'Divided Cities': Meeting and Workshop

Abrasevic Center, Mostar (31.03-01.04.2011)
By Abart and Archis Interventions

The project focuses on divided cities in the region and will begin with a collaborative venture involving independent civil society organisations and initiatives from Mitrovica, Mostar, Dip Karpaz/Rizokarpaso and Beirut. The project aims to diversify and include other divided cities and initiatives in the future. As a first step, a meeting and a workshop took place with Abart from Mostar and Archis Interventions members from Cyprus and the SEE network.

Cities are vulnerable. This is especially evident in cities recently emerged from a period of war or violent conflict, in which communities continue to defend their interests by physically appropriating parts of the city or by fighting for political control. Occupying urban spaces or erecting monuments and buildings that symbolize and edify a particular community is intended to strengthen its members' sense of belonging and identity; simultaneously it lays an exclusive claim to the city on their behalf. Battles rage over the city and architecture. Can the codes governing such spaces be re-written? Can other spaces be created? Can a new spatial practice be established, one that caters for and responds to all the city's inhabitants?

To answer such questions requires a careful examination of the particular conditions in each locality, for these vary from city to city. And the cities are influenced, in turn, by the overall political situation. However many parallels there may be in structural terms — the trend towards segregated educational institutions is one particularly striking example — spatial strategies developed for one city cannot be simply transferred to another.

The project aims to catalyze major discourse on the city and its evolving architectures. To support the participating initiatives' expanding regional networks, mutual exchange of know-how, and concept development is therefore of crucial importance.

The workshop focused on: (1) the similarities and complexities of each case, (2) how we can achieve an alternative planning strategy for divided cities and fragmented societies, and (3) alternative methods of fostering spatial and social revitalization, and the role of design, planning and arts.

One of the immediate aims is to pool the insights and knowledge of the initiatives and of other independent civil organizations working in this field in the region, at a workshop in August this year. In addition, Archis Interventions will launch regional research on this topic.