The buddhas of Bamiyan. Mostar’s bridge. The Syrian town of Palmyra. The targeting of ancient architecture and cultural heritage sites during war makes headlines around the world. Less often the focus for media attention is the destruction of the seemingly ordinary ‘monuments’ that make up the day-to-day life of inhabitants in a war zone. This deliberate and planned destruction of homes has come to be known as ‘domicide’.
As people in Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Syria live through the mass destruction of their built environments, we wanted to focus debate on the systematic and growing use of domicide in war. Video provided a means to share the voices and experiences of the displaced, the perspectives of architects, engineers, academics, aid coordinators and those involved in reconstruction. There are two videos in the project. The first focuses on the impact of domicide, the second on experiences of reconstruction.z
Creating a space for testimony, historical and new perspectives
Contributing to the project, Dr Dacia Viejo Rose from the University of Cambridge spells out the wider meaning of ‘domus’ – home - in domicide. "One of the tragedies of the destruction of war is that it destroys not only heritage, history and culture, but it destroys people's homes. Their homes not only in terms of the building itself, but their home in the sense of where they feel they belong.”
Interviews with two London-based Syrians uncover their thoughts about this loss of home, workplace, public space and school. As well as contemporary conflicts, the project looks back to cities that were divided, contested, wiped out and then rebuilt. From Guernica and Warsaw to Sarajevo, and - today Mosul and Homs, it explores the alternative futures available to devastated cities.
As a university partner for the video series we were able to organise a successful event to launch the film on reconstruction and rebuilding of homes, heritage and neighbourhoods destroyed by war. I’m hoping that this project will kickstart future innovative and impactful research on the subject which the films so vividly portray. ” Professor Heather Viles Biogeomorphology and Heritage Conservation, Worcester College, Oxford
Examining the politics of reconstruction
‘Reconstruction’ implies the faithful recreation of the homes, neighbourhoods, livelihoods and services destroyed by war. In reality, politics often dictate the approach that is taken, the projects that receive investment, the communities whose needs are prioritised. The second video in the project – ‘Cities don’t lie: on reconstruction and rebuilding’ –promotes discussion around these complex choices. The project launched with an event organised by the Oxford University Heritage Network and chaired by the BBC’s Chief International Correspondent, Lyse Doucet.
Domicide continues to characterise conflicts the world over. This project will not only draw attention to its impact but promote debate around the possibilities of reconstruction.
Looking at cities in Syria as Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs, it seems almost impossible to imagine that these ruined and battered cities will be rebuilt, but history shows us that the city emerges back from its ruins and that a radical hope is needed now to imagine this. ”Ammar Azzouz Analyst