Posts tagged with "Syria":

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AIANY misses the mark with its photography show of Syrian architecture

Last month, I attended the opening of an exhibition by the American Institute of Architects, New York Chapter (AIANY) at the Center for Architecture, showcasing photographs of ancient Syrian architecture and civilization. The exhibition, titled ​Syria Before the Deluge​, was by far the most disappointing and superficial work I’ve seen displayed at AIANY. At first, I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly was bothering me so much about this elegant display of black and white photographs of ancient Syrian landmarks. After all, I’m a Syrian architect and I should be thrilled for an event that is calling attention to Syria’s ancient civilization and architecture, especially when delivered by a renowned architectural photographer, Peter Aaron. But the truth of the matter is that this exhibition failed to inform the audience of anything of value about the history of present of Syria, a country whose history, like its architecture, has been shaped and reshaped by the rule of a totalitarian barbaric regime that systematically plundered and reduced Syria’s history over the past six decades to what we see today, and what Aaron photographed in his 2009 visit. The photographs showcase Aleppo and Palmyra, two of Syria’s most iconic jewels. Yet nowhere on the walls of the exhibition is there a mention of the residents of Aleppo, or Palmyra, or Damascus, whose ancestors built these ruins. All that is shown are pictures of ancient structures with sympathy-provoking captions like ​“this structure was destroyed during the civil war in 2015.” Nowhere does it say who bombed the iconic Umayyad Mosque’s minaret in Aleppo, burned the city’s historic Souk, turned the Citadel of Aleppo into a military barrack, and caused the displacement of half of Syria’s population. These issues were simply left out of the exhibit narrative. The exhibit also fails to mention those who systematically looted Palmyra’s treasures since the 1950s and turned the very name of Palmyra into a symbol of terror for millions of Syrians due to the infamous Palmyra prison. A high-security prison in the middle of the desert that allegedly witnessed the most gruesome massacres against political activists among countless other violations of human rights during the Assad ruling. None of that was in the exhibit. Just an orientalist, romanticized narrative about a beautiful civilization that once was but is no more. Occasionally, Isis is cited as the force of evil that ruined what is portrayed as ancient oriental heaven of architecture and civilization.   In the abstract introduction to the event, Aaron writes: “[Syria’s] tolerant atmosphere has quickly disintegrated due to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism,” a statement that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Syrian society was ravaged by the Ba’ath regime's tactics of planting fear and mistrust between minorities and the Muslim majority over decades of an authoritarian ruling. In one corner of the exhibit, the curators reach peak tone-deafness with a picture that shows a young man riding a horse with a massive picture of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, in the background, with the caption reading: “Portrait of President Bashar al-Assad at a private riding club in the Damascus suburbs.” No mention of the 500,000 that this president is accused of killing over the past eight years. Throughout the event, the war is referred to as the “Syrian Civil War.” I personally find that term lacking in nuance and indicative of ignorance in the Syrian cause. Anyone who’s done any amount of reading about Syria would know that this naming is both factually and morally wrong. Factually, because when Russian air fighters are bombing rebelling neighborhoods with the support of Iranian ground troops, it’s not so much of a civil war as a proxy war involving two of the world’s most notorious armies spending billions of dollars to preserve the ruling of their puppet in Damascus. It’s also morally wrong to equal a rebelling people, that was bombarded, displaced, and starved for eight years after demanding freedom and democracy, with a regime that unapologetically used chemical weapons against that same people. When I raised these issues to a Syrian friend, she wondered about why I would raise political issues in an architectural event. A few months back, I attended an event at AIANY where my former Columbia professor, Michael Murphy, talked with Michael Sorkin about the political aspect of architecture. The event was titled ​Architecture is Never Neutral​ and it portrayed a very different narrative from the one I saw last week. That event explored in depth how being “apolitical” is the most political act anyone can take in situations of injustice. Syria is far from being an exception to that rule. This exhibit not only failed Syrians by failing to tell the true story of their country, but also failed the visitors who will leave knowing little about the current status of a 4,000-year-old civilization, and the ancestors who built that civilization. AIANY can take steps to make the remainder of this exhibit a more nuanced representation of Syria’s recent history by recaptioning the photographs to be more reflective of Syria’s current state, starting with the picture of Syria’s ruthless tyrant, Bashar al-Assad.
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A French startup is using drones and AI to save the world's architectural heritage

