International Conference: “Urbicide II: Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Yemen - Post-War Reconstruction and Development” 6-8 April 2017

International Conference: “Urbicide II: Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Yemen - Post-War Reconstruction and Development” 6-8 April 2017

organized jointly with the Center for Arts and Humanities of the American University of Beirut, with the cooperation of UNESCO’s Beirut Office

Beirut, 6-8 April 2017

IRCICA and the Center for Arts and Humanities (CAH) of the American University of Beirut organized jointly, with the cooperation of UNESCO’s Beirut Office, the Second International Conference on “Urbicide II – Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Yemen - Post-War Reconstruction and Development”. The conference was held in Beirut, Lebanon on 6-8 April 2017. Experts from around the world and representatives of international organizations concerned participated in the conference. Its aim was to reflect on the implications of the destruction of urban space and shed light on post-war reconstruction and development in the region. It followed a first conference on “Urbicide, Syria” which was convened in April 2016 by Università Iuav di Venezia, Italy, bringing together an interdisciplinary group of professionals from institutions including Cambridge University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and AUB (ref.: https://www.aub.edu.lb/news/2017/Pages/fas-urbicide2.aspx).

The Urbicide II Conference dealt with the four heritage zones cited in its title with the addition of a session on architectural heritage in Lebanon on account of its relevance for its purview.

The conference started with a moment of silence in light of recent tragic events in the region. IRCICA Director General Dr. Halit Eren was not able to participate in the opening having to attend the Expert Meeting on the OIC Islamophobia Observatory (Istanbul); his address was read by Prof. Arch. Amir Pasic (IRCICA). The opening ceremony heard Prof. Nadia Cheikh, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, AUB, and Prof. Abdulrahim Abuhusayn, Director, CAH/AUB. Prof. Cheikh said that this conference reflected the urgent need to engage with and think critically about the ongoing destructions in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine. Prof. Abuhusayn said that “Cultural heritage constitutes the memory of peoples, it reflects their history and frames their future”. He pointed out that cognizant of this fact, the world community had engaged in assessment and reconstruction of heritage in conflict zones, underlining in this regard the crucial roles of UNESCO, IRCICA, ICOMOS and ICCOM in particular as leading organizations in the area.

In his address Dr. Halit Eren underlined that IRCICA was directly concerned with the urban heritage in the conflict zones under study all of them being part of the geography of the OIC and IRCICA membership. He said that the Centre’s engagement in assessment, preservation, reconstruction, management and re-use of cultural and architectural heritage took shape in diverse programs and projects carried out since the beginning of the 1990s. Its ten-year program of annual architectural workshops in Bosnia and Herzegovina was followed by a continual project on rehabilitation of the Old city of Al-Quds. Dr. Eren spoke of the Centre’s current studies on Syria that focus on the Old City of Aleppo and Damascus. He also informed the audience of IRCICA’s other projects related to heritage in conflict areas that were outside the focus of the present conference, namely Jammu and Kashmir, Karabagh in Azerbaijan and northern Mali.

Then Dr. Cristina Menegazzi, representing UNESCO as manager of its Emergency Safeguarding of Syrian Cultural Heritage program, gave the keynote address outlining collaborative work between the international community and local stakeholders for reconstruction and recovery even during conflict, and offered recommended action to reduce the impact of conflict and raise funds to implement well-studied solutions. (ref.: https://www.aub.edu.lb/news/2017/Pages/fas-urbicide2.aspx). Prof. Arch. Wendy Pullan from the University of Cambridge gave concluding remarks.

Prof. Arch. Amir Pasic’s presentation at the conference described the experiences and outcomes obtained by IRCICA in its architectural programs involving studies on rehabilitation of the historical cities of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), al-Quds/Jerusalem and Aleppo (Syria).

1.    Session on Yemen (Prof. Arch. Salma Samar Damluji (AUB), Eng. Nabil Ali Munassar (GOPHCY, Yemen)

2.    Ms. Layla Salih (Mosul Museum), on Iraq

3.    Prof. Nibal Muhesen (University of Copenhagen), on Syria

4.    Ms. Anna Paolini (UNESCO Doha Office)

5.    Arch. Jad Tabet, on Lebanon

6.    Prof. Amir Pasic (IRCICA)

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