The Global Network's Appeal at CELA
Virginia Tech a Leader in GNR Projects
ESRI Donates Software and Classes
A Charrette at the University of Cincinnati
Why? (From a soldier's poem)
Our mission is inspired spiritually, but today I am here as a proponent of enlightened self-interest--to share with you a few observations on its potential benefits to our profession, our society and the world at large--and as a witness to what can happen when darkness prevails.
Early on in my seven-year tenure as an urban designer for the city of Birmingham I came to realize that a planner's job is to tend the many threads that bind a population of diverse interests into a functioning community.
It was images of such a fabric being ripped apart by artillery and rocket fire in Sarajevo that compelled me to quit my job with the city in 1994 and go where the people most needed my skills.
My only previous combat experience involved sign ordinances and zoning disputes. But I knew that the one certainty of war is devastation, and the only certainties of a city's devastation are immense human suffering and the ultimate need for its relief.
Having grown up in Birmingham, I understood the value of cohesion within a community, and what could happen in its absence. Having witnessed Dr. King's courage then, I knew that the world should not turn its back on injustice now.
War was raging, the city surrounded and under fire, when I heard the pleas for help broadcast by Sarajevan civic and religious leaders and made my way there. A place so ravaged needs plans for peace. "But how can you help plan the rebuilding of something that is still being demolished?" family and friends asked.
It's a good question, on the face of it. But a city is more than concrete and steel, rubble and debris--its her people, their needs and aspirations, their common vision. In the cellars of Sarajevo I found students and professionals, architects, urban designers, artists and bureaucrats, working for a peaceful future.
We assured ourselves that someday there would be peace. But where rebuilding is concerned the future is always cloudy. The only thing worse than planning with no money is money with no plans.
After a month's stay in Sarajevo I returned home to start a nonprofit organization that would involve American corporate and academic land planners in studying strategies for rebuilding and creating plans that might provide conditions for peace. That organization has come to be known as the Global Network for Rebuilding. Our first asset was a cache of Sarajevo city maps and site photos carried across the front lines in my duffel bag.
Fifteen months later, with the signing of the Dayton accord, the siege of Sarajevo was lifted. Over the ensuing three years our network here in America has grown, thanks to the participation of students and instructors at a score of universities throughout the eastern U.S., and donations of site data, professional services, software and training from corporate, government and NGO sources.
Despite the efforts and good intentions of our organization and many others, Sarajevo's future remains in doubt today--not only because NATO's commitment to peace is tenuous, but because there is no strategy for peace. Bosnians have precious little say in what will be built with aid funds earmarked for reconstruction. To that end, we have facilitated the transfer of donated G.I.S. software from ESRI, Incorporated, to Sarajevo's Institute of Urban and Regional Planning and the University of Sarajevo's School of Architecture. And we have initiated training of key Bosnian planners, donated by ESRI's Bosnia area rep, GISDATA, Incorporated.
In the three years since my first trip to Bosnia, our Global Network for Rebuilding has offered Bosnia-oriented educational experiences--including lectures, charrettes, studio classes, and support for undergraduate special projects and graduate thesis work--to students from Baton Rouge to Toronto. During that time we have been privileged to work with progressive and innovative instructors who believe in the power of modern land planning technology to impact positively on crucial issues such as conflict resolution and sustainable living.
Equally enlightening have been the acquaintanceships we have made among students. How gratifying it was to find that the rising generation of land planners is highly enthused by projects that deal with reconstruction, revitalization--reaching out to help a community in need.
Activities like these offer the best of all worlds: motivated students learning real-world skills through meaningful projects that allow them to experience the gift of giving and to develop traits necessary to good corporate citizenship.
This series of synergistic relationships is at the heart of the Global Network for Rebuilding concept. From the first, we have worked to leverage academic manpower and brainpower with in-kind donations from government and private sources. Also elemental is the network concept, through which teams at different schools working on similar problems can use the Internet to confer, compare and contrast ideas with peers, mentors and potential end users.
Over the years we have come to recognize that the Global Network for Rebuilding concept has applicability elsewhere. It can be used on behalf of blighted urban areas anywhere in the world. Instructors participating in our network will author chapters in a handbook entitled "Strategies for Rebuilding: Bosnia and Beyond" that draws upon expertise in many areas of community healing, using Bosnia as a case study.
Presently, we are exploring the means to bring the Global Network for Rebuilding concept to bear on behalf of selected U.S. cities. America's colleges are repositories of much local knowledge. Professors who have come to know and understand the urban areas in and around where they live possess opinions vital to potential revitalization efforts. We hope to tap this resource in the coming year.
