Somalia has been ravaged by a civil war for over two decades, creating more than 700,000 Somali refugees and internally displacing approximately 1.5 million people, according to recent U.N. figures. Somali cities have also felt the impact of the war, with mass destruction of infrastructure and historical buildings. A group of Somalis better known as Somali Architecture are trying to give their homeland’s historical architecture a second chance at life through digital designs and 3D printing.
The collective, formally known as Somali Architecture, is comprised of a number of Somali architecture students who are studying in the United Kingdom, Italy, and the United States. In an effort to help rebuild Mogadishu, the collective is working to reconstruct the Somali capital into the African stronghold of culture, economy, and politics it was prior to outbreak of the war in the early 1990s.
“Our ambition is to restore everything from the past and to preserve the heritage as traces of what happened,” their website reads. What started as a platform to share images of the built environment before the war has become a platform for the Diaspora to see development in Somalia.
Yusuf Shegow, one of Somali Architecture’s co-founders, started the project after he helped digitally recreate the City of Manchester in the United Kingdom. For Shegow, a digital rendering of the city was one way that the memory of Mogadishu could live on beyond the war and rubble.
Digitally reconstructing cities is increasingly becoming a way to document architectural heritage, particularly in cities ravaged by war. Palmyra in Syria was recently given a chance at reconstruction similar to that of the Somali capital with ‘New Palmyra.’
Like many others his age, Shegow left Somalia as a young child after the civil war began. “I want us to learn from our past,” he said to Quartz. For him, reconstructing Mogadishu stems from a nostalgic yearning for a place he hadn’t really called home before.
In total, the collective has successfully managed to 3D print 15 different buildings that once existed in the capital, including the Mogadishu Lighthouse, the National Theater, and the Old Parliament, among others. The collective is hoping that these models can be used in the reconstruction effort of the Somali capital.
Despite years of warfare and destruction, Somali cities like Mogadishu are slowly being brought back to life. To date, some governmental offices and memorial sites have been renovated, which coincides with a surge in tourism to the country along the Horn of Africa. In July of last year, Mogadishu got its first coworking space iRise Hub, inspired partially by the 2013 hashtag #SomaliaRising, which has worked to emphasize the country’s efforts to rise from the ashes of the civil war and build a new future for itself.
This article was edited on 5 May, 2018.