Friday, October 20, 2006

'Conflict Urbanism': City of Collision


[Image: Photo by Larry Towell for the Moving Walls Exhibition.]

[First, forgive all the paraphrasing here, but, sometimes you just gotta do it.]

Sanat Akademisi, writes for Arkitera, "Almost eight decades of violent urban conflict have transformed Jerusalem into an extreme spatial configuration. From a Western perspective, Jerusalem is often regarded as unique: a place where colonial and terrorist violence blur distinctions between the military and the civilian. But as cities worldwide are increasingly subject to dramatic new security policies and preventative measures against real or imagined threats Jerusalem, as a laboratory of conflict urbanism is in fact closer than we think."


City of Collision: Jerusalem and the Architecture of Conflict Urbanism, is a new book edited by Philip Misselwitz who runs the project "Grenzgeografien", a cooperation between the University of the Arts Berlin (UdK), Institute for Urban Design (ETH Zürich), Bezalel Academy of Art and Design (Jerusalem) and the International Peace and Cooperation Centre IPCC (Jerusalem). Akademisi continues, saying the book "presents a vivid picture of a city in a permanent state of destruction and reinvention, hostage to political planning, collective fear and physical and mental walls but also strategies of resilience, individual exchange and transgression."

As I have not yet gotten my hands on this book, the title description goes on to add this: "After terrorist attacks in New York, London, and Madrid, the same can be said not just about the Middle East, but also Western metropolises. City of Collision is a thorough investigation of the current situation in Jerusalem from a trilateral perspective: Israeli, Palestinian, and a host of international experts from multiple disciplines. Architects, urbanists, geographers, anthropologists, and artists discuss the production and use of urban space under the conditions created by "intra-urban conflict." Thirty-five large-format thematic maps and graphics detailing the construction of security fences, urban enclaves, exclaves, and the often jarring juxtapositions created between highly developed and impoverished urban spaces are also included."


[Image: Photo by Larry Towell for the Moving Walls Exhibition.]

Philipp Misselwitz and Tim Rieniets recently published an excerpt in Monu Magazine, where they describe 'conflict urbanism' as having "produced a city where modernisation and adaptation always intertwine with political agendas. It is a city that changes its physical form, infrastructural systems and in an accelerated, at times almost daily fashion. Processes of urban change such as road planning, closures, construction of walls, fences, etc. that require year-long planning processes in Western cities can be implemented virtually over night – an uneasy, panicked ridden dynamism, that relies on the rapid implementation of facts on the ground. This permanent state of radical transformation has involved a dramatic, physical and demographic growth, as well as unprecedented decline and destruction."

The essay goes on to describe the key aspects that characterize a Conflict Urbanism, using Jerusalem’s present condition as a filter.

Misselwitz stated in an older interview, "As the 1967 border line is not clear anymore, you can no longer talk about two halves of the city, but rather two overlapping parallel towns which, despite this, are almost completely separate from each other. [...] The basic idea of Cities of Collision was first of all to develop an understanding for this extreme situation. On the other hand, we tried to discover bridges between these islands, which make the idea of a shared city appear conceivable. [...] The term "collision" is not negative for us, but designates a third mediation area which can make the differences culturally productive and improve day-to-day living."


[Image: Photo by Larry Towell for the Moving Walls Exhibition.]

A recent discussion panel with Sari Hanafi, Peter Marcuse, Eyal Weizman, and Peter Zlonicki (Professor for Urban Planning, Munich) entitled: Victims, Weapons or Mediators? Transformations in the relationship between contemporary cities and conflict, explored "the condition of contemporary cities in a world where distinctions between the military and the civilian, between real and constructed threats, between security measures and socio-economic or ethnic segregation are increasingly blurred. Considering North-American, European and Middle Eastern Cities, the panel will discuss how cities increasingly struggle to maintain urban settings for the mediation of difference and diversity. Can the extreme spatial segregation of Jerusalem be considered as a prototype for a future urban condition? Can the city that produced such radical conflict urbanism also serve as a laboratory for practices that undermine, erode and transgress this condition?"

With that, be sure to check out Michael Sorkin's book The Next Jerusalem. The Publisher's Weekly wrote this: "Responding to a 1997 Jerusalem architectural conference that excluded Palestinian participation, New York architect Sorkin organized a second conference on the fate of the city that took place in Bellagio, Italy, in 1999, with 25 Palestinians, Israelis and "others" (mostly Americans) participating in equal numbers. Taking an eventual two-state solution as a given, the participants came up with some ingenious plans for mutual cooperation and healing via architecture-everything from "displacing" contested sites in Jerusalem and relocating them elsewhere (such as moving the Western Wall to Safed and the Dome of the Rock to Nablus) to taking the informal sites of Arab and Jewish same-sex encounters as starting points for imagining interfaith relations. While the conference took place before the second intifada began, and thus also before September 11th, Sorkin finds that even looking at the book through those lenses, "nothing in its feeling or analysis shifts. A just and equitable peace remains the only hope.""


Now, if you haven't had enough of my paraphrasing, don't overlook the Jerusalem 2050 conference and design competition kicking off in January of 2007. "It seeks to understand what it would take to make Jerusalem , a city also known as Al Quds, claimed by two nations and central to three religions, "merely" a city, a place of difference and diversity in which contending ideas and citizenries can co-exist in benign, yet creative, ways.

In order to break out of the stalemate that has reinforced despair and conflict in Jerusalem, and relegated questions of urban livability to the back burner of national political diplomacy, the Jerusalem 2050 project aims to bypass the standard route of negotiation between "representative" peoples and turn instead to the liberating potential of imagination and design. Rather than aiming for unity or synthesis among competing parties in their plans for the city, we will encourage the production of bold and “non-negotiated” visions for Jerusalem, with the assumption being that only through such methods can there emerge a shared understanding of the basic urban conditions necessary for a tolerant and culturally vibrant city to flower, independent of ethnic or religious partisanship."

2 Comments:

Blogger Erden Kosova said...

Sanat Akademisi is not a real person. It means in Turkish "Art Academy".

6:21 PM  
Blogger - said...

I wrote the preview for arkitera and the extended one for Betonart magazine.

sanat akademisi is the place where the launching where happened in berlin. anyway; the project will be exhibited in istanbul, 2007, Sept-Nov.

4:42 PM  

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