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Competition: Regathering Memories, Syria

An open international ideas contest is being held to rethink the bombed out ruins of the Grand Serail of Aleppo in Syria (Deadline: 30 April)

The competition invites students and professionals to propose a radical new ‘memory-infused architecture’ to replace the prominent structure next to the city’s ancient citadel which was almost entirely destroyed by an underground bomb five years ago.

The call for concepts seeks sensitive proposals to rejuvenate the prominent plot formerly occupied by the Grand Serail which was the seat of the governor of Aleppo from 1933 to 2008. Concepts must respond to Syria’s past struggles and immediate needs while also engaging residents and bringing divided elements of the war-torn society together.

Contest site at the Grand Serail of Aleppo in Syria

Contest site at the Grand Serail of Aleppo in Syria

Contest site at the Grand Serail of Aleppo in Syria

According to the brief: ‘As the government of Syria is just one of the major fronts of conflict today, the demolished Grand Serail site has lost its essence as a unanimous seat of power. The place requires a re-framed answer in the context of today. We can use this opportunity and place to address the vacuum of power - to use this place for the people of Aleppo.’

‘The only hope Syria now has that the reconstruction of this broken place might bring the region together. The need of the hour has been shifted to more basic levels of infrastructure. What will your response to the site be in a crossfire of interests, prone to attacks & siege – at the same time as a symbol of hope for people of Aleppo and Syria?’

Located around 300 kilometres north of the capital Damascus, Aleppo was once the country’s largest metropolis with 4.6 million inhabitants but has witnessed massive destruction and depopulation as a result of the ongoing Syrian Civil War.

The Battle of Aleppo, which started in 2012 and reached a stalemate three years ago, is thought to have killed more than 31,000 people and destroyed 33,500 buildings with around 10 per cent of the city’s cultural landmarks completely destroyed and more than half heavily damaged.

Contest site at the Grand Serail of Aleppo in Syria

Contest site at the Grand Serail of Aleppo in Syria

Contest site at the Grand Serail of Aleppo in Syria

Originally constructed in 1933 as a landmark centre for local government, the Grand Serail was converted into a hotel in 2008 but was almost entirely destroyed following a large underground explosion in August 2014.

The latest ideas contest aims to rethink the future of the prominent site located immediately opposite the ancient Citadel of Aleppo which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and thought to be one of the oldest castles in the world.

The project seeks to identify a new ‘memory-infused architecture’ for the site which could recognise Aleppo’s tragic history and also help contribute towards healing the city’s violent divisions. Submissions will be judged on concept, design quality, creativity, functionality and innovation.

The overall winner, to be announced on 10 June, will receive a $1,500 prize while a second prize of $750, people’s choice award of $500 and two honourable mentions for student and professional teams worth $200 each will also be granted.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is 30 April

Fee

Early registration from 15 January to 27 February: $15 students, $25 professionals, $125 institutions
Standard Registration from 28 February to 14 April: $25 students, $40 professionals, $200 institutions
Late registration from 15 April: $35 students, $60 professionals, $300 institutions

Contact details

Email: feedback@uni.xyz

View the competition website for more information

Plot # 749 case study: Q&A with DW5 / Bernard Khoury

The Lebanon-based practice discusses lessons learned rebuilding a ruined building in Beirut

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury

How will your project sensitively and imaginatively restore a historic landmark damaged by conflict in Beirut?

Located in the Beirut Central District, Plot # 749’s program includes an urban villa with direct access from street level that extends on the three upper floors with a total surface of 835 square meters as well as retail space on the remaining 115 square meters at the ground floor.

After the damage caused by the 1975-1990 conflict, the Saifi quarter was subject to a general master plan that was carried out by Solidere (the private company in charge of the reconstruction of the city centre). Presently, new constructions as well as all renovated buildings comply with design guidelines that were defined by French architect Francois Spoerry. The guidelines include ‘traditional’ pastel color façade finishes and a literal reinterpretation of ottoman and colonial architectural detailing that prevailed in the second half of the nineteenth century and throughout the early period of the twentieth century.

The ruin that presently stands on plot # 749 no longer has a roof, many of its peripheral walls have been greatly damaged by the shelling and lack of maintenance, and it has been reinforced by an exposed temporary steel bracing system in order to prevent further structural damage to its decaying traditional stone structure.

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

In accordance to the new master plan for the Saifi quarter, a new building permit, which allows for the construction of an additional floor has already been approved by the concerned authorities. The permit, which was filed prior to our design intervention, complies with the architectural guidelines that are imposed by the master plan for this sector. Our proposed intervention does not exceed the allowable built-up area on the site and complies with the imposed setbacks, footprint and height for this particular site.

We started this design mission by a careful inventory and a scrupulous account of the existing condition of the ruin. This process was followed by several rounds of structural design exercises through which we explored, in conjunction with our structural consultant, the most effective methods of structural rehabilitation that would most effectively integrate the proposed program.

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury

Our proposed architectural scheme consists of integrating an additional system of structural slabs, load-bearing elements and new facades that shall not overlap with the existing elements. All visible added matter (facades and roofs) shall not attempt to replicate the existing ruin. All existing matter (stone walls and vaults) shall be kept in their present condition and shall not be re-plastered.

The combination of the new elements with the recovered historical elements of the ruin express our interpretation of a meticulous recuperation of the structure, its relationship with its contemporary additional elements and its mutation in the present.

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury

Plot # 749 by DW5 / Bernard Khoury