For the past six months we have been consulting with a private-sector funding source that intends to invest and start businesses in several inner-city neighborhoods over the next year. This is not a gentrification scheme. Investors will make money only if the chosen neighborhoods become better and more prosperous places to live for their present residents. Accordingly, the firm has developed compelling strategies to heighten citizen involvement and increase employment within each neighborhood.
They have asked us to help them choose neighborhoods for potential investment. We will ask many of you to help us in this effort, because we recognize the practical value of the knowledge base gathered here.
With the assistance of local academics, we intend to perform suitability studies on a number of communities. The studies will rate a wide variety of factors and conditions in the neighborhoods under consideration. From this study we will cull a handful of candidate neighborhoods for more intensive study, involving studio classes and student special projects at local schools. Once investment selections have been made, we expect to use student interns in the implementation stage.
The success of these investments will be gauged by the increase in overall community equity. The need for landscape architects for this work will be great.
Through both our Bosnian and domestic projects your students can study broken neighborhoods and discover the means to fix them. But to prepare students properly to confront the vast problems they will face in the future we must provide those students with modern tools like GIS technology.
We want to help. But you must be willing to help yourselves.
Cash-crunched design departments can take a lesson from corporate America's technology-related productivity increases and the resultant profits reaped. Over the past decade, forward-thinking executives came to recognize that regardless the formidable sunk cost and learning curves involved in adoption of computer technology, future competitiveness was at stake--both on the macro and micro levels. They understood that they could not afford to put at risk long-term viability on the basis of decisions dictated purely by short-term planning. Those companies that didn't plan ahead didn't survive.
Many schools of landscape architecture in America face a similar breakpoint at this time in our profession's history. However painful it might be fiscally, we can not afford to turn away from a technology that so empowers planning.
The good news is that there are ways in which costs can be mitigated. Though you might not know it, many of you already have campus-wide site licenses for GIS software from leading providers like ESRI, ERDAS and Intergraph. If the software resides on a server outside your department, push to get a network connection to it. Campus-wide licenses aren't cheap, so wider utilization helps your administration rationalize the expenditure.
If you lack hardware, argue your case on its merits--to administrators, alumni, local providers and grantmakers. A quick survey of city planners in your area will most likely reveal that they too are moving toward digitized mapping capability--supporting your contention that GIS training is a requisite to preparing students for the modern workplace.
Everyone has a healthy, vested interest in your adoption of this technology. So they will help you in various ways.
Potential employers such as city planning departments and public utilities require a steady stream of skilled entrants to the job market, so they will offer internships. Hardware and software vendors want to sow the seeds of GIS technology in schools in order to ensure expanding markets, so they will offer educational discounts and other incentives. Organizations such as ours, that need your involvement in charitable works, can provide a source of subject matter for study.
A case in point: ESRI recently gave the Global Network for Rebuilding a dozen individual licenses for ArcView and ARC/INFO, which we have made available on an annual basis to academics participating in our projects. In August we were able to offer a free week of instruction in these products at an ESRI training facility in Birmingham. More than a dozen instructors from six different institutions attended. If you're interested in getting involved, just ask.
In a time where rapidly evolving technologies are creating ever-expanding markets, opportunities abound. We all gain by working together.
Historically, the land planning world looks to America for leadership. Through modern telecommunications means such as the Internet we are now even better able to show the way.
But leadership carries with it responsibilities. It is possible to showcase American design talents and corporate wares while at the same time giving something of value to those who need it most. I would like to suggest a design competition open to all North American landscape architecture students, focusing on a regional town plan for Sarajevo.
Perhaps the ASLA could refine the work and submit it to the public to show how important a role landscape architects can play in creating conditions where people can live together peacefully.
Why Sarajevo, when we have already acknowledged the need to help so many blighted communities here in the U.S.?
Because Sarajevo is an object lesson for all citizens of ethnically diverse societies, especially those who aspire to be urban and regional planners.
The suffering there is the end result of fear that grew into intolerance, and intolerance that grew into uncaring, and uncaring that grew into a hatred so blind that self-interest lost its way in the darkness.
Sarajevo has a story to tell. We will learn if we will listen.
The world needs us to succeed. If we can't help, who can?
VPI was especially active in GNR projects during the past school year. Graduate students Steve Gagro and Bernardo Velha did thesis projects on Sarajevo. Instructors Lee Skabelund, Diane Zahm and Bob Dyck became GNR advisory board members.
