Sarajevo Compared with Coventry and Beirut

A dissertation by Lindsay Cordall MA (Hons) Landscape Architecture 1998











During my search for a suitable dissertation topic I became interested in the Caribbean Island of Montserrat, which suffered destruction after a volcanic eruption. It occurred to me that the role of the Landscape Architect was very important in the rebuilding of a community that had suffered such a loss of environment.

This led me to consider the implications that the war in Bosnia had had upon its people and the communities they lived in. Most people are aware of the fighting that occurred in Bosnia because of the widespread publicity given to the conflict. Now that fighting has ceased, though maybe only temporarily, the city must be made habitable again and its people helped to recover. Before reconstruction can start, the feelings of the people, whose trauma must be understood and reflected in sensitive development, must be taken into account. It is here that the Landscape Architect can make an impact, combining the understanding of other design professions, most importantly architecture and urban design, and creating a strategy that will determine the reshaping of the city.

This subject offers a variety of opportunities because although some rebuilding plans have been prepared for some time there is no masterplan or strategy that identifies the needs of the city and the way in which it must be rebuilt to satisfy them. Opportunity also arises for the development of contemporary thought for the redesigning of an entire city. Such is the extent of destruction that Sarajevo could be viewed as a blank canvas.

In the researching of this topic some limitations have become evident, most notably the lack of up-to-date information on Sarajevo itself and accurate information regarding the level of destruction. To attempt to remedy this, Internet sources have been used to access information that is current. These sources have been considered reliable for the purpose of this dissertation.


Conflict is constant in society and frequently conflict escalates into war. Examples in this century are the First and Second World Wars and more recently the Bosnian war in the former Yugoslavia. The important factor of this civil war was that it was among a number of ethnic minorities. Carter et al (1995) has suggested that the greater significance of the Bosnia crisis is that it could be an archetype of future ethnic conflicts, where the distribution of groups is not aligned to international boundaries.

The results of war are always devastating, leaving cities and the surrounding countryside scarred, and the people traumatised. Sarajevo is a good example because of the Serbian bombardment that occurred during the siege on the city, leaving much of the town uninhabitable and those of the population that were unable to flee, killed or injured. It is the period after the cessation of hostilities that this dissertation deals with, when all that is left are the broken buildings, fragmented landscape and the shattered lives of the people. At this point the plans for rebuilding must be drawn and put into action, but the approach and method of reconstruction cannot simply be the building of new development to replace the old. Consideration has to be given to the long-term effects of violence on the people, and that the physical damage of the city and the psychological damage to the people are inextricably linked. Landscape Architects are primarily concerned with designing environments. The Landscape Institute (1997) defines Landscape Architecture as a harmonisation of the new with the existing, based on a detailed understanding of the scientific, functional, aesthetic and management considerations involved and their interaction. This is accomplished using knowledge of the natural elements of the landscape, its materials and components, to create the spatial and aesthetic elements of the new environment. Trieb (1991) extends the definition to emphasise the importance of an appreciation of cultural values. With any large project the profession needs to participate early in the plans for reconstruction and renovation. It is at this point that they should become involved along with Architects, Engineers, Urban Designers and Planners to identify specific needs and locate the areas of development that will be crucial to re-establish the structure of the urban environment (Landscape Institute 1997). This implies that the Landscape Architect is in an ideal position to act as a coordinator for such projects.

The aim of this dissertation is to concentrate on Landscape Architecture in this situation, demonstrating its role in the aftermath of civil conflict. It will attempt to achieve three objectives:

The methods used to do this are the application of contemporary theory to practice and the evaluation of previous reconstruction programs realised in the aftermath of war.

To develop an appropriate approach to the rebuilding of Sarajevo a number of issues should be researched to provide a strong basis on which a strategy can be constructed. The historical background of Yugoslavia is significant since the country has suffered centuries of conflict and rivalry between the varied ethnic minorities. Now that Yugoslavia has been divided into independent countries Sarajevo's role has changed to that of a capital city, rather than a regional centre, and reconstruction will have to take this into account. Sarajevo's role in the economic and cultural growth of the country must also be understood. Rebuilding plans will have to help resolve conflict, soothe relationships between factions and promote cooperation. To do this there has to be a comprehension of the political events that led to the war. Understanding the background of the war from different ethnic viewpoints is relevant in finding a solution that will maintain peace.

It is important to study the extent of physical destruction in detail, and make an inventory of areas beyond repair and areas that will benefit from restoration and renovation. This provides a foundation on which the reconstruction process will start. It is also important to audit the extent and varying causes of psychological trauma to the community resulting from such destruction. Examples are the changes in family life, the effects of widespread bereavement and the loss of employment for many Sarajevanís. Once this has been done there is an opportunity to create a new framework for the structure of Sarajevo that will take into account the feelings of the people, its history and its future role (Gavin 1996).

To ensure the approach to rebuilding is done appropriately it is helpful to look at reconstruction projects in other cities that have suffered in the same way as Sarajevo. Lessons can be drawn from the approach to solving the similar problems that conflicts create, analysing their success and if they can be applied to Sarajevo. For this purpose Beirut is an appropriate case study; it has also undergone a civil war and since the ending of hostilities in 1990 has been in the process of rebuilding. The aftermath of the war has presented similar problems to that of Sarajevo, most notably the conflict within a community that has left the city scarred by bombs and bullets. This is a modern reconstruction program that has been underway for seven years and is still in progress. Much can be learned from the issues that arose and the way that those involved tackled them.

Closer to home are the rebuilding projects that occurred as a result of the Second World War in cities, such as Coventry, that were subjected to intense bombing. Of course, unlike Sarajevo, in Coventry there was no internal conflict to resolve. Coventry was united as a community against a common enemy and therefore rebuilding only had to take into account the design of a new structure. The city suffered from extensive damage, with large areas razed to the ground, and has been rebuilt using contemporary design principles of the period. The extent of the cityís success today can be linked to the method of reconstruction. Lessons learned from the reconstruction of Beirut and Coventry will be valuable in the design of a strategy for Sarajevo.

At present there are various organisations involved in reconstruction programs in Sarajevo. The local government is responsible for some of the smaller development but their involvement is limited and organisation poor because there is little in available funds (Craig 1997). Help has been given by a collection of foreign voluntary organisations, consisting of Landscape Architects, Architects and other professions who have initiated projects to rebuild schools and orphanages. A good deal of foreign interest has been created, and well-known designers are involved. Sir Norman Foster is the architect responsible for the reconstruction project that will build a new University from the remains of the old Marshall Tito Army barracks (Building Design 1997). These organisations can provide useful information, as they possess a pool of knowledge and experience and have come to know Sarajevo very well.

The culmination of this study is a series of proposed recommendations for the reconstruction of Sarajevo. They allow the formation of a phased plan, designed to coordinate renewal, restoration and development; and implement the reinstatement of the public domain of streets, utilities and open spaces, all areas that degenerate during war (Gavin 1996). They take into account all the areas of cultural and historical significance within Sarajevo and combine it with modern approaches to rebuilding, which incorporate the concept of sustainable development. The landscape recommendations have a prominent role within the program because they are responsible for the creation of a new social arena, composed of squares, links and parks that will reconnect a divided city. Their main objective is to contribute to the creation of a renewed sense of natural pride and identity for the Sarajevans, emotions that were strongly tested during the conflict.

The Bosnian war is the product of the historical development of the Balkans. The historical events leading to the war are summarised in the Appendix.

@ Copyright 1998 Lindsay Cordall. All Rights Reserved.

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