It may seem premature in the midst of the horrific destruction at the hands of all combatants, but especially Syrian and Russian forces, to imagine a future for this city, once home to more than two million. It is, in fact, already being planned. And the reconstruction of Aleppo is itself a site of struggle. When the fighting ends, the city will, in one way or another, be rebuilt. But on whose terms?
As one urban planner told the Guardian, “If we don’t start with a reconstruction plan now, we’ll pay for it for the rest of our lives, because the moment there’s a peace agreement, international investors, especially from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon along with corrupt officials from the Syrian government, will pounce on the city and guarantee that Aleppo loses its historical face once and for all.” To that end, plans are already being drawn up, ranging from the speculative — like those from a housing competition organized last summer by an architectural group called Matter Better, open to Syrians and non-Syrians alike — to the technical, by a group of Syrians in Beirut working on a UN-backed project called the National Agenda for the Future of Syria. Syrian and German architects in Berlin, many of whom worked with GTZ in Aleppo, have their own initiative, Strategies for the Reconstruction of Aleppo. As the Guardian described these efforts, “the movement plans to reconstruct the city regardless of who wins the war.”
That now looks like Bashar al-Assad’s regime. And the reconstruction of Aleppo on Assad’s terms could be another conflict in itself.
The full article appears in Even no. 6, published in spring 2017.