of Syria.
The node is a condensed representation of productive Syrian landscapes. It references elements from across the country to nurture awareness around Syria's nature and reconnect communities to their landscapes.
The site is located in central Damascus along the banks of the Barada River, the city’s source of life. Historically, the site was on the boundary between the old Damascus city and its rural hinterlands and today the river corridor boasts cultural and educational institutions including the National Opera, the National Library, the National Museum, Damascus University Faculty of Architecture, Engineering, Law and the Sciences as well as the Higher Institute for Performance Arts who will all be active in the the life of the project.
The design is inspired by the Syrian landscape and vernacular mud brick beehive houses in the North of Syria moulding the essence of the landscape into aesthetic and comfortable spaces. The rammed earth pavilions in the project landscape form tall spaces of rammed earth sides and perforated screen sides creating a strong interior with playful shadows.
The exhibition spaces are carved into the project landscape following its topography. They are open towards the site's valley and marked by the Regional Lanterns - glazed light towers with multimedia exhibition environments showcasing landscapes from other Syrian regions and guiding visitors around the site along the Mountain Walk.
The project landscape promotes caring for the environment. It presents a variety of trees native to Syria which are chosen to reflect the temporality of activites on site and reconnect people with the cycle of nature. Trees already on site like poplar, juniper, oak and a sole palm tree are kept in their habitat and new trees are grown in the landscape with the local community.
The site has open boundaries to be inviting and will engage the community through an active events and workshop programme and collaborations with local school and universities as well as local businesses.