It took me so long to relate back the reality in Syria to the reality here in the US. For the past 5 years living in America was a real disconnect to what is happening back home. I could not compare the two countries; they are just so different!
However, my studio trip to Detroit this past summer was a great opportunity to unveil a strong avenue between the city of Detroit and Syria.
For the past sixty years, Detroit has been facing one of the largest population decline crises in the US. The city has lost over 40% of its population, which affected the social and economical structure of one of the major cities in the United States. Similarly the Syrian crisis caused a population decline by 17% of the total population in the past 3 years. The reasons of the decline in both cases are different but nevertheless the urban problems are the same. Ghost cities exist whether it is a war zone or a peace zone such as Detroit!
The trip sent me to the reality back home in Syria. I personally did not witness the destruction of the Syrian cities like Homs, Aleppo, and Deir Ezzor. But when I walked into the Packard Plant in Detroit, my mind was flashing back memories and images of the massive destruction back home. The sound of my feet crushing pieces of broken glass and other rubble reminded me of the destroyed cities of Syria.
Who can believe that such a place that is thousands of miles away from a war zone is facing the same destruction as a place that is being bombed on a daily basis? I kept walking toward the destroyed wall, fallen brick pieces and unstable floor plates until I reached the roof of the building where nature revealed itself up above.
On the roof of the Packard Plant, among all the destruction and rubble that made the Plant look like an unpleasant place to be, living plants were creating their homes. Nature had created its path all the way to the top of the building expressing a strong gesture of hope!
Hope is all we need in Syria! It does not matter what type or extent of destruction took place there, there will be always hope. The Packard Plant is one of the best examples of preserving what I like to call the “modern ruins”. Syria has always been a foundation of the ancient ruins and now it is giving birth to our modern ruins. The people of these cities that have been destroyed by a traitor-greedy regime should continue to speak about a new point of the rich history of Syria. And the question is still valid:
Are we (architects) willing to preserve our modern ruins?”