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2. Once target is detected, active IR is activated

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For complete information, contact your local Sloan Sales Representative.

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In China:

Sloan Valve Water

Technologies (Suzhou) Co. Ltd. Suzhou New District, China www.sloan.com.cn

Correspondent's File tells. Here I feel at home."

His own building, the Japanese Embassy in Damascus, is an example of subtle creativity (perhaps inspired by this chaos), and a careful merging of old and new. Sober and punctured

Barghouti's foreign affairs ministry.

by rectangular windows, the building seems to float on facades of Damascus limestone. It recalls the organic nature of the traditional Syrian house. Devoid of the stereotypical design icons of contemporary Arab architecture (arches, screened windows, and geometric patterns), it makes a good case for the possibility of abstracting the past. But whether it will catch on is hardly likely—it is simple, and thus to the layman's eye too similar to old socialist architecture.

Hassan's Chocolate Factory outside Damascus is another atypical building. Its playful deconstructionist form and lush green setting are rare for a commercial structure anywhere—not just in Syria. Meanwhile, local architect Wael Samhouri's al-Hasani Religious Center in Damascus, which incorporates both traditional religious and modern office and educational space, is essentially a sleek tower block. Yet its carefully articulated fenestration gives its religious-cultural function away: It is too well detailed to be a typical urban structure, and too mindful of the past to be an average office building. By treating tradition as more than just an old pattern book, Samhouri's building shows that cultural awareness In architecture can mean something deeper than decorated monoliths.

Such originality is reminiscent of the creative, often carefree spirit of vernacular architecture here, which is less concerned with issues of style. In craggy hillside villages around Damascus, concrete pilotis jutting out of crevices support overhangs and large terraces, allowing them to hover over the valleys below. Roughly finished, and sometimes cheap looking, they're not likely to find their way into the hearts of the new yuppie class. But they're proof that there will always be creativity in Syria, and that old-style dynamism is still there.

Endorsing experiment

Nasser Rabbat, Syrian-born professor of architecture at MIT, sums up the struggle here to find a unique, affecting architecture. He blames political, economic, and societal isolation over the past half century for the lack of imagination in built work, and for the country's cultural stagnation in general. But he notes that "the onset of bland, consumerist, and ahistorical architecture in recent times has not totally eclipsed the age-old impulse to mix and match, although the creativity of earlier experiments has been mostly sapped from contemporary projects." He sums up, "A restoration of civic society, even a modest one, is, in my opinion, the necessary precondition for any cultural and architectural revival."

A new architectural publication, Ebdaat (Creativity), focuses on regional issues, like the work of prominent Arab architects, and the design principles of the old Damascus house. That's what Syria needs, an awakening that doesn't downplay the depth of its own, multilayered culture, yet one that transcends the restrictive view of identity expressed through superficial nostalgia. Luckily, Syria is coming of age when environment and context are seen as paramount, and with millennial building traditions and spectacular landscapes, it's got a lot to work from. ■

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