By Rowan Moore
Books about building for peace in times of war are among the standout volumes of the last 12 months
Most of the time the pursuit of architecture is not as serious as its practitioners would like us to think. It can add to or detract from human joy or, by acting as the background of the events of our lives, impart a subtle influence to them. It is not generally a matter of life or death. Which makes two of this year’s books, about the relation of buildings to violent conflict, stand apart from the normal run of musings about the design of buildings.
One is The Battle for Home (Thames & Hudson £16.95) by the Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni, who describes the political corruption of her discipline that she experienced from student days onwards, and the dismemberment of her home city of Homs through divisive planning that preceded and abetted its destruction in war. She argues that the close-knit form of the traditional city obliged people of different faiths and backgrounds to get along. In recent decades politicians and planners dispatched its populations to segregated zones around its edge, which made it more likely that they would fear, mistrust and ultimately kill one another.