Collateral Damage in Architecture

The phrase “collateral damage” generally means the innocent victims of war–people who got in the way, didn’t understand orders shouted in a foreign language, or those in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hate the word, it makes me cringe. It makes killing the innocent seem somehow accidental and explainable.

Another senseless outcome of war is the destruction of historic buildings. Beautiful, graceful buildings that hold sacred memories, prayers, and art, smashed to dust in seconds.

I’m not interested in knowing that the destruction was necessary or that war is awful. That’s a given. Ask anyone who remembers Kristallnacht, November 8 and 9, 1938, as the Germans smashed their way through Jewish neighborhoods.

The hallways of the Great Mosque of Aleppo.

The hallways of the Great Mosque of Aleppo.

The buildings I’m talking about are in the Middle East, the uneasy part of the world we don’t want to think about. The Tomb of Jonah, sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, is now just rubble.

The Buddahs of Bamiyan, giant statues hewn out of a cliff in the year 500 were bombed to dust by the Taliban in 2001.

Another one that breaks my heart is the Great Mosque of Aleppo. The architecture was breathtakingly beautiful. The complicated vaulted ceilings begged the eye to look up into the heavens.

The legend is that the mosque holds the remains of Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist. It was built in the eighth century. It is a house of prayer.

syria_aleppo_great_mosque4The land it stands on has been under siege from one faction or another forever. War is as old as the emotion of fear and anger. Religion has been used as the excuse of hatred for as long as formal (and splinter) religions have existed.

The Great Mosque of Aleppo as it looks now.

The Great Mosque of Aleppo as it looks now.

I don’t have an answer to collateral damage. I just mourn that along with people, so much art, so much history, so much spiritual growth is ground to dust under the boot heels of war.

–Quinn McDonald knows that art describes the rise of culture and the destruction of art brings the destruction of culture.