Aleppo is located in the north-western region of Syria. Its historic center is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and consists of about 16,000 buildings, mainly courtyard houses. Fundamental changes to parts of the city took place in the 30 years before inscription of the Old City of Aleppo to the World Heritage list in 1986, including the destruction of buildings, and the development of tall new buildings and widened roads. Since World Heritage inscription, in order to accommodate modern living and local economic development, there were many changes for tourism and commercial development without notable improvement of living conditions for the local residents.
In the summer of 2012, the Syrian Civil War escalated in Aleppo. This made it one of the most heavily damaged cities in Syria, and resulted in the city being placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2013. In addition to that, most of the inhabitants of the old city were forced to leave their houses and relocate somewhere else in or outside the city. A key challenge is how best to improve the living conditions of local residents while meeting the requirements of heritage conservation and maintaining the value of the World Heritage site. Considering the current existing local regulations covering the restoration, maintenance and adaptive reuse of traditional courtyard houses do not fully address this challenge, and there is still a lack of clearly defined and enforceable guidelines to guide conservation projects and practices. If urban development is not well and sustainably managed, especially in light of the huge devastation, the Old City of Aleppo is in danger of losing its authenticity and integrity, which are key requirements for a World Heritage site to retain its Outstanding Universal Value. Clear, practical guidelines for the conservation and restoration of traditional courtyard houses are therefore urgently needed.
This PhD research focusses on the conservation of residential heritage in the Old City of Aleppo. More specifically, the PhD aims to formulate a conservation framework, which will help to facilitate and improve sustainability of the interventions in traditional courtyard houses in the Old City of Aleppo. In addition to that, the research proposes to foster an understanding of residential heritage as a part of the broader system which intends to develop sustainable cities and communities in line with UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To reach the final goals of the project a variety of qualitative research methods are employed in this research: literature research, archival study/data analysis and documentation, workshops, interviews with experts/actors in Aleppo and survey.