The Resistance of the Enclosure: The evolution of the city
  • 2019-04-23
  • ovdje

    Enrico Vito Sciannameo je mladi arhitekt iz Italije koji trenutno radi u studiju RCR Arquitectes. Diplomirao je na Politecnico di Milano u aprilu 2018. Godine pod su-mentorstvom profesora Massimiliana Roca i Flavia Vida. Njegov magistarski rad pod nazivom ‘Otpor ograđenog prostora’ fokusira se na prijedlog za novi kampus Univerziteta u Sarajevu na području bivše vojarne Maršala Tita. Polazeći od historijskog i morfološkog izučavanja Sarajeva, usredotočuje se na ulogu ograđenog prostora kao elementa koji se opire urbanim transformacijama i postavlja se kao novi gradski prostor za okupljanje.

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    Fig. 1 Collage of Sarajevo before and after. Picture by Author.

    The evolution of the city

    First traces of human activity in the area of Sarajevo date back to the Neolithic period. Late Stone Age archaeological rests testify the presence of the Butmir group, named after the site they settle in, between 5500 and 4500 BC. As far as known, they were part of the Danube civilization and were mainly dedicated to agriculture, hunting and pottery.[1]

    Commonly, the starting date of the history of Sarajevo coincides with the date of settlement of Ottoman Empire, under the guide of the military commander Isa-Bey Ishaković. At his arrival, in the 15th century, only few villages were presents at the edge of the current city, connected by a Roman road running through the valley along the course of the Miljacka River. At the intersection of this road with the north-south axis, an open space used for trading was present.[2] This spot would later become famous as Baščaršija, the main square of the current Sarajevo.

    Ishaković had begun construing the main civil and religious buildings of the city. In 1457, he realised the Kulliye mosque, then he built a bridge over the Miljacka to connect the area with the other side of the river. The construction of the bridge was an important gesture to establish a peaceful relationship with the local communities. Moreover, he built other civil facilities such as the thermal complex (hammam), the public kitchen (imaret), a college (medresa) and a hospital (darusifa).[3]The main residential unit of the period takes the name of mahala, a network of interconnected streets organised around mosques, schools and public buildings.[4] Mahalas sprawled from the city centre (the Carsija) to the closer mountains as sequences of terraces. Each mahalla consisted in about 40 residences, a bakery, a public fountain and a mosque. Through its introvert shape, which preserved the intimacy of the family from the outside, these enclosures fostered the establishment of strong relationships among the neighbours.

    A crucial point comes when, in 1521, Gazi Husrev-Bey took the power and transformed the old town area into the core of religious, educational and cultural life. Since every ruler felt the duty of build a new mosque or a public building as he takes the power, the city grew quickly. According to Grabrijan and Niedhardt, he “marks the beginning of the golden age of the architecture of old Sarajevo” by realising public building such as the Tašlihan (the han/caravanserai), the Husrev Bey’s Kulliye Mosque, a college complex (the Kuršumlija medrese) and other facilities.[5] Gazi Husrev-Bey confirmed the character of openness and respect toward other cultures and religion. This is evident from the approval of the construction the first Orthodox Church in the proximity of the mosque. Then, when Sephardic Jews moved from Spain towards the Ottoman Empire because of the intolerant policies of Ferdinand and Isabella, they were allowed to practice their religion and establish their synagogue.[6] To underline the role of Sarajevo as paradigm of diversity, it is important to consider that Sephardim were not the only Jews to arrive in the city: a couple of decades later, indeed, also the Ashkenazim came from the Hungarian territories. As well as the others, they continued practicing their rituals and speaking their language within their own community without clashing with other cultures.[7] Around the end of XVI century the city reaches its peak of multi-cultures if we consider that the Orthodox church of Varoš, the Catholic one of Latinluk, the Jewish Temple and the most important mosques of Sarajevo coexisted within a couple of hundreds of meters.[8]

    Fig. 2 City of enclosures. Primary buildings of Baščaršija. Drawing by Author.

    The prosperity of the Ottomans went on until Prince Eugene of Savoy led the Habsburg troops into the city and burned most of it to the ground in 1697. Symbolic and religious elements of the city were seriously damaged and the city had to rebuild itself, but did not recover completely until the beginning of the 20th century, under the control of the same Habsburg Monarchy that provoked the fire.[9]

    From 1878 to 1918, during the forty years of Austro-Hungarian domination, the city faced huge transformations. Under the influence of Benjamin von Kàllay, who was in charge of administrate the Bosnian-Herzegovinian territory, the city was improved with infrastructures and relevants public buildings and reached the standards of European main cities. The demands for new developments was high due to the constantly increasing population, and so the city overflows the boundaries of the historical cities and its organic street composition and expand along the river with a more organised grid. The street (sokak) becomes more regular, its width increases up to 20 meters and, how Bejitić highlights, it eventually replaces the mahalla as the main unit of the city.[10] The Habsburg interventions did not change the character of the city, because they started building exactly where the historic city ends.

