The Battle For Home – The Memoirs of a Syrian Architect (Marwa Al-Sabouni)


A wayward & quaint-laden angle on the tragic Syrian conflict from the perspective of architect & writer Marwa Al-Soubani. A native Syrian, Marwa has a PHD in Islamic architecture, manages a private studio in Homs & has also written a plethora of articles for various municipal/architectural publications. Thus sets the excursion for a differing & more gentle perspective on the Syrian catastrophe than the blitzed & haggard bitterness of front-line reporters & warzone residents (The Battle For Home also contains a withal of sub-topics that may even become the books ultimate priority). The war itself is actually quite elusive with the author concentrating more on surrounding subjects. It delves into cultural destruction & defacement, corruption, gentrification & mindless “modernization”, particularly through the construction/architectural prism & it’s influence on citizens & communities. As she states in the introduction – “the world has watched with anguish as ISIS has vandalized or threatened treasured sites, including Palmyra in Syria and the Assyrian towns in Iraq. It has witnessed the tragic destruction of the Old Souks of Aleppo and Homs, along with countless other ancient buildings and relics caught in the crossfire. These losses, despite their severity, are of course incomparable to the human losses – the wasted and damaged lives of innocents, and the destruction of the social fabric – but they constitute further reasons for me to write this book: to consider the paths that have led to this ordeal and to shed light on the roll played by the built environment. I suggest that the failure to create architecture that can constitute a home for it’s users stems from a loss of identity, which in turn has causes that go deep into the psychology of our people. When we look at what is being built in the Middle East today and how it is being built, this loss of identity becomes glaringly apparent, as does the jarring disconnection between the rich heritage of the past and the empty modernism now being imported to form the present.”

We are in an awful epoch where ignorance is idolized whilst culture/creative complexity is being exterminated. Ersatz, substance-less pop-toxin bilge, intellectual impairment & homogenised urban-idiocy are prescribed from Russia, to China, to India, to South Korea, to Turkey & across The West, “emulating the error” or replicating the worst features of American failure seem to be the globalized initiative pretty much the world over. In shitter European countries that have already been raped void by capitalism, perhaps you can imagine them accepting such branding as the cultural references have been long since annihilated. In other sections of the world with such overtly rich cultural deposits, it’s a real mind-fuck that such sterility & stupidity can be accepted & makes it’s forced appliance all the more deplorable. But then again, I suppose to sell people useless dross they don’t need or want, you have to first “scrub them null” before the poison can hold any real appeal to all but the dumbest section of the population.

In this sense, Marwa’s book & writings lose all relation to Syria & join a greater global crisis about capitalism, globalization & identity/cultural effacement, degradation & disempowerment. Homs, Beijing, London, Moscow, New York & probably almost the entire “developing-world” frontier, it’s the same vacuous perversity. A bunch of nihilist capitalist retards with shit for brains & shit for eye-balls designing dystopia for maximum sterility & minimum free-thought/creativity/individuality/plurality/stimulation making as much money as they can in the bleaching process. As she observes – “there is a fine line between humility and indifference, and the people of Homs have now crossed that line aggressively. They have moved from a state of intellectual richness and spiritual connectivity, as symbolized in the two sacred buildings, into an immoral world of triviality and disorder. The undoing of the urban fabric has advanced hand in hand with the undoing of the moral fabric. And that is what is written in frightful scars on the face of Old Homs.”

Great book, with very nice sleeve & design. It also features many sketches of buildings, municipalities & there blue-prints etc, all penned by the author herself.

Author: Marwa Al-Sabouni

Publisher: Thames & Hudson