A Note of Thanks
An Interview with Bruce Sharky
LSU in Sarajevo
Our Special Appreciation To
To those of you who are considering hosting a Bosnia Network design workshop or a scholarship student from Sarajevo, know that though we are a poor nation, far away, your kind consideration has already enriched us and brought us closer to you. Your thoughts and prayers sustain us; if you can do more, be assured it is with our fullest blessing.
Vice President, Sarajevo Student Architecture Association.
(Note: Nino Spahic escaped Sarajevo and arrived in America in
December. Since then, he has joined the Bosnia Network and contributed his
knowledge and skills as a draftsman and map maker to help us
produce accurate urban design resource materials.)
BN: Why is it important for students to undertake projects of an international scope, like Bosnia Network projects?
SHARKY: Clearly landscape architecture is going to be a global enterprise. More and more firms are working internationally. The way that we train and educate our landscape architects in the United States, there's a lot to offer other countries. I don't think that we can do it alone; in partnership, we have a better response from the culture in need of our technical expertise. We certainly have the track record of accomplishments--that is at least a starting point. And since more and more American firms are working overseas, I'm interested in starting our students as early as possible. I'm looking for opportunities such as this one, that get students thinking about how they might work in another culture, with another set of values, another set of attitudes.
The other faculty are interested, but no one has really done much. We did have two projects the first year I was here. We had a landscape architect from Mexico come and spend a week, and we did a design project in which all the students worked together for a week--third year, fourth year, fifth year, and graduate students, in about fifteen teams of eight students each--on a park in a small town north of Mexico City. And they really enjoyed it. That was my first clue that they actually like doing that sort of thing. They are really motivated and try to understand and recognize that what is good design for Baton Rouge is not necessarily appropriate for Mexico or Bosnia.
Two years ago, Americans from the SWA brought us a project from a port town in Venezuela. The students thoroughly enjoyed that too. And then I've had two other foreign projects--one this year and one last year--in Mexico...As long as I'm here, we're committed to that. I believe it's in the mission statement of the school.
BN: Where else are American landscape architects active?
SHARKY: The Far East, Japan, the entire Pacific Rim.
BN: Are we more advanced?
SHARKY: I wouldn't say that. We're experienced, particularly in planning. Where we train our students differently than many other countries is in the larger-scale regional planning. Landscape architects in other countries are trained more from a horticultural perspective. Very strong in plant, very strong in horticulture--very detailed in planting designs. In the US we're more broadly trained, with an emphasis on larger-scale planning, larger sites.
BN: Why did you agree to take on the Bosnia project?
SHARKY: I thought it was important. You convinced me it was doable, in that you had been there, you had material. Part of the problem in working in another part of the world, or even in another part of the US, is that it's one thing to say, yes, you want to work on it, but it's quite another to have the necessary information so that it's not frustrating to the students. Plus, the fact that Jay Craig is an LSU grad and clearly committed to this project. I responded to it on a humanistic level.
BN: Do you have any constructive criticism of the project?
SHARKY: I haven't seen the final result. But a faculty colleague, Dan Earl, said he thought it has been worthwhile, that it was appropriate for the class, the level of the students, and that there was enough material to work from. I've talked to the students, asked if they have enjoyed this, and they've been very enthusiastic about it.
BN: You'd say their enthusiasm was a bit above average?
SHARKY: I'd say it's above average, high up there. The one thing I've noticed about LSU students is that when a site has a strong sense of place and a strong cultural element, students tend to get more enthusiastic about the project.
BN: Would you like to continue these projects?
SHARKY: Yes. Definitely.
BN: Can you see LSU and other schools benefiting from working together on this?
SHARKY: I think it would be great. Let's say three or
four schools end up working on this specific project, then we
have a reunion after each school has had the individual experience,
and work on it together...say, a three-day design charette together.
The LSU students' assignment was to redesign a key site on the riverfront in Sarajevo. The project was sponsored by the Birmingham Bosnia Task Force...Jay Craig (LSU graduate), an experienced urban designer and community activist, directs the Birmingham, Ala.-based task force and participated in presenting and judging the LSU project.
