Informality for Reconstruction
Project Description
Research was presented in

 The nature, extensions, and drives of informality in cities has been long discussed; the term is almost as old as the concept of planning, where planning is a functionalist paradigm understood as formalising the production of the built environment with tools of centralised and hierarchical control of the city.  Debates about informality examines the encode-able dynamic use of spaces, shedding doubts over any a priori acts of foreseeable urbanism, and framing it,  in Luis Wirth (1938) words, "as a way of life". 

The research projects this discussion on the planning, making, and rebuilding of Syrian cities where one can ask: Who are the producers of the built-environment in Syria? And how could any plan exclude or include them?

It is from that approach that examining informality in Syria using the lens of crafts might shed light on new mechanisms to build and rebuild, overlapping the planned and unplanned. With a central focus on the "production" of the built environment, where housing becomes a verb and a noun, such approach proposes informality as part of a solution.

  Popular construction, the main drive behind what is called informal settlements, is rarely examined departing from the techniques with which it generates a neighbourhood. There is a need to understand the embedded mechanism of how popular construction function both technically i.e. the selection of materials, design, and standardisations, and socially i.e. role of the builders in mediating between neighbours and the codes of conduct or competition between builders. It is with this understanding that reconstruction plans can find new implementation channels that are infra-policy making.  

Our ongoing research argues that today's informal building is an extension of the traditional model of the builder in Damascus. The scope of building crafts in the everyday construction is manifested in inclusion, optimisation, speed, and efficiency. The paper presents a study of different techniques and methods of construction in Informal Damascus such as Hameh and Qudsayyah for a search of the underlying causes of the use of these techniques as well the context in which it takes shape. Finally, the study speculates on how architects can be part of the popular makers of the built environment.



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4th Annual Conference: Arab Council for Social Science (2019)
Reconstructing Neighborhoods of War: Orient Institute Beirut (2018)