Now active in over 30 countries around the world, French startup Iconem is working to preserve global architectural and urban heritage one photograph at a time. Leveraging complex modeling algorithms, drone technology, cloud computing, and, increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI), the firm has documented major sites like Palmyra and Leptis Magna, producing digital versions of at-risk sites at resolutions never seen, and sharing their many-terabyte models with researchers and with the public in the form of exhibitions, augmented reality experiences, and 1:1 projection installations across the globe. AN spoke with founder and CEO Yves Ubelmann, a trained architect, and CFO Etienne Tellier, who also works closely on exhibition development, about Iconem’s work, technology, and plans for the future. The Architect's Newspaper: Tell me a bit about how Iconem got started and what you do. Yves Ubelmann: I founded Iconem six years ago. At the time I was an architect working in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iran, in Syria. In the field, I was seeing the disappearance of archeological sites and I was concerned by that. I wanted to find a new way to record these sites and to preserve them even if the sites themselves might disappear in the future. The idea behind Iconem was to use new technology like drones and artificial intelligence, as well as more standard digital photography, in order to create a digital copy or model of the site along with partner researchers in these different countries. AN: You mentioned drones and AI; what technology are you using? YU: We have a partnership with a lab in France, the INRIA (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique/National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation). They discovered an algorithm that could transform a 2D picture into a 3D point cloud, which is a projection of every pixel of the picture into space. These points in the point cloud in turn reproduce the shape and the color of the environment, the building and so on. It takes billions of points that reproduce the complexity of a place in a photorealistic manner, but because the points are so tiny and so huge a number that you cannot see the point, but you see only the shape on the building in 3D. Etienne Tellier: The generic term for the technology that converts the big datasets of pictures into 3D models is photogrammetry. YU: Which is just one process. Even still, photogrammetry was invented more than 100 years ago…Before it was a manual process and we were only able to reproduce just a part of the wall or something like that. Big data processing has led us to be able to reproduce a huge part of the real environment. It’s a very new way of doing things. Just in the last two years, we’ve become able to make a copy of an entire city—like Mosul or Aleppo—something not even possible before. We also have a platform to manage this huge amount of data and we’re working with cloud computing. In the future we want to open this platform to the public. AN: All of this technology has already grown so quickly. What do you see coming next? YU: Drone technology is becoming more and more efficient. Drones will go farther and farther, because batteries last longer, so we can imagine documenting sites that are not accessible to us, because they're in a rebel zone, for example. Cameras also continue to become better and better. Today we can produce a model with one point for one millimeter and I think in the future we will be able to have ten points for one millimeter. That will enable us to see every detail of something like small writing on a stone. ET: Another possible evolution, and we are already beginning to see this happen thanks to artificial intelligence, is automatic recognition of what is shown by a 3D model. That's something you can already have with 2D pictures. There are algorithms that can analyze a 2D picture and say, "Oh okay, this is a cat. This is a car." Soon there will probably also be the same thing for 3D models, where algorithms will be able to detect the architectural components and features of your 3D model and say, "Okay, this is a Corinthian column. This dates back to the second century BC." And one of the technologies we are working on is the technology to create beautiful images from 3D models. We’ve had difficulties to overcome because our 3D models are huge. As Yves said before, they are composed of billions of points. And for the moment there is no 3D software available on the market that makes it possible to easily manipulate a very big 3D model in order to create computer-generated videos. So what we did is we created our own tool, where we don't have to lower the quality of our 3D models. We can keep the native resolution quality photorealism of our big 3D models, and create very beautiful videos from them that can be as big as a 32K and can be projected onto very big areas. There will be big developments in this field in the future. AN: Speaking of projections, what are your approaches to making your research accessible? Once you've preserved a site, how does it become something that people can experience, whether they're specialists or the public? YU: There are two ways to open this data to the public. The first way is producing digital exhibitions that people can see, which we are currently doing today for many institutions all over the world. The other way is to give access directly to the raw data, from which you can take measurements or investigate a detail of architecture. This platform is open to specialists, to the scientific community, to academics. The first exhibition we did was with the Louvre in Paris at the Grand Palais for an exhibition called Sites Éternels [Eternal Sites] where we projection mapped a huge box, 600 square meters [6,458 square feet], with 3D video. We were able to project monuments like the Damascus Mosque or Palmyra sites and the visitors are surrounded by it at a huge scale. The idea is to reproduce landscape, monuments, at scale of one to one so the visitor feels like they’re inside the sites. AN: So you could project one to one? ET: Yes, we can project one to one. For example, in the exhibition we participated to recently, in L'Institut du monde arabe in Paris, we presented four sites: Palmyra, Aleppo, Mosul, and Leptis Magna in Libya. And often the visitor could see the sites at a one to one scale. Leptis Magna was quite spectacular because people could see the columns at their exact size. It really increased the impact and emotional effect of the exhibition. All of this is very interesting from a cultural standpoint because you can create immersive experiences where the viewer can travel through a whole city. And they can discover not only the city as a whole but also the monuments and the architectural details. They can switch between different scales—the macro scale of a city; the more micro one of the monument; and then the very micro one of a detail—seamlessly. AN: What are you working on now? ET: Recently, we participated in an exhibition that was financed by Microsoft that was held in Paris, at the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, a museum that has replicas of the most important sites in France. They're 3D architectural replicas or maquettes that can be 3 meter [apx. 10 feet] wide that were commissioned by Louis XIV and created during the 17th century because he wanted to have replicas to prepare a defense in case of an invasion. Recently, Microsoft wanted to create an exhibition using augmented reality and they proposed making an experience in this museum in Paris, focusing on the replicas of Mont-Saint-Michel, the famous site in France. We 3D scanned this replica of Mont-Saint-Michel, and also 3D scanned the actual Mont-Saint-Michel, to create an augmented reality experience in partnership with another French startup. We made very precise 3D models of both sites—the replica and the real site—and used the 3D models to create the holograms that were embedded and superimposed. Through headsets visitors would see a hologram of water going up and surrounding the replica of Mont-Saint-Michel. You could see the digital and the physical, the interplay between the two. And you could also see the site as it was hundreds of years before. It was a whole new experience relying on augmented reality and we were really happy to take part in this experience. This exhibition should travel to Seattle soon.
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Syria Before the Deluge is a poignant photographic journey through prewar Syria

In 2009, architectural photographer Peter Aaron set out to Syria with his wife Brooke Allen, an author and professor of literature at Bennington College, and their two daughters. Armed with a Canon 5D modified to only register infrared light, Aaron began a two-week journey in a minivan to visit 15 sites across Syria. Put on exhibition at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, what began as a personal collection stemming from a family vacation has developed into the photographic project that is Syria Before the Deluge.

