“I could never really get a feel for how destroyed Aleppo was,” Hans Hack told The Local, when explaining why he decided to superimpose the Syrian city onto Berlin.
“I work with maps, I can understand them and read them. So I decided to re-project it onto something familiar - Berlin.”
The result is an interactive map which helps Berliners get a feel for how much of their city would have been destroyed if it had faced the bombing suffered by Aleppo during the six-year Syrian civil war.
Using data from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Hack built up a projection of Aleppo's destruction on Berlin, taking Museum Island as a centre point equivalent to Aleppo's historic citadel.
“It helped me understand it a little better, but just a little. Obviously it is very different if you are actually there,” said the 35-year-old.
Click the map below to interact:
Hack used a programme which selected the destroyed buildings randomly - every time he runs the programme it picks out different houses. It was a decision he says he took intentionally because “these houses were not in reality destroyed.”
But at the same time the UN data allowed him to pick out equivalent Berlin neighbourhoods for the quarters of Aleppo that have been hit the worst. Hack used, for example, east Berlin neighbourboods like Friedrichshain to depict how the east of Aleppo has been the most affected by bombing.
The west Berlin neighbourhood of Charlottenburg, meanwhile, was used to demonstrate how the New Aleppo district has suffered no damage at all.
“Charlottenburg has not been destroyed because that is where the Assad regime has been the whole time,” Hack explains.
“I found it it difficult to grasp that in one city one part was heavily destroyed, and in another part you can't see that it happened there.”
Responses to the map have varied since Hack published it.
“There were some nasty comments with people saying ‘Berlin was also heavily destroyed in the Second World War but we didn't flee, we stayed and rebuilt the city'.”
“But others said ‘Ah, now I can grasp the destruction a little better', which is good because that's what I wanted.”