On 16 and 17 May 2009, in the framework of an international workshop to establish guidelines for the restoration of the city wall around Bab Antakeya, RehabiMed presented the work carried out by its team on Bab Antakeya in Aleppo. The results of the historical study conducted by RehabiMed provided key elements for drafting recommendations and the subsequent decision of the Governor and Mayor of Aleppo to demolish the wall built under the French Mandate and restore the part of the wall that had been concealed behind it.
The workshop was organized by GTZ (the German cooperation agency) and presided over by the Director of the Old Town of Aleppo and the city’s Director General for Heritage. Also taking part were over 20 local experts. Anette Gangler presented the urban reform project planned for the studied area, Xavier Casanovas explained the town wall’s historic evolution, and the engineers Mazen Zada and Switbert Greiner showed the results of their analysis of the settling of the French wall and the stability of the ground behind it. After a lively debate and detailed site visit, the scientific committee, made up of the attending experts and presided over by Dr Mounir Bouchenaki, Director of ICCROM and former Assistant-Director General for Culture of the UNESCO, recommended that the French wall be demolished and the historic wall restored to preserve the site’s heritage values.
Bab Antakeya is one of Aleppo’s most monumental fortified gates and the one in the best state of conservation. It comprises two hexagonal bastions with a ground plan of about 15×25 metres, standing 20 metres high. The north bastion contained defensive functions and is the best preserved today, while the south bastion holds the doorway to the city with a baffle and an array of protective elements. Only part of the rampart walk remains and some barbicans disappeared in the late 19th or early 20th century. The walls, about 3 metres thick, are built with a double facing of quality ashlars on the in- and outside, and an infill of ashlars and lime mortar. The structure comprises a complex series of different types of vaults that roof the various defensive areas and the spaces created by the formation of the loopholes.
The gate has stood here for some 4000 years. The ground floor of the present-day construction was built in the mid-13th century, in the Ayyubid period, and the upper floor dates from the late 14th century, in the Mamluk period. After the 16th century, with the stability and economic progress brought by the Ottoman Empire, it ceased to play a defensive role, and shops were built along its outer perimeter. One of the bastions was turned into a khan, and the upper parts were made into dwellings.
The work carried out by RehabiMed
In early 2008, GTZ asked for RehabiMed’s collaboration in the rehabilitation work it was promoting in Aleppo, specifically in surveying the monument using photography and laser scanning, producing a study of its history, construction and architecture, and training local experts in the techniques used. For this purpose, a working team was created, comprising Xavier Casanovas, of the Rehabilitation and Environment Unit of the CAATEEB, as team director; UPC lecturers Felipe Buil, Andres De Mesa, Amparo Nuñez and Joaquim Regot; and the architect Pablo Tena.
The team from the UPC spent 10 days in Aleppo collecting photographic and laser-scan data. It worked with a local team to familiarize its members with surveying techniques. It also worked in the archives of the Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA) in Aleppo and Damascus to find documents that explain the history and restoration work carried out to date, and at the Institut Français du Proche Orient (IFPO) in Damascus and various French archives to find documents from the period of the Mandate. The result was a series of precise, quality surveys and a very detailed historical study that will provide a basis for diagnosis and decision-making in the project for the rehabilitation of this site. The next step is a full diagnosis and the subsequent project for restoration and further work.