Since the start of the Syrian Civil War, there has been no dearth of imagery and footage bringing the horrors and destruction of the conflict to an international audience. The country’s history has been relegated to a veritable carousel slide projection of architectural and human destruction; Aleppo lies in Stalingrad-esque ruins while pent-up political and sectarian animosity has unleashed one calamity after the next, at a level not witnessed since the Yugoslav Wars. Syria Before the Deluge presents the country's ancient architectural heritage in 40 images of breathtaking detail, clearing the fog of war by casting a humanizing light on the war’s victims with scenes of daily life and placing the conflict within the vast continuity of the region’s civilization.

Traversing the country’s ancient urban centers of Damascus and Aleppo, through their many souqs, mosques, and labyrinthine streets, Aaron’s images display a vibrant contemporary society inhabiting the successive layers of the old. Remains of Roman civilization are embedded within these urban ensembles, sites such as Damascus’s Bab Sharqi, a Roman arch topped with a medieval minaret, have collected the accretions of time with Islamic and Roman architectural pieces—towering minarets and geometric spandrels—abutting contemporary concrete construction. 

Outside of the country’s principal demographic centers, past the Aramaic-speaking mountain towns of Reef Demashq, the “dead cities” of northwestern Syria are depicted as moraine-like vestiges dotting the rugged arid landscape. The abandoned urban settlements, numbering over seven hundred, are the hallmarks of a Byzantine civilization that gradually vanished, with its Greco-Roman architectural language of archways, colonnades, and carefully proportioned stone ashlar. The author notes that the current refugee crisis afflicting Syria has led to a renewed life for the "dead cities" as an embattled shelter for those fleeing the civil war's armed factions. 

Where Syria Before the Deluge rises to a work of historical record is in Aaron's depiction of UNESCO World Heritage Sites now ravaged by the conflict. Palmyra's Temple of Bel, infamously exploded by ISIL, which documented the event for the world to see, is captured in its ruinous magnificence as a global exemplar of Greco-Roman and Middle Eastern architectural syncretism, with nearly 50-foot tall fluted Corinthian columns and detailed Middle Eastern scenes. Located less than 15 miles from the Turkish border, the Church of St. Simeon Stylites, now subject to multiple military incursions and aerial bombardments, still stands—complex stonework along its archways, pediments, remnants of vaults, and all. Considering their historical role as military bastions, it is none too surprising that the imposing Crusader castle of Krak des Chevaliers and the Citadel of Aleppo have renewed their intended functions. Over their millennium-long existence, the forts, like Syria itself, have passed through the hands of Kurds, Christians, Ottomans, and Arabs, with Aaron capturing the layering of one civilization's architectural character over the next. It is on this note that the author expands: the general audience cannot "comprehend the intense concentration of ancient structures; many of them have been in continuous use for centuries and even millennia, through waves of different civilizations.” Through pictorially contextualizing the current civil war within Syria's successive waves of invasions, cultural flowering, and internal strife, Syria Before the Deluge inspires a degree of hope that the region will emerge again from the ruins.

Syria Before the Deluge Peter Aaron, Blurb $150.00

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Sightings at the Venice Biennale and news from the UC Berkeley expansion

Eavesdrop from Venice We were wondering if we would see any celebs in Venice this year—perhaps Brad Pitt and Neri Oxman would be strolling the Giardini, or maybe Kanye West would show up at the Arsenale. But instead, AN editors ran into none other than legendary comedian and actor Chevy Chase, who was spending the week at the Biennale. Chase was in town because his old friend, photographer Peter Aaron, was showing a series of pictures about pre-Civil War Syria. Aaron’s wife wasn’t able to make the trip, so Chevy—an old college friend—came with him. The pair was spotted dining with the Architectural League’s Anne Reiselbach at a small osteria in the San Polo neighborhood. What national pavilion at the Venice Biennale seemingly featured more Americans than the U.S. Pavilion? The Dutch! With GSAPP’s curatorial program—including Mark Wasiuta, Felicity Scott, and Dutch Pavilion curator and CCCP grad Marina Otera—talking to themselves and their friends, as well as Beatriz Colomina in bed with other (mostly New York) friends, it seemed more like a U.S. academy than the actual U.S. pavilion. Now that Eva Franch i Gilabert is packing up her paella pans and heading to Brexitland, the Storefront for Art and Architecture needs a new director. It is currently assembling a list of prospective directors from over 100 applicants. A new director will need to be in place by early fall. In the world of architects’ archives, two of the biggest have recently been promised to major collecting organizations, and we will reveal them shortly. Stay tuned. People's Park No More
The University of California, Berkeley recently announced intentions to make good on a 70-year-old plan to convert the university’s People’s Park into a student housing site. The school hopes to replace the notorious park—site of the 1969 “Bloody Thursday” police violence incident—with new student housing structures containing up to 1,000 beds. The move will displace many of the people currently living in and around the park, which officials have likened to a “daytime homeless shelter.” Plans for the site are still in the works, but the university is considering dedicating a portion of the site to supportive housing and social services. The housing is due to be completed by 2022, according to a UC Berkeley spokesperson.
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IKEA recreates war-torn Syrian house inside Norwegian flagship store

