Foreign Affairs I

Bärbel Müller
Architecture, [applied] Foreign Affairs
2020W, Seminar (SE), 4.0 ECTS, 2.0 semester hours, course number S02405


Damascus Dialogues

[applied] Foreign Affairs collaborates with the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Damascus and the Damascus based Studio Reparametrize (as part of their ongoing project Recoding Post-War-Syria/Zamalka).  Students in the Master of Architecture program have been be selected from each institution to participate in the lab. 

 Acupunctural interventions as the seeds for community building:

The eastern suburbs of Damascus are our primary focus, using the neighborhood of Zamalka as a prototypical site for our project and, potentially, for an extended study. The lab asks if spatial interventions at a small scale, strategically dispersed, can instigate community building. By occupying existing building fabric in various states of disrepair and ruin, the interventions link together a network of public rooms that attempt to bring community life back to the street.

How can we use the extant building fabric to provide an armature for spatial possibilities? Can the adaptive re-use of partially destroyed structures allow for an alternative urbanism, one that incorporates existing resources (e.g. structural grids and infrastructures) but also taps into memory and identity? Would such an urbanism run counter to expected, developer-driven, top-down master planning that aims to make room for new construction?

How can one support the rehabilitation of a post-war urban community? It is easy to imagine rebuilding a structure, a home, a school, a hospital, but it is much more difficult to imagine the processes and networks that allow for a community to rebuild itself. Where does one start? Small, surgical interventions that radiate into their direct and wider context are faster to implement and require fewer resources to fund. Depending on their assembly and deployment, members of the community can also participate in their conception and implementation. Can a set of acupunctural interventions start to catalyze community building through participation and communication between various stakeholders?

Can an acupunctural urban strategy start with the act of play – a motivation for gathering – as the initial focus? Can the act of play, something that the war was not able to eradicate, be at the center of each intervention, sparking a range of other potential acts? There are children on the streets that are younger than the war itself and as such have known nothing other than the ravages that their communities have experienced. But play extends to others and is therefore multi-generational. From the table, to the playground, to the courtyard can the interventions begin to weave together a community through multi-generational play and gathering?

Can the lessons learned and applied in one neighborhood be transferred to other parts of the city and country?  Can a site-specific, contextual strategy be prototypical and vice versa? The variables of context will always suggest diversity and different results.  


[a]FA teaching in Vienna: Baerbel Mueller, Gregorio Lubroth


Lab Dates:

January 2020 - July 2021 / since March 13th meetings, lectures, and workshops via ZOOM / since July 6th also physical meetings  at the Square IoA; from September 2020 to Januar 2021 ZOOM meetings with Damascus University whereby the Vienna team will meet at the Square IoA:  

September 24 10:00-16:00 ; Oktober 11 11:00-17:00 ; November 29 11:00-17:00 ; Dezember 13 11:00-17:00; January 06 11:00-17:00 

July 2021 /  field lab in Damascus, Syria or Beirut, Lebanon  / due to the Covid-19 pandemic field lab needed to be postponed





This is an ongoing project which started in January 2020. No application possible currently, the project team has been selected, new participants are taken from summer term 2021 onward.

Key Words

post-war urban challenges, experimental approaches in architecture, applied research, middle-east, syria, damascus

Course Enrolment

Via online registration

co-registration: possible

Architecture (Master): Expertise: Instrumentarium: Supplementary Subjects

Individual courses: possible