A charrette in September assisted by GNR volunteers Amira Dzirlo and Andy Euston focused on Regional Plans for Peace and urban plan topics including Sustainable Sarajevo, A Regional Town Plan, The New Jerusalem, The City As Museum and Embassy Row. The New Jerusalem and Embassy Row studies combined to find ways to create a city that stands out as an international capital. The City as Museum examined significant locations and ways to highlight that which they have to teach us. Sustainable Sarajevo considered developmental and environmental sustainability issues crucial to the city's survival in the next century, and set up procedures to move forward with more specific recommendations. We also explored social sustainability issues, such as financing and initiating rebuilding, and the resettlement of refugees.
In January, The Global Network for Rebuilding and the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Consortium co-hosted a charrette at Virginia Tech University's Alexandria Center outside Washington, D.C. The charrette, entitled "Bosnia and Beyond: Strategies for Rebuilding," focused on ways to help plan the rebuilding of war-torn Bosnia and the implications of that rebuilding for other devastated areas. By exploring the best means to rebuild communities in Bosnia we hope to uncover ways to assist distressed communities throughout the rest of the world, including America.
Participants included students and instructors from Virginia Tech and other universities that have worked with GNR during the past two years, as well as specialists from the State Department, Bosnian Embassy, and NGO's that work in Bosnia. The Bosnian Ambassador to Washington, Sven Alkalaj, gave a welcoming address.
Skills employed included those from disciplines previously and presently involved in GNR projects--urban design, regional planning, architecture and building construction--with an emphasis on the use of GIS in constructing well-thought-out plans that meet the social and economic needs of the Bosnian people. The conference pioneered the way for future educational exchanges. Special events during the workshop included demonstrations and technical support from major corporate supporters, such as leading GIS providers ESRI, ER Mapper, GISDATA and SPOT Image, Inc.
An intensive three-day Introduction to ArcView class followed by an intensive two-day Introduction to ARC/INFO class was held in Birmingham during the week of August 4, 1997. The free classes were donated to instructors from GNR-affiliate institutions by leading GIS software provider ESRI, Inc. The classes were held at ESRI's training facility on the campus of Samford University.
Earlier this year, ESRI donated ten product licenses for ArcView and ARC/INFO and ArcCAD, for use in schools participating in GNR projects in the 1997-98 school year. (Learn how your school can qualify!)
ESRI has also pledged software for Bosnian land planners affiliated with the Institute for City Planning-Sarajevo and the University of Sarajevo. GISDATA in Ljubljana, Slovenia, area rep for ESRI, will donate training for fourteen Sarajevan planners from a variety of agencies and institutions. The software will mirror that used by North American participants in GNR projects focusing on Bosnia.
I'm cold, I'm shaking and trembling,
My legs are in water up to my ankles, arms up to elbows in blood.
I'm sitting in the ground, on the ground,
I'm leaning against the ground, in front of me is the ground!
I'm looking at it.
It's dark, it should dawn,
I should have been at home in my bed a long time ago.
My friend, what are you and me doing here?
It's late, our mothers are waiting for us at our homes.
He is silent, not answering me.
It's quiet, sickening quiet, the silence is slashing the air.
I'm looking at the ground in front of me,
I'm looking at the ground and thinking about life.
I'm thinking about my mother, my brother,
I'm thinking about all the ones I love and just how much I love them.
Oh, god, just how much love is in me, not even a trace of hate.
I look at the ground in front of me and in it see outlines of faces.
I see women, their beautiful nude bodies, I see children playing,
I see my friend, I see myself, we're playing, I see birds.
Silence. I see agony, I see a scream, cramp pain and silence.
I see a tear, I see the end.
I'm cold, I'm shaking...looking at the ground as it is looking at me.
Seconds are going by...they are heavy as eternity,
We're watching each other...the ground and me...
I admire it...
I'm cold, I have a fever, I'm shaking.
My friend are you cold too? I ask him.
Silence, he is quiet, not answering me.
I am looking at the ground and it is looking at me.
I repeat the question: My friend are you cold?
There is no answer.
I turn my head toward him, his shoulder is leaning on mine.
I see only the outline of his face, he is sitting next to me.
His eyes are open, looking at me.
Those eyes are looking at me, eyes full of life and love,
Eyes whose shine is slowly going away...
"Sleep my friend, I know that you are cold too."
I say it softly so I won't wake him up, and I shut his eyes...
Oh, god how much love and life were in those eyes.
A Prayer for the Balkans
The Newsletter, Winter 1995
The Newsletter, Spring 1995
The Newsletter, Fall 95 / Winter 96
The Newsletter, Fall 96 / Winter 97
A Note from Sarajevo
Classes and Workshops
A Letter from the Founder
A Peaceful Mobilization
An Endorsement from the ASLA President
Sarajevo Survival Guide
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