Swedish furniture purveyor IKEA is usually synonymous with picture-perfect homes filled with flat-pack designs. At its flagship store in Slependen, Norway, however, a showroom space—where the best model interiors are usually on display—is instead showcasing a dwelling straight from Syria. Working with the Norwegian Red Cross foundation, IKEA has reproduced a war-torn Syrian house. Called 25m^2 Syria, the installation features bare concrete masonry units and a space bereft of any notable furnishings, let alone any from the likes of IKEA. (For those wondering, 25 square meters equates to 269 square feet). 25m^2 is based on a real-life house on the outskirts of Damascus, the capital of the war-torn state. The apartment in Syria belongs to a woman named Rana and her family of nine, of whom pictures can be found on the walls inside. Despite its jarring effect in the store, some of IKEA brand identity can be found inside 25m^2. Typical IKEA tags that usually display prices and product information here tell stories of Rana and her family. They shed light on the Syrian way of life and the daily struggles many Syrians endure such as food and medication shortages and lack of access to clean water. The concept was initially brought to life by Norwegian advertising agency POL. Through the installation, the company hopes to raise money for "TV-Aksjonen," an effort with the Norwegian Red Cross to collect donations to aid those living in war zones. An explicit plea for donations is also written on the walls of the mock-Syrian space. In a statement POL said:
It was important to get the public involved, and to really understand where the help was going. So the decision to build a replica of a Syrian home at IKEA was made. IKEA’s vision is ‘to create a better everyday life for the may people’. So this partnership was both natural, giving and especially relevant for the cause.
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Problems in Palmyra: How should we rebuild our ancient ruins?

"The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth and serve only as a transport station for the Wehrmacht. No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation," said SS chief Heinrich Himmler, referring to the Polish city of Warsaw in 1944. When Warsaw was systematically flattened by the Nazi party in World War II, an estimated 85-90 percent of buildings, including the 18th Century Old Town, were destroyed. Such was the state of decimation that post-war town planners had to refer to 18th century paintings of the city by Italian artists Marcello Bacciarelli and Bernardo Bellotto to aid its reconstruction. Despite infighting between planners, some of whom wanted to use the clean slate to radically modernize the city, and with minimal help from neighboring states, the citizens of Warsaw rebuilt the city. Now, the reconstructed Old Town of Warsaw is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but what does this say about the role of architectural preservation and authenticity? In light of ISIS's path of destruction, which has seen the loss of architectural treasures across the Middle East, many are already seeking ways to restore monuments that have been destroyed. And similar questions about authenticity are entering broad public discourse. The 1,800-year-old Arch of Triumph in Palmyra, Syria is one of the latest ancient monuments to be toppled by ISIS. However, Oxford’s Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA), had other ideas about its fate. The team, spearheaded by director Roger Michel, has faithfully remade a facsimile of the arch.
Using marble donated from Egypt, 3D modeling tools, and photographs of the original Roman arch, the Arch of Triumph has been reconstructed in London's Trafalgar Square. Here it resided for only 3 days before touring the world, due in New York this September. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bq4_-iBCqp8 The Arch's restoration, however, has sparked a debate on whether we should restore such monuments. "History would never forgive us" writes Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, who says that ISIS's destruction should remain as a reminder of the horror they inflicted on the city and the Middle East. The Arch has also been hailed as "unethical" and a "reconstruction of 'Disneyland' archaeology." Indeed, it is worth noting that few people were aware of Palmyra before ISIS stormed in and 'put it on the map' so to speak (albeit in the most sinister of fashion). Michel, on the other hand, argues "Monuments—as embodiments of history, religion, art, and science—are significant and complex repositories of cultural narratives. No one should consider for one second giving terrorists the power to delete such objects from our collective cultural record." He also adds: “No one would have seriously considered leaving London in ruins after the blitz." Jones, however, counters that "Palmyra was in ruins before ISIS occupied it and it is still in ruins today." Yet the Palmyra ruins, before ISIS came along, were already a World Heritage Site. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Auxr7QozFxE With regards to Michel’s comment on the Blitz, the Marshall plan aided London and other major cities, however, the world didn’t donate to Brest, Dresden, Coventry, and Croydon when they were bombed. Admittedly, these cities all belonged to world powers, but historical buildings nonetheless were still lost. What’s interesting in Britain is how post-war architecture is now cherished, with many brutalist structures being nationally listed. The case of Coventry and its Cathedral is a poignant example. Such was the decimation of the city that Luftwaffe coined the phrased “to coventrate." As a result, the city’s 14th Century cathedral was blown out, but its successor, built by Basil Spence and Arup is now a Grade 1 Listed Building — the highest level of protection grantable. Here, a new history has been born. But should Palmyra be awarded the same respect? Or does the age of its ancient ruins nullify this?
Stefan Simon is the Inaugural Director of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH) at Yale University, an organization dedicated to advancing the field of heritage science by improving the science and practice of conservation in a sustainable manner. Speaking to AN, Simon commented on how reconstruction is not a new phenomena. "It's not only about civil unrest, war, and man-made disaster'" he said. "It's also sometimes about natural disaster. The [Sungnyemun] City Gate of Seoul, national treasure number one of south Korea, burned down in 2008 and was reconstructed."
"If you go down to the conservation of archaeological sites in general, there has been for example the charter of Venice in 1964. Those charters and others speak to how to deal with ruins and processes like reconstruction, while respecting authenticity and integrity of a site. I would say while the Palmyran situation is unique in one sense, in the sense of restoration and conservation, it isn't so new."
A lesson on how not to rebuild history can be seen in Skopje, Macedonia. The baroque and neo-classical buildings, part of "Skopje 2014" (completed in 2015) constructed in the last six years create an altogether alienating experience. Seen by many as an attempt to rewrite history through architecture, the project tries to paint over the built monuments of its socialist and Yugoslavian past and has consequently been cloaked in controversy. Here the existing architectural dialogue has been lost among the myriad of misplaced nostalgia. Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's taste for baroque neo-classical facadism and obsession with classical history has resulted in seemingly satirical postmodern architecture, typified by a "laughable" statue of Alexander the Great. Suffice to say, Skopje is not a world heritage site. As for Palmyra though, the scale of restoration is another point of discussion, as is who's duty it is to rebuild it. If the stamp of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site is any barometer to abide by, then Warsaw sets a precedent in that reconstruction does little to alter authenticity. As to who should undertake the restoration, however, remains open. Simon Jenkins, chairman of England Wales and Northern Ireland's National Trust asks "How much of what has gone should be restored? By what means, and by whom? And where does Palmyra belong, to Syria or the world?" In a globalized era, does the status of being a piece "world" heritage signify global ownership and responsibility? Politics has also plagued the issue: former London Mayor Boris Johnson has backed Michel and demanded that “British archaeologists be in the forefront of the project,” especially considering how “ineffective” Britain was in safeguarding the site originally. And so leading the way, for now at least, is Oxford’s Institute for Digital Archaeology. However, they aren't the only conservation group to go digital. Taking a different approach, yet still using technology, are a group of three under the name “project_agama." The team, led by Lauren Connell, an architect at BIG, are touring parts of the Middle East to translate the intricate patterns on ancient tiling into code. Aided by Baris Yuksel, an engineer at Google and Alexis Burson, an associate at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, they aim to “make sure that our common heritage is digitized, but not to be saved, instead to find new life in the new buildings.” To achieve this, the code transcriptions of pattern-work are made accessible through an open source Grasshopper plug-in that makes for “easy panelization of tessellated tile patterns.”

