Craftsmanship for Reconstruction: Artisans Shaping Syrian Cities

Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


Craftsmanship had a crucial role in shaping Syrian society and its relation to the built environment. Organisations and guilds of artisans were official regulators and mediators between artisans, state architects, courts and private house dwellers. It was through these guilds structure that the training of crafts took place to provide technical and social know-how to contextualise those structures within the city. Also, it was through the guild that the technology transfer came about by immigrants and moving artisans. The paper argues that the loss of this medium at the beginning of the twentieth century resulted in a dichotomy between architecture and building practice, specifically by excluding the popular builder from any formal representation in the state. This dichotomy led to fundamental alterations in modern construction, the nature of the planned and unplanned, the local and global and the private and public. Illustrating the development of the guild structure could reveal how the public and private construction developed in the region. The paper rereads two pivotal texts written about craftsmanship in Damascus in the 1880s. It compares the social structure in construction guilds with those of guilds in other disciplines, and explains the distinctiveness of the builders’ guild and its relation to the state. Finally, the paper examines the remnants of guilds structures in the modern Syrian society, specifically in the popular non-institutional training systems. In Syrian cities today, architects are not the primary key players and, in some cases, are completely absent. Almost half of modern Damascus and Aleppo is built by builders with a minimum, if any, intervention from architects or planners. Unlike the traditional artisans and their guilds, those modern builders have no official representation. How could any rebuilding plan be more inclusive and address those builders? There could be a possible answer in the relationship between craftsmanship and the city.


Craftsmanship Reconstruction Guild Building trades Damascus 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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