Human existence cannot be imagined without architecture. Architecture is a fundamental part of human experience and is non-detachable from their life. Architecture, planning and related professions emphasize nation-building and giving their best to construct human habitats. But some architects and planners think out of the box and work on uplifting and rehabilitating society and people. Architect Marwa Al-Sobouni is a practicing architect and has contributed to repairing the collapsing social fabric in Syria. In the face of massive reconstruction efforts already begun, Marwa promotes a craft-based approach to construction that embraces the wisdom of earlier practices and designs and the social interactions they foster. She has chosen to be based in her parent city and never leave her home. “The Battle for Home: The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria“, Marwa Al-Sabouni’s autobiography, was published in 2016. It examines how city planners and architects contribute to violence and armed conflict by destroying neighborhood bonds with haphazard construction. She contends that attempts must be made to use urban development to bring about peace. To maintain the communities’ peaceful coexistence, she suggests that the Baba Amr district be rebuilt using architectural designs inspired by Syria’s ancient traditions.
Introduction: Architect Marwa Al-Sabouni
Marwa Al-Sabouni is a Syrian architect and writer. She was born on 18th September 1981 in Homs city of, Syria. Al-Sabouni pursued a degree in architecture and she believes that architecture and planning plays a role in maintaining a city’s peace. She observed the pattern of study of Syria and stated that kids in Syria who receive the great marks study medicine, while those who receive the lowest marks choose the research engineering which weakens the engineering system of Syria. Al-Sabouni observed that her neighborhood lacked any active parks or communal gathering places which may harm the social integrity of the country. She commented with The Guardian about her upbringing, “I didn’t think I was going to be the next Zaha Hadid. Though hope is blind, it always manages to enter a person’s heart, including mine “. She has a doctorate and has cited Frank Lloyd Wright as an influence. During her undergraduate studies, she copied Western architectural styles—such as those of the American mansions on Cape Cod—from library books in her doctoral thesis.
Contribution: Marwa Al-Sabouni
Al-Sabouni, as an architect and urban thinker, thinks that it is the responsibility of architects to promote social cohesion. She resisted leaving Homs when war broke out and spent two years living in her house like a prisoner. In her autobiography, Al-Sabouni examines how city planning and architecture have distorted social relationships and torn apart societies, contributing to violence and civil conflict. She has created plans to restore the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, damaged during the battle, by drawing inspiration from earlier Syrian spatial configurations where many classes and ethnic groups interacted often. Marwa Al-Sabouni is an award-winning architect, author and an international speaker from Syria. Not only has she received the Prince Claus Award in 2018, and ranked in the BBC 100 Women 2019, but her TED talk has been viewed over a million times. This all comes off the back of Marwa’s acclaimed book ‘The Battle for Home’, which was chosen by the Guardian as one of the best architectural books of 2016, and led her to being named by the UK Prospect Magazine as one of the Top 50 thinkers around the World. From speaking all over the globe to writing for platforms like the Architectural Review to the Financial Times, Marwa has even found time to publish a second book called ‘Building for Hope’. She also runs a private studio with her partner in their city Homs, where they founded Arch-news, the world’s first and only website dedicated to architectural news in Arabic.
Philosophy and Ideology: Marwa al-Sabouni
Al-Sabouni set out her community-centered plan to rebuild her hometown of Homs. It takes a great deal of imagination to see beyond the rubble of that traumatized city — the scale of devastation is daunting. She estimates that 60 percent of the town was destroyed. While building her vision, she said, “Homs fights hard against the fact that it is an almost-dead city,” Al-Sabouni says. “It shows signs of recovery and normal movement amid chaos and malfunction.” Al-Sabouni and her husband run the Arabic Gate for Architectural News, the first-of-its-kind portal in Arabic. They chose to remain in Homs, together with their two young children, throughout the war, despite seeing so many friends and family leave the city.
Conclusion: An idol Architect
Marwa Al-Sabouni, an architect and writer in the field of Architecture and Planning. She is an idol for young professionals and architects. Her philosophy differs from most of the architects and her vision of design is very strong. She stuck to her ideology and achieved what she wanted. She believes that first, humans should work in a destroyed or damaged place rather than building new spaces. She looks at the war zones or disaster places for better solutions and designing. She acknowledges the importance of rehabilitation, and her vision is so logical. She did not give up and stood in her city for the redevelopment beside her comfort zone. Her decision of not migrating shows the passion of her to give her country a strong architectural development. Her work, vision, and contribution concluded with the thought, “The hands that help are holier than the lips that pray ”.
What Design Can Do. (n.d.). Towards an architecture of belonging | Marwa Al-Sabouni. [online] Available at: https://www.whatdesigncando.com/talks/marwa-al-sabouni/ [Accessed 20 Nov. 2022].
Prince Claus Fund. (n.d.). Marwa al-Sabouni. [online] Available at: https://princeclausfund.org/laureate/marwa-al-sabouni [Accessed 9 Nov. 2022].
Arab News. (2020). Marwa Al-Sabouni fights for her ‘almost-dead’ city. [online] Available at: https://www.arabnews.com/node/1708866/lifestyle [Accessed 9 Nov. 2022].
skindeepmag.com. (n.d.). Skin Deep meets Marwa al-Sabouni. [online] Available at: https://skindeepmag.com/articles/skin-deep-meets-marwa-al-sabouni [Accessed 13 Nov. 2022].
- Perspective of Architecture. https://www.freepik.com/premium-photo/perspective-outline-architecture-building-3d-illustration-modern-urban-architecture_9066579.htm
- Architect Marwa al-Sabouni. https://princeclausfund.org/laureate/marwa-al-sabouni
- Syria during the Civil War. https://yallasouriya.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/image-post-215/
- Her proposal was named among the Prince Claus Award winners for 2018. https://www.arabnews.com/sites/default/files/userimages/2050466/fvbf061218-0006.jpg