“This process will both create a record of these works for future generations as well as allow them to be translated into something completely modern and malleable,” the team say on their website. Their approach is arguably much less intrusive than what is being exhibited in Palmyra, however, as a project in progress, its effectiveness remains to be seen.

Speaking specifically about the Palmyra Arch of Triumph replica erected at Trafalgar Square, Stefan Simon hinted at the emergence of a new industrial era. "This ties into a challenge we all are facing—the 4th industrial revolution, the new digital age, providing us with both opportunities and challenges," he said. "3D documentation will help us tremendously in conservation, but the discussion on 3D-recreations however, for me, this is interesting more as a process, not so much as a product. This is just a replica, has nothing to do with what shall happen at the site," Simon commented. "That is a very personal view. I understand it has tremendous potential, for sure, and there are many groups and consortia who are working to document cultural heritage, movable and immovable, in Syria and elsewhere. For example, together with ICOMOS and the California NGO CyArk, we collaborate at Yale IPCH with the Syrian DGAM in the Anqa Project on documenting architectural monuments and sites and providing open access to these data for scholars and global community." Further dilemmas though continue to be raised, which Simon addresses. "What do you do with this digitally-born data? How do you preserve that, make sure it doesn't disappear or the media become obsolete?" Simon asked. "We [conservation professionals], many of us material-focused people, we tend to largely underestimate the challenges linked to the 3D era. I see this virtual world, the 3D recording of sites positively , but we shouldn't mix that up with the conservation of a site. It isn't the same."
Simon also argues that the arch's reconstruction is "certainly a process that needs to be guided by UNESCO and the advisory bodies to the world heritage convention like ICCROM and ICOMOS. We first have to understand that there's a strong interest of the Syrian people to just see Palmyra rise again, if I may say that so simply."
Withdrawing pressure over the Palmyra site is another factor Simon stresses. "I understand the political pressures but as conservation professionals we need to comply first and foremost with professional standards," he said. "Pressure, in such circumstances, can lead to undesirable results. Sometimes more damage can result from a fast and quick approach of repairing and reconstructing, than by the actual disaster."
  "With the attention focusing on Palmyra," he continued, "let's not forget there's tremendous destruction at other World Heritage sites like Aleppo, where the front line passes through the center essentially since 2012, and many other cities. Recently, the commercial quarter of Asrouniyeh in the Old City of Damascus, dating back to the end of of the Ottoman period, was heavily damaged by a rampant fire. With all concerns on Palmyra, we must not forget the Syrian people, who are suffering terribly since years."

The case for conservation, it seems, will always be a source of debate. Though as architecture critic Jonathan Glancey notes in his book, aptly titled Lost Buildings, “Throughout history humankind has made something of a habit of losing buildings as if these were nothing more substantial than copper coin, a hairpin or set of car keys. Even with our greatest and most celebrated monuments we have been, to say the least, careless.”