    The architectural style that Sarajevo should adopt was greatly debated, especially after a fire that burned down the old city generating blank spaces to fill. During this period, the overall city is filled with public buildings, parks and the first industrial complex. Josip pl. Vancaš, one of the main architects of the period, built the Catholic Cathedral under the influence of Western trends. But soon architects started questioning how to incorporate the typical Bosnian elements to create their own style: their research led to the adoption of the Pseudo-Moorish style, whose exotic character, in the intention of the authors, should recall the Muslim side of Bosnian culture. The main result of this tendency is the Vijećnica (City Hall, known as the City Library), which becomes the symbol of the multi-cultural soul of the city, and for this reason had been seriously damaged during the Siege.

    A milestone in the Western history comes on the June 28, 1914 when the radical Serb Gavrilo Princip shot at the Austrian Heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The discontent towards the central government reached its peak and the event triggered the beginning of the First World War.

    Fig. 3 Aerial view of the city from Austro-Hungarian Period blending into the historic town. Picture by Author.

    During the period that followed, the city did not face particular development until the years of Socialist Yugoslavia after the Second World War. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, constituted in 1964 and leaded by Josip Broz Tito, comprised all the western Balkan republics and managed to keep together different identities under the name of the equality. These years where characterised by a huge reprise from the economical, demographical and urban point of view.

    The positive economic moment brought to the realisation, in 1964, of the first “General Urban Plan”, which tried to regulate the illegal expansion over the mountains and control the growth of the city by dividing it into areas for living, working and recreating.[11] The new expansion of the city, of course, was oriented towards south and west, following the shape of the Sarajevo valley. The architectural style of the new interventions was heavily influenced by the principle of the Athens Charter, drawn up after the IV Congress of CIAM in 1933. Buildings such as the Skenderija Sport Center, the Holiday Inn hotel and the Elektroprivreda building are example of the architecture of the period. In the Western part, new modern mega-interventions arose, such the dormitory-quarter Alipasino Polje, characterised by a lack of urban quality and complete formal autonomy. The architecture of these enormous parts of city reflect the political vision of the period: their standardised architectural style, despite being the home for most of the population, do not reference to any cultural heritage, failing to become a meaningful place for the residents.

    This growth reaches its peak with the assignment of the 14th Winter Games in 1984, according to many the highest moment in the history of Yugoslavia, a symbol of the successful unions of the different cultures that populated the federal state and of the new cosmopolitanism of the city. However, the death of Tito in 1980 triggered the rising of all the nationalist instincts that for a long time had been kept quiet by the regime and less then a decade after the civil war occurred. Following the declaration of independence of BiH in 1992, the city of Sarajevo was besieged by the Yugoslav People’s Army and the Serb forces for almost four years, until February 29, 1996. During this period, the city was blockaded by the Serb Army and so supplies, war material and communication were cut off. This was the longest siege since the World War II, causing the death of almost 14,000 people, including more than 5,000 civilians.[12]

    Fig. 4 Historical development of the city. Drawing by Author.

    City and memory

    The violent civil war occurred in Bosnia had been fought by the ethnically mixed Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina against the Bosnian Serb Army, whose goal was the separation of the country and the ethnical cleaning of the Bosnian Muslims. It was officially declared over in 1996, when the Dayton Peace Agreements officially put an end to it. The physical and demographic composition of the city had been seriously transformed by the war. Many public buildings were destroyed and the 35-50% of the health care facilities of Bosnia were damaged.[13] Moreover, a consistent number of people had been displaced around Bosnia and more than one million left the country. After the end of the war, returnees were mainly Bosniaks, while almost the totality of the new born Republika Srpska were Serbs. These data, if compared with the pre-war ones, reflect the shift from the already mentioned multicultural Sarajevo to a new post-war segregated one.

