LEARNING LESSONS FROM A MULTI-LAYERED HISTORICAL LABORATORY AND ITS DYNAMIC URBANISM IN THE HEART OF «EUROPE’S JERUSALEM»
Essay by Guest Editor Haris Piplas
The gradual rise of complexities in our evolving society has been spatially manifested into our habitats. Their development has been affected by different constructive and destructive powers since our beginnings witnessing the brightest and darkest sides of the human nature. Especially cities as symbols of power, culture and progress have been put in the position of targeted destruction objects.
Nevertheless, not many contemporary cities today have a layered urban history hiding visible on its fabric. From introvert Ottoman urban form to Austrian neoclassical bourgeois villas to fascist and Olympic socialist architecture and landscape – a mélange of habitation varieties share one destiny, being objected to the urban crime of the crimes «urbicide» – and anarchistic incremental design of a young democracy and capitalist economy.
Not many contemporary cities have multiple historical layers legible from its facades and spaces. In the heart of Europe, in a less than a square kilometre and a few footsteps, this complexity is found – in the center of Sarajevo’s urban tissue, the Marijin Dvor area.
From the introvert Ottoman urban form to Austrian neoclassical bourgeois villas to fascist and Olympic socialist architecture and landscape – a mélange of habitation varieties share one destiny, being objected to the urban crime of the crimes «urbicide». Recent developments make the wounded cityscape even more colourful. A quick look at the semi-anarchistic incremental design of a young democracy and capitalist economy was added together with recent small-scale local initiatives.
Started as a suburb with scattered Ottoman houses providing a peaceful location for an Austrian industrialist August Braun and his beloved Maria to a playground for Juraj Neidhardt, a trainee of humankind’s most influential citymaker, «the father of the modern age»: Le Corbusier. Juraj’s masterpiece and the vertical trademark of Marijin Dvor, the National Assembly and its spacious square became the most first-row witnesses of the aftermath of the Iron Curtain’s fall. It became Yugoslavia’s Tahrir Square announcing an almost decade-long period of armed conflicts with ethnic, religious and nationalistic background that led to the disintegration of the Socialist Federation.
After the fall of the communist regime, a complete restructurization of the economies and political systems took place. Capitalism brought a shift from planned and centralized industrial production to a more service-based economy. Services for the new neoliberal economy rather aggressively materialized in form of shopping centers and other office and high-end residential buildings. The density rose, as parks and public spaces of the mono-functional socialist housing estates were replaced or sealed. These spaces represented symbols of commonly-shared spaces providing sufficient for «equality» and «proletariat». The named challenges give Marijin Dvor today a status of a unique urban laboratory housing a wide array of city development stakeholders: investors from Texas and the Arab Peninsula to local community initiatives that work with the existing context.
Marijin Dvor has always been open to intruders and locals can strive, battle, rise and fall. The proof of how political and social systems establish and vanish, how identities and urban artefacts are being suddenly eradicated and created, how construction and deconstruction happen all in a breathtaking velocity is literally burned and injected into Marijin Dvor’s multilayered skin.
It is a real challenge to explore what types of mechanisms shape the development of cities which survived recent blight violence and ruination but are also affected by contemporary urban phenomena: investor-driven commercial developments intertwined with alternative bottom-up initiatives that look at the social scales.
What methods and techniques in urban design, planning and development should be applied to such environments? What urban management strategies we can propose to such areas? Where is the balance between using the experience from successful ones from the own past, the less successful where the city already learned from its mistakes and the introduced ones, as a reflection of the contemporary context?
Realizing such a complexity, this issue of MIRUS Magazine looked at a plethora of phenomena, narratives, conditions, processes but also at their interconnection and correlation in order to understand past and present. The presented materials illustrate different ideas that try to develop future perspectives for this complex area. Even during the data collection and field research sessions, a dialogue that materializes in innovative and fruitful initiatives was started. MIRUS and its approach to look at micro environment prove to be applicable to the specific characterized by opening new platforms and methods for dialogue and action between the numerous participants that operate «in situ» in the very moment you read this piece.