Perhaps then, it is best we try our best not to add this growing list of deceased buildings. The Palmyra Arch of Triumph "MkII" will eventually make its way to the city after its globetrotting adventure. However, there it will reside only a stones throw away from its 'original' location. Whether it stands as part of a "new" history for Palmyra, or merely fades into its original past, only time will tell.

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A giant 3D printer will replicate an ancient temple destroyed by ISIS

Replicas of the entrance arch of the ancient Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, will be recreated using a giant 3D printer for World Heritage Week in London and New York. The recreations are intended to defy the actions of extremist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which destroyed a large portion of the nearly 2,000-year-old temple building in August of last year. The arch, which is nearly 50 feet high, is one of the few relics standing after ISIS sought to systematically destroy Palmyra in an effort to erase the pre-Islamic history of the Middle East. https://twitter.com/middleeasthist/status/683281394202742784 Before the conflict in Syria ignited in 2011, Palmyra’s rich cultural heritage drew more than 150,000 tourists each year. The temple, which was founded in A.D. 32 and consecrated to the Mesopotamian god Bel, was exemplary of the fusion of Middle Eastern, Greek, and Roman influences and was considered to be one of the most important sites in Palmyra. The temple was converted into a Christian church during the Byzantine era, and then into a mosque when Islam arrived around the 7th century. In recent times, the Temple of Bel was an important cultural venue for Syrians, acting as a setting for concerts and events. The Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA), a joint venture between Harvard University, the University of Oxford, and Dubai’s Museum of the Future that promotes the use of digital imaging and 3D printing in archaeology and conservation, is taking the lead on the recreation efforts. Last year, the organization collaborated with UNESCO in the distribution of 3D cameras so that volunteer photographers could document threatened cultural objects in areas of conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. The images are to be uploaded to a “million-image database” for use in research, educational programs, and ultimately 3D replication, as in the case of the Temple of Bel. Although the Temple of Bel was demolished before photographers with 3D cameras could capture it, researchers at the IDA have been able to create 3D approximations of the temple using ordinary photographs. The full-size replica arches, to be made from stone powder and a lightweight composite, will be created off-site and then assembled in Trafalgar Square and Times Square for display this April.
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The RE:BUILD Project offers shelter and education to displaced Syrian refugees

The civil war in Syria has created millions of refugees forced to flee hostilities for safer ground. Those numbers include, according to the United Nations' refugee agency and Save the Children, more than 1.3 million children under the age of 18. To help house those staggering populations, nonprofit Pilosio Building Peace has teamed up with architects Pouya Khazaeli and Cameron Sinclair to build economical architecture designed to house refugees who have been uprooted by war. Cameron Sinclair, former founder of Architecture for Humanity and current founder of for-purpose design firm Small Works, collaborated with Iranian architect Pouya Khazaeli to ensure meaningful social and cultural impact for the project. Their 52-foot-square re-deployable buildings are located in Amman, Jordan at refugee camps Rania Park and Zaatar. The structures can serve as houses, schools, or clinics. A team of ten workers and $33,000 was able to construct the so-called RE:BUILD project. The buildings use earth as a primary construction material. The complex consists of all locally-sourced materials ranging from framework made from scaffolding tubes, walls assembled using earth and sand (also functioning as a natural insulator), to a roof fashioned from steel panels. RE:BUILD is both structurally sound and environmentally friendly as water and electricity are not required. The project also offers refugees the chance to get involved in a hands-on experience by allowing them to assist with assembling the structures. This opportunity, organizers say, provides the refugees with a glimpse into the experience of transforming what appears to be a helpless situation into positive progress.
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ISIS militants demolish ancient heritage sites in Syria after vowing to leave them unharmed

World heritage sites in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria are being bombed by the militant group ISIS. The 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin and Temple of Bel in Palmyra, designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, have allegedly been destroyed by the terrorist group. Images featuring the explosion posted through social-media accounts in affiliation with ISIS depict the bombings. The destruction of these ancient temples follows the public execution of Khaled al-Assad, age 82, a scholar and keeper of Palmyra and Syrian antiquities at the hands of ISIS militants on Tuesday, August 18. According to an Associated Press report in the Los Angeles Times, a UNESCO official said the removal of these monuments is the "most brutal, systematic" destruction of historic sites since World War II. ISIS has also targeted other ancient sites including St. Elian Monastery and its 5th century tomb, the report added. UNESCO has called these demolitions war crimes. In late August, the group struck again at the Temple of Bel. The Guardian reported on August 30 that the group made the claim over social media. The structure was built in 32 AD. After gaining control of the city early March 2015, ISIS' commander in Palmyra, Abu Laith al-Saoudy, was reported stating that it was the group's intention to preserve and leave unharmed the historic city of Palmyra. "What we will do is break the idols that the infidels used to worship. The historic buildings will not be touched and we will not bring bulldozers to destroy them like some people think.”
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Culture at Risk: World Monuments Fund Watch List Includes Palisades, FLW's Taliesin