    What is important to underline, in order to understand the deeply complex framework that Sarajevo represent, is the role that the city played in the siege. Sarajevo had been attacked for its multi-cultural and multi-ethnical character, for historically being the crossroad of very different cultures and the physical demonstration of the possibility of different cultures living together. As commonly highlighted by the literature, the destruction of the city was not a simply collateral damage, but instead a military and ideological objective of the war. During the Siege, the target of the attacks were all the buildings whose symbolic value could have fostered a sense of belonging to the culture of the city.[14] For these reasons, the Gazi Husrveb-Bey’s mosque was hit almost 100 times along with other religions churches. For the same reason, it is not a coincidence that the Olympic Museum, that a decade before had symbolised the unity of the Yugoslavian people in front of the world, together with others Olympic structures, had been reduced to their skeleton by the shells. But the biggest symbols of the civil war had been the burning of Vijećnica, the National Library since the Social Yugoslavia and former City Hall, where the different souls of the collective memory of the city were conserved.

    “The active and often systematic destruction of particular building types of architectural traditions that happens in conflicts were the erasure of the memories, history and identity attached to the architecture and place – enforced forgetting – is the goal itself”.[15]

    In accordance to Bogdanović[16], it is possible to adopt the term urbicide to describe the spatial violence against the by the built environment during the siege.[17] Cities are not collections of masses and volumes, but also of social, cultural and economical relationships. The destruction of the city is not just a matter of physical destruction, but rather a destruction of the urban quality which is founded on heterogeneity. For this reason, the term is deeply linked to the concept of memoricide, which is understood as the destruction or killing of the memory that the city embodies.

    Sarajevo not only had been the target of the war, but its morphology, its streets and open spaces had played an important role during the war. During the siege, civilians moving and gathering in the public spaces had been the target of the snipers of the Yugoslav People’s Army. The attacks of the snipers had been possible because of the city composition, completely surrounded by the mountains, and because the exposure of the spaces. The morphology of each quarter allowed for different levels of permeability, determining the risk factor of the area. The Ottoman part and its highly compact and non-regular fabric offered more protection because most of open spaces and intersections were protected by other buildings. The risk increased in the Austro-Hungarian area, where the blocks are more regular and the streets run for all the north-south length of the city, and in the Socialist part, where the free-standing building, the boulevard and giant open spaces created a macro-geography of danger.[18] One of the most exposed area got the name of Snipers Alley, referring to the strip running from the border of the Austro-Hungarian district, where the Holiday Inn Hotel is located, to the West part in the Socialist town. Along the alley, the tram line ensured connection to the several parts of the city that otherwise would have been completed isolated.

    The war had completely changed the symbolic system of the city, thus creating new meanings for all those everyday places which during the war had become the means of the conflict. The mountains that few years before were symbols of the Olympic Games had then become the source of dangers, the main boulevard of the city the riskiest street. The city and its spaces had been the tool through which the war was perpetuated. When studying a city such as Sarajevo, it is not possible to disregard the role of memory and not to consider how this city is the result of economical, political, cultural forces and struggles that, more than anywhere else, are sculptured into its streets.

    Fig. 5 The abandoned 1984 Winter Olympic Games podium. Picture by Hedwig Klawuttke via Wikimedia.


    [1] Sarajevo School of Science and Technology. Butmir Culture.

    [2] Kostović, Nijazija. Sarajevo: EuropeanJerusalem. Sarajevo: N. Kostović, 2001

    [3] Grabrijan, Dušan. Neidhardt, Juraj. ArhitekturaBosne I Put U Suvremeno. Ljubljana: Drž. Založbaslovenije, 1957. p.50

    [4] Ibidem

    [5] Ibidem

    [6]Donia, Robert J. Sarajevo: A Biography. London: Hurst& Company, 2006. p.169


    [8]Moreau, Miza. op.cit., p.584

    [9] Ivi, p.585

    [10]Bejtić, Alija. Ulice i trgoviSarajevatopografija, geneza i toponimija. Sarajevo: Muzej Grada, 1973

    [11]Pašić, Amir. Juvanec, Borut. Moro, Josè Luis. The Importance of Place: Values and Building Practices in the Historic Urban Landscape. Newcastle upon Time (UnitedStates): Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016. p.112

    [12]The Aleppo Project, Rebuilding Sarajevo, Center for Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery. Central EuropeanUniversity, 2015

    [13]Solioz, Christophe. Vogel, Tobias K. Petrisch, Wolfgang. Dayton and beyond: perspectives on the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Baden-Baden: NomosPublishers, 2004. p.176

    [14] Moreau, Miza. op.cit., p.595

    [15]Bevan, Robert. The destruction of memory: Architecture at War. London: Reaktion Books LTD, 2006

    [16] Lambert, Léopold. Weaponize

    [17] Ristic, Mirjana. ”’Sniper Alley’: The Politics of Urban Violence in the Besieged Sarajevo” in Built Environment. Vol. 40, n.3. Abingdon (UK): Alexandrine Press, Autumn 2014. p.345

    [18] Ristic, Mirjana. op.cit., p.352


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