A Pilav

Book Chapter



Armina Pilav



The aim of this paper is to analyse citizens’ strategies for surviving dangerous wartime urban conditions in Sarajevo, as made evident through different documents—photos, videos, and architectural drawings—produced by many authors during and after the war. Heterogeneous in its materiality, this study relies on the personal and professional experiences of each citizen-author. It sketches the social and physical components of the city, at a time when the urban environment was made perilous due to bombing, and a lack of public transport, electricity, water, and food. In the period between 1992 and 1996 in Sarajevo and in other Bosnian cities, survival became the most important activity for citizens. The inability of the city and the people living in it to function normally demanded as they developed innovative surrogates for the everyday objects not available to them—invented objects for cooking, lightening their spaces, sleeping, and self-protection. Likewise, they developed alternate models of the safe transportation of goods, along with other urban functions. Their war documentation is extremely important, as Sarajevo's destruction, which quickly transformed the pre- war, compact city into the ruin—was and continues to be difficult to describe and represent. Using Sarajevo as case study, this article examines the importance of collective creation of documents about citizens’ adaptation to extreme urban conditions as well as their contribution to the emerging studies on war architectural and urban resilience. Considering these documents is central to the formation and maintenance of a collective memory, as citizens undertake post-war reconstruction efforts, as artists develop materials for art projects on the urban wartime conditions, and as scholars craft academic research about the war across disciplines—architecture, urbanism, anthropology and media. This article takes media expressions as methodological tools for the reading and analysing war urban transformations and citizens’ resilient efforts. The aim is for these studies to be used as well for other urban emergencies, such as crises due to natural disasters or the shrinking cities.

KEYWORDS: Collective documenting; war; media; Sarajevo; urban resilience; extreme urban transformations.

A Pilav