The World Monuments Fund has announced its 2014 Watch List for cultural sites at risk by changes in economy, society, and politics within their respective countries and disrepair due to natural forces. For 2014, the Monument Watch List, compiled and released every two years since 1996, has cited 67 heritage risks in 41 countries and territories around the world. These sites range from Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1911-built Taliesin home in Wisconsin, submissive to elements of weathering, to the tree-lined Palisades cliffs in New York and New Jersey, jeopardized by corporate construction plans, to all of the cultural sites of Syria, risked by current war conflict. Taliesin, Spring Green, Wisconsin The World Monuments Fund explains:
The low-lying structures of Taliesin seem in harmony with the rugged landscape, neither feature imposing upon the other. But the forces of nature, including exposure to the elements over time, have put the complex at risk. Taliesin was included on the 2010 Watch to draw attention to these issues, and now the Hillside Theater, the most public of the spaces at Taliesin, is suffering from water infiltration, perimeter drainage issues, a failing roof, and other problems with the building envelope. Due to the experimental nature of the design and materials used to construct Taliesin, the structures face special conservation challenges requiring extensive research and innovative solutions.
Cultural Heritage Sites of Syria The World Monuments Fund explains:
Escalating violence in Syria since 2011 has had devastating effects on the country’s cultural heritage. From the ancient souk, or marketplace, in Aleppo, to the iconic Crac des Chevaliers—two castles that were built between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries as regional fortifications during the Crusades—to Qal’at al-Mudiq, an archaeological tell that forms part of the classical city of Apamea, the destruction of Syria’s most significant and symbolic sites is of urgent and primary concern, with irreversible implications for the country’s architectural legacy.
The Cloisters and the Palisades, New York and New Jersey The World Monuments Fund explains:
The Cloisters Museum itself houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of European medieval art and incorporates monastic architectural elements in its design including stone and stained-glass panels for the doors, and windows. Since its opening in 1938, a defining feature of visiting the Cloisters is an extraordinary vista across the Hudson River to the Palisades. Plans are underway to construct a corporate headquarters and a residential complex on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, modifying zoning legislation to accommodate towers that rise above the once protected tree line of the Palisades. ... An appeal is underway, and it is hoped that inclusion on the Watch will raise awareness about the loss to future generations posed by this development and others that may follow.
East Japan Earthquake Heritage Sites After a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and related tsunami hit Japan on March 11, 2011, the World Monuments Fund set the heritage sites of the coastal regions of Tohoku and Kanto on its 2012 Watch List. Since then, the WMF collaborated with the Foundation for Cultural Heritage and Art Research to save over 700 national monuments affected by the disaster. Several historic architectural structures were damaged or destroyed by the power of the quake. Although progress has been made, the landmarks which are important to the tourism of the region, are still at risk, in need of grants for continued restoration. Güell Pavilions and Garden, Barcelona, Spain The World Monuments Fund explains:
After Güell's death the estate was converted into a palace for the Spanish Royal Family. The site was later acquired by the University of Barcelona during its expansion into this area in the 1950s, and it now forms part of the Avinguda Diagonal campus of the university. Public access to the garden has been limited, but a new master plan prepared by the university and the city's Municipal Institute of Urban Landscape and Quality of Life provides for improved access to the site by visitors and expanded use for university events. Repairs to the structures are necessary, and a project to rehabilitate the roof of the stable is already underway with funding from the Spanish Ministry of Education. More resources are needed to implement this well-conceived plan for the benefit of all citizens of Barcelona, and the millions who visit this enchanting city every year.
Elevators of Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile The World Monuments Fund explains:
The Elevators of Valparaíso have been included on the 2014 Watch to emphasize the continuing need for the restoration of the city’s most picturesque feature and an important vehicle for social interaction. The elevators have served as the main method of transportation along the city’s steep topography and were fundamental to its urban development. They symbolize Valparaíso’s preeminence as a maritime center, a position it lost after the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Of the 31 original elevators, only 15 remain, of which just 7 are operational. The loss of these vital transit arteries has had negative impacts on the city. A plan unifying community, municipal, and private entities in a collective effort to protect and maintain the elevators is needed to ensure their long-term survival and the revitalization of important neighborhoods in Valparaíso.
Cultural Heritage Sites of Mali Since armed conflicts began in Mali in 2012, the country’s heritage sites have been endangered and have suffered some damage. According to the WMF, “nine of the sixteen mausoleums within the World Heritage Site boundaries of Timbuktu were destroyed by rebel forces.” And now, troops are advancing to encroach on the Bandiagara Escarpment in Dogon country and the natural material architectural structures there. Christ Church at Zanzibar, Tanzania The World Monuments Fund explains:
