Dencity 2017: 2nd Place Award

Syria: Beyond Slums

Entry by: Abdelrahman Magdy, Islam El Mashtooly, Idil Kantarci, Muhammad Habsah


Over the past 6 years, the disastrous war in Syria has claimed about 400,000 lives, most of which were civilians. Survivors flee toward what they hope will be a safer existence. Around 40,000 Syrians have migrated to Turkey, with 100,000 still waiting at the border. Border camps have become a new reality, and new urbanity, for those fleeing Aleppo. Hastily constructed, but inhabited for years, the refugee camp is its own type of city. These camps simultaneously act as prisons and safe havens by providing feelings of security, but also hopelessness.

Some of the settlements at the Syria – Turkey border, created for those fleeing the violence, are formal efforts by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights or other non-governmental organizations. Some are informal villages created out of desperate need. There is not a clear distinction between the two: formal efforts follow from informal ones, and informal areas grow around formal establishments. The camps on the Syria-Turkey border, en route from Aleppo to Turkey and beyond, create a type of urbanism that stems from conflict. The rapidly growing population of the refugee camps led them to expand unplanned, which has affected the living conditions, community and environment of countless lives.

Syrian society is a culmination of many different, coexisting traditions and backgrounds. An old Islamic city, Aleppo, integrates and embraces the spirit of its multilayered past. Its people have enjoyed the true meaning of belonging to a place, which has been reflected through their built environment. People lived and worked with each other in a place that gave them a sense of belonging and made them feel at home.

The Concept

Objective of the project is planning and organizing the rapidly growing density of refugee camps and improving their living conditions by introducing new infrastructure that is inspired from their rich history and culture. The design process starts with one human and his needs which creates the smallest unit. We developed a modular system around a unit. Adding further units, let the houses grow in any direction for different needs and offers a great amount of flexibility to react to different situations. Throughout adding the units, traditional Syrian dwelling get shaped. When the dwellings come together, they creates the clusters, the clusters creates the neighborhood and the neighborhood creates the village. This approach takes on thoughts of a society, where each person is equally important form a larger community.

The dwelling includes units, active zones and production zones. Active zones are placed on the ground floor as public spaces which consist of workshop areas, learning spaces, and small shops according to the need. Production zones are placed on the roof as farming spaces to create more sufficient future.

About the entrants

Abdelrahman Magdy is an architect living and working in Dubai with 3 years of experience. He graduated from Cairo School of Architecture and Urban Design. His focus is architectural design for community benefits.

Islam El Mashtooly is an architect, urban designer, and educator. Embracing a comprehensive and humane design philosophy, Mashtooly is committed to architecture that supports and enhances community; that is informed by the geographic, social, and cultural elements that define a place; and that responds to human needs and aspirations. Mashtooly has worked in a wide range of projects, such as cultural, educational, and civic institutions; neighbourhoods and public realm; mixed-use urban centres; and master plans for existing communities.

Idil Kantarci is an architect and designer based in Izmir, Turkey. She works as an architect at Dubai. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture from Yasar Unıversity with first honor degree. Throughout her academic career, she has studied at University of Sassari and University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Since graduating, she has worked in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. She has participated in international design competitions during her academic and professional career and received numerous awards. Her work has been exhibited in museums, galleries and institutions in the United States and Europe.

Muhammad Habsah is an architect, International Associate member in the American Institute of Architects. He demonstrates a unique style of architectural design approach. Habsah is contributory with the architecture which is concerns about culture and identity of the present that is inspired from traditions and aspirations of the past for a better future. Habsah has involved in a various scale of hospitality and cultural projects.