German-Syrian Project: the Reconstruction of Aleppo

For five years, an international project, piloted by a Berlin museum, is preparing the reconstruction pf the city

March 01st, 2019
Chloé Gratadour-Cerruti, News from Berlin

The Syrian-German research team gathered around the Syrian Heritage Archive Project analyzed in a magnifying glass images of damaged buildings in the former economic capital of Syria, comparing them to the archives before 2011.

This work, financed in part by German diplomacy, allowed for the cataloging in digital format the multitude of destroyed historic buildings but also those remained miraculously intact. Pre-war photos, slides and plans are an invaluable help in considering a faithful reconstruction of the monuments of the UNESCO-listed old town since 1986.

And these archives, associated with contemporary clichés of the ravaged city, are presented to the public from February 28 to May 26 at the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin, in the famous museum,, the Pergamum. The exhibition "Syrian Cultural Landscape - Preservation and Archiving in Wartime" is also available online. Syrian refugees have been recruited as guides and to gather the testimonies of compatriots, hundreds of thousands of them having found refuge in Germany since 2015.

"For over 100 years, our museum has a special connection with Syria," says AFP director Stefan Weber. "The Aleppo House", a former dining room of a rich merchant dating from the early seventeenth century, is also a centerpiece of the permanent exhibition.

"This project aims to preserve the past and also has a vision for the future: to gather archives so that reconstruction can be done quickly", adds this graduate of modern Arabic from the University of Damascus. Germany has experience in this area. Exit destroyed Nazi yoke, there is a rich experience of reconstruction. And after the Reunification, many cities of East Germany, including East Berlin and Dresden, also experienced major renovations. Stefan Weber knows that it will take time to see Aleppo reborn and that "it will be up to the Syrians themselves to decide what they plan to do with their cultural heritage with what we make available to them". The Berlin museum is not alone in its project, other organizations involved in its database, such as the University of Cottbus which has made a detailed map of the old city of Aleppo where this French start-up who reconstituted in 3D of the big Syrian sites.

The yard is huge. The war killed more than 350,000 people and led to destruction estimated by the UN at some 400 billion dollars (345 billion euros). The level of the economy has returned three decades back, according to experts.

The project of the Berlin museum is not limited to Aleppo. The 300,000 digitized documents also include the "dead cities", ancient villages of northern Syria, as well as Raqqa or Palmyra.


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