Stone Town has a number of important sites that together have created a vibrant tourist industry, but sectarian conflict, lack of financial resources, and political issues pose ongoing challenges to implementing restoration projects on many of its sites. Nevertheless, plans are under development for formal training and capacity-building programs at Christ Church Cathedral, and there are strong networks in place for local stewardship of the site. Christ Church Cathedral and the Former Slave Market Site is included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch to promote its conservation and its role in a broader revitalization strategy for Stone Town; one that will be compelling to the international community but will also support Zanzibari citizens and their local economy.
Battersea Power Station, London, United Kingdom The World Monuments Fund explains:
Since 1983, Battersea Power Station has been closed to the public, marking a thirty-year period of abandonment and lack of appropriate maintenance. The station was first listed on the Watch in 2004, and its impending demolition was averted. Ten years later, the Power Station’s future is once again in question. Located on prime London real estate, the site is slated for imminent redevelopment. There is concern that current plans do not adequately protect the iconic chimneys and the important viewsheds of the power station’s silhouette. The local community is engaged and vested in the future of their swathe of London, and the international community recognizes the cultural significance of this twentieth-century icon. Inclusion on the Watch seeks to reinvigorate and contribute to conversations regarding the long-term stewardship of Battersea Power Station.
The complete list by country is as follows: Argentina · Church and Monastery of St. Catherine of Siena, Buenos Aires Armenia · Bardzrakash St. Gregory Monastery, Dsegh, Lori Province Belgium · Collegiale Sainte-Croix de Liege, Liege Brazil · Serra da Moeda, Minas Gerais Chile · Elevators of Alparaíso, Valparaíso · Palacio La Alhambra, Santiago China · Pokfulam Village, Hong Kong Colombia · Ancient Ridged Fields of the San Jorge River Floodplain, Córdoba and Sucre Departments Comoros · Funi Aziri Bangwe, Ikoni, Grande Comore Ecuador · Remigio Crespo Toral Museum, Cuenca, Azuay Province Egypt · Bayt-Al-Razzaz, Cairo Ethiopia · Yemrehanna Kristos, Amhara Region France · Churches of Saint-Merri and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, Paris Germany · Gaslight and Gas Lamps of Berlin, Berlin Guatemala · Uaxactun, Petén Department Guyana · Georgetown City Hall, Georgetown India · Historic City of Bidar, Karnataka · House of Shaikh Salim Chishti, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh · Juna Mahal, Dungarpur, Rajasthan Indonesia · Ngada Villages of Flores, Flores, Nusa Tenggara · Peceren and Dokan, Karo District, North Sumatra · Trowulan, Mojokerto, East Java Iraq · Khinnis Reliefs, Kurdistan Region Italy · Farnese Aviaries, Rome · Historic Center of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Abruzzo · Muro Dei Francesi, Ciampino, Province of Rome, Lazio · Venice, Venice, Veneto Japan · East Japan Earthquake Heritage Sites, Tohoku and Kanto Regions · Sanro-Den of Sukunahikona Shrine, Ozu, Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku Jordan · Damiya Dolmen Field, Damiya, Jordan Valley Kenya · Lamu Old Town, Lamu Macedonia · Monastery of Poloshko, Kavadarci Municipality Mali · Cultural Heritage Sites of Mali Mexico · Fundidora Park, Monterrey, Nuevo León · Retablos de los Altos de Chiapas, San Cristóbal de las Casas and Teopisca, Chiapas Mozambique · Island of Mozambique, Napula Province Myanbar · Yangon Historic City Center, Yangon Nigeria · Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, Osogbo, Osun State Pakistan · Shikarpoor Historic City Center, Shikarpoor Municipality Palestinian Territory · Ancient Irrigated Terraces of Battir, Bethlehem Governorate, West Bank Peru · Capilla de la Virgen Concebida de Kuchuhuasi, Quispicanchi, Cusco · Cerro Sechín, Casma, Ancash · Chan Chan, Trujilli, La Libertad · Gran Pajatén, Mariscal Céceres, San Martín Portugal · Fort of Graça, Elvas, Alentjo · Joanine Library of the University of Coimbra, Coimbra Romania · Great Synagogue of Iasi, Iasi · Wooden Churches of Northern Oltenia and Southern Transylvania, Northern Oltenia and Southern Transylvania Singapore · Bukit Brown Spain · Güell Pavilions and Garden, Barcelona · Iglesia Parroquial San Pedro Apóstol, Buenache de Alarcón, Cuenca Syria · Cultural Heritage Sites of Syria Tanzania · Christ Church Cathedral, Zanzibar, Stone Town, Zanzibar · Dar es Salaam Historic Center, Dar es Salaam · House of Wonders and Palace Museum, Stone Town, Zanzibar Turkey · Cathedral of Mren, Digor, Kars United Kingdom · Battersea Power Station, London · Deptform Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden, London · Grimsby Ice Factory and Kasbah, Grimsby, Lincolnshire · Sulgrave Manor, Sulgrave, Northamptonshire United States · Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas · George Najashima House, Studio, and Workshop, Bucks County, Pennsylvania · Henry Klumb House, San Juan, Puerto Rico · Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis, Missouri · Taliesin, Spring Green, Wisconsin · The Cloisters and Palisades, New York and New Jersey Venezuela · Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, Caracas
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Zaha Hadid: Right Angles Bad, Dictatorships Okay

The Guardian got up close and personal with Zaha Hadid in a recent, no-holds-barred interview where the Pritzker prize-winning architect gave her two cents on London’s “conservative” architecture climate and railed against rectangular buildings, revealing a nugget of wisdom that perhaps has eluded most designers: “The world is not a rectangle.” Beyond her dislike for conventional corner-oriented design, she also told the reporter that, at her firm, “we don’t make nice little buildings.” While quadrilaterals and “nice” architecture are out of the question, apparently designing in Syria isn’t. That is, unless it is an un-luxurious prison. “Well, I wouldn’t mind building in Syria,” Hadid told the paper. “I’m an Arab and if it helps people, if it’s an opera house or a parliament building, something for the masses, I would do it. But if someone asks me to build a prison, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t build a prison, irrespective of where it is, even if it was very luxurious.” What population living in a war-ravaged country doesn’t need a first-rate opera house?