Students were originally told, in background information for the project, that there is a "window of opportunity" following disasters when aid and funds rush to a site. Often absent are concrete, sound plans for rebuilding. The Birmingham Bosnia Task Force and the Association of Students of Architecture Sarajevo hope to have "designs of peace and the future" in hand before the conclusion of the conflict.
"Rebuilding of communities after a disaster seldom takes advantage of conditions that the tragedy, in its perverse way, has created. While a city may be unprepared for disaster, it is even less prepared for rebuilding. The immediate needs are great and the time to develop adequate plans is short; what gets rebuilt is often badly planned, designed and constructed, lacking in time for thought and creative expression," reads the initial assignment materials.
The design site is described as an important symbolic and social area of the city containing a mix of land use--commercial and office buildings, a fine arts school, a library, coffee house, shops, apartments and the river. All existing structures currently are destroyed or damaged.
Because the project involves worldwide communication of designs and plans, students were instructed to submit their projects on 11x17-inch paper, for easy reproduction and distribution. The project involved moving from broad concepts to detail design of use areas, paving, plantings and street furnishings.
Student concepts for the site included "a space for the living," with a public ice-skating rink; "sewing the wounds of war," which "sews" together both sides of the river with consistent design elements; "reconstruction and rebirth"; and "the tree of life."
The project rates as an important first for the School of
Landscape Architecture, and it exposes LSU students to
international design practice, foreign cultures, disaster
planning and, ultimately, the tragedy of war. The School of
Architecture in Sarajevo, which is coordinating the
"Architecture-War-Architecture" design network for reconstruction
of the city, has been destroyed. But they realize their School
is more than buildings and equipment; it's people and their
tremendous spirit. They hope that LSU's involvement is the
beginning of worldwide participation in the rebuilding of
BILL MANN, professor, School of Environmental Design, University of Georgia. Bill hosted GURB's first lecture and slide show, and later contacted the organizers of LABASH 95 on our behalf. This winter, Bill's design class devoted three weeks of their creative intelligence to help rebuild a multi-cultural Sarajevo.
DALE DUNHAM, owner, Geographical Information Services, a G.I.S. consulting company. Dale was the first person to make a contribution to the efforts of GURB. Without solicitation, Dale donated $1,000 to sustain our efforts.
SAKIR DZIRLO, former First Secretary of the Bosnian Embassy in Washington, and his wife, AMIRA, an architect. Their help and guidance proved crucial both in Sarajevo and here at home. Sakir has returned to Bosnia; our prayers go with him.
SCOTT DOUGLAS, Director of Greater Birmingham Ministries. His organization provides us with bookkeeping services and joint use of a 501(c)(3) account for fund raising purposes.
LAWTON HIGGS, coordinator of Birmingham's Metro Area Justice Interfaith Council (MAJIC). Lawthon has helped promote our undertaking among community activists and religious leaders.
RABBI JONATHON MILLER, Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, the first religious leader to voice support for us locally.
SALAH EL DAREER, local Moslem religious leader and community builder, a great friend and adviser.
JIM DOUGLAS, Catholic theologian, religious peace worker and veteran of Sarajevo. We followed in Jim's footsteps to Bosnia.
ED LAMONTE, Board member of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; professor and administrator, Birmingham-Southern College. His early support encouraged us to pursue the interest of other local leaders.
MIKE GRIFFIN, Department of Photography and Graphics at the
University of Alabama-Birmingham. Mike has provided much-needed
assistance in processing the visual media that make up much of
our presentations and resource material.
A Prayer for the Balkans
The Newsletter, Spring 1995
The Newsletter, Fall 95 / Winter 96
A Note from Sarajevo
Classes and Workshops
A Letter from the Founder
A Peaceful Mobilization
An Endorsement from the ASLA President
Sarajevo Survival Guide
To Contact Us