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Spatial Vision for Aleppo Open City

An urban vision that reflects the city‚ its skills, people, mechanisms and potentials


Central and Southern Asia




Regional Development and Metropolitan Strategies

Project Details


  • Aleppo (Syria)


  • Commission


  • UNDP
  • Cities Alliance
  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)




In early 2009, GIZ, formerly known as gtz (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) invited Thomas Stellmach to join the working team devising a City Development Strategy (CDS) for Aleppo as a part of the Aleppo Urban Development Project. The aim of the project was to formulate a long-term strategy for sustainable development.

Aleppo Is a place that displays the authenticity of a contemporary Middle Eastern city, a place where modernity and a rich cultural heritage do not conflict with each other, but merge into a mutually enriching relationship.

Azizieh Street, Thomas Stellmach 2007

The unbowed tradition of openness and coexistence of the local people, to be witnessed all over the city be it in its exceptional medieval city centre or in its various modern subcentres makes Aleppo a place of true authenticity.

Aleppo Diverse Open City, Aleppo (Maundrell 1703)

The city harmoniously blends with its cultural and productive landscape, avoiding sprawl with green corridors providing fresh air and urban respite. A network of public spaces links the city center, subcenters, and neighbourhoods, fostering business, leisure, and social connections.

Aleppo's neighbourhoods offer diverse urban experiences, promoting local engagement and interaction, from garden villas to dense city blocks. These areas cater to daily needs, connected to city centers via efficient microbus systems, reducing car reliance for a safer, inclusive society.

Spatial Structure

The city lies on the river bed of river Quweik, a manufactured water way, which serves as a multifunctional hub, bridges East and West, uniting Aleppo with its historical roots and bolstering collective identity. In the very center of Aleppo is a citadel, built on a partly artificial mound that stands out as a landmark.

The high population growth rate is projected to add an additional 1.2 million population to Aleppo’s population, making for a total of 3.6 million. Thus, Aleppo has to face fundamental challenges pertaining to infrastructure, its social fabric, and its ecology.

Despite its rapid growth in recent history, Aleppo is a surprisingly compact city. Tradition, social coherence and governmental control led to a city with virtually no sprawl, despite the fact that 40% of today’s population lives in informal settlements with varying degrees of legality. Thus, Aleppo has a clearly recognisable boundary, a readable transition from what is ‘countryside’ to what is ‘city’.

Aerial View of Aleppo

Many areas of the city feature a dense combination of functions — work and live, production and consumption, service and leisure — in a very well-working, integrated and unspectacular way. This mix is caused rather by economic factors than by regulations, in fact, often in spite of regulations. This dense offering of diverse uses is very positive and something which many Western cities are striving for, and should be maintained and encouraged, especially in recent and future developments.

The City of Stone - Sabeel neighbourhood (Tomasso Santostasi, 2007)

Historical Progression

The variety of civilizations led to a highly organized social, religious, and economical structure early on in history. The constant invasions and political instability forced the inhabitants of the city to build cell-like quarters and districts that were socially and economically independent.

Aleppo Diverse City

Aleppo’s apparent diversity opens up multiple opportunities for the development of the city, economically, spatially, politically, and socially which are currently unexploited. Aleppo has the ingredients to become a true emblem for the coexistence and prosperity.

Aleppo Structured City

What is missing is a coherent structure, that makes these potentials perceivable and accessible and needs to be implemented. The spirit of diversity needs to be maintained throughout the future development of the city, and technocratic tendencies towards homogenization need to be thwarted.

Governance & Participation Process for Aleppo

For any vision for a city, its spatial form and civic society are intrinsically linked. Thus, the spatial strategy for any city needs to go hand in hand with different scales of development, whose cooperation is done across public, private and academic sectors.

Collaborative Integration across Sectors and Levels in Aleppo