Short-term Research Associate
- CITY Journal Collective Member
- Analyst at Arup
Ammar joined the School of Geography and the Environment in 2019 having previously completed his PhD in architecture at the University of Bath, UK. He was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Cambridge in late 2018 and is currently an Analyst at Arup, London. Ammar holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Al-Baath University, Homs, Syria where he was the top graduate of the year (Hons, first class). He is a Collective member of CITY journal.
Ammar’s research interests include the destruction and reconstruction of history, culture and the built environment in times of conflict, with a particular focus on the ongoing crisis in Syria since 2011. Bringing together architecture, history, anthropology and urban studies, he focuses on how the city’s destruction and reconstruction can be deliberately used to punish both political opponents and local populations. On the one hand, urbicide – the premeditated destruction of a city – punishes people by erasing their environment, memory and collective identity. On the other hand, the reconstruction of a city can also become part of a collective and individual punishment through promoting human rights violations, new cycles of destruction and displacement, the whitewashing of property relations, and prohibiting certain communities to mourn and grief.
Ammar has published widely in major academic urban studies journals and also in other platforms including newspapers. Ammar has written for the Independent, the Conversation, New Statesman, and LSE Middle East Blog. His work was Shortlisted for Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) President’s Research Awards in 2018 and was exhibited in 2019 at the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition ‘What Remains’ in London. He was interviewed by the BBC, and the ABC, and was invited to speak at different panels including Cheltenham Literature Festival and the V&A. He was also invited to present his research at different universities including Manchester, MIT, Oxford, Essex, Architecture Association, Bath, Southampton, Cambridge and LSE. In September 2019, his conference paper, co-authored with a lecturer based in Syria, was awarded the best international paper by Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) - title: Young Syrian Architects (YSA) at the time of crisis.
Ammar’s current research focuses on local and international responses to destruction and displacement in Syria. In his first academic article, ‘A Tale of a Syrian City at War: Destruction, Resilience and Memory’ he challenged emerging conversations around the reconstruction of monumental and ancient sites in Syria, such as Palmyra, and concentrated on some of the lesser-known and more humble buildings of everyday life.
As part of his research, he published ‘Re-imagining Syria’ (forthcoming, 2020) which sheds light on how the current projects, visions and debates shaping the reconstruction agenda in Syria are driven by economic and political elites with untrammelled powers but neglect the aspirations of local communities. The paper shows how reconstruction emerges as a new landscape of contestation around fears of further forced displacement, how memory is destroyed to change demography and how societal orders are restructured to diminish certain communities of the society while other parts are glorified and rebuilt.
Ammar is also interested in the construction of an alternative narrative about Syria in exile. In his recent article, ‘2011: Reflections on a ruined homeland’ he focuses on the alternative narratives that Syrians and non-Syrians are creating in response to the destruction of their culture and history. Based on interviews with artists, architects, poets, musicians and academics, this paper shows how, in exile, efforts are being made to imagine and re-imagine a Syria from afar and presents the birth of a culture of resistance against the erasure of history.
In 2018-19, Ammar worked on a video project on domicide: the destruction of home. He interviewed academics working on destruction of cities and their cultural heritage at the time of wars and conflicts at different times in history (e.g. Spain, Poland, Bosnia and Syria). At Arup, he has led and been part of projects related to forced displacement, refugee migration and the possible ways professional architecture and engineering institutions could respond to global forced displacement of refugees and internally displaced people.
Other Articles – Academic Conferences and Media
- Azzouz, A. and Abdelal, A. (2019). Young Syrian Architects (YSA) at the time of crises. In C. Gorse and C. J. Neilson (eds.) (pp. 154–163). Leeds: Proceedings of the 35th Annual ARCOM Conference.
- Azzouz, A. (2016). My home town in Syria was reduced to rubble – but digital architecture can help rebuild our ancient cities. The Conversation.
- Azzouz, A. (2017). Homs is broken, but should not be erased. Global Construction Review.
- Azzouz, A. (2017). Rebuilding Homs: How to resurrect a city after six years of conflict. The Independent.
- Azzouz, A. (2018). Architects at the time of war. Royal Institute of British Architects.
- Azzouz, A. (2018). From Homs to Hiroshima, why are we fascinated by ruins? New Statesman.
- Azzouz, A. (2018). How Beirut is breaking down the divisions of its past. City Metric of New Statesman.
- Azzouz, A. (2018). How Syrian architects can rebuild a country in the throes of war. The Independent.
- Azzouz, A. (2018). Remembering Syrian Christmases past: “It was a festival for all of us.” New Statesman.
- Azzouz, A. (2018). Treasure in a ruined city: the Syrians searching for their memories in Homs. New Statesman.
- Azzouz, A. (2018). “Upon land soaked with the blood”: on the architects planning the reconstruction of Syria. City Metric of New Statesman.
- Azzouz, A. (2018). What does resilience look like in war-torn Syria? Zilient.
- Azzouz, A. (2019). The Role of Local Charities in Reconstructing Syria. Chatham House.
- Azzouz, A., Hill, P. and Papadonikolaki, E. (2018). Digital innovation in Europe: Regional differences across one international firm Digital innovation in europe : regional differences across one international firm, (September).
- Azzouz, A. and Katz, I. (2017). Fleeing Home at Home: Internal Displacement in Homs, Syria. London School of Economics Middle East Blog.
- Humphry, D. (2019). Memory and The Everyday in Homs, Syria: Debbie Humphry interviews A Azzouz.
- Papadonikolaki, E. and Azzouz, A. (2018). Boundary spanning and knowledge brokering for digital innovation, (June).
- Pullan, W. and Azzouz, A. (2019). Destruction and reconstruction: How urban recovery has become an integral part of conflict and war. Centre for Urban Conflicts Research.