Synchrony-city: Sarajevo in five acts and few intervals

Selma Harrington*, Branka Dimitrijevic, Ashraf M. Salama

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


This paper focuses on Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, giving a general overview of its urban context through five historical periods, as part of a research study on its modernist architectural heritage. Designed to mimic the theatrical process which unfolds through acts and intervals, the paper combines literary, architectural, journalistic and historical sources, to sketch the key periods which characterise the city’s urban morphology. The sequence of acts and intervals points to the dramatic historic inter-change of continuities and ruptures, in which the ruptures have often been less studied and understood. This explains the frequent conceptualising of Sarajevo through East-West binary, which synthesises it either as a provincial capital from Ottoman and later Habsburg rule, a regional centre within two Yugoslav states and a capital city of a young state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This highlights the need to study the ruptures as clues to the flow of continuities, in which the care and after-care for built environment provide a field of evidence and possibilities for diverse perspectives of examination.

Corroborated by secondary sources, the paper examines the accounts of urban heritage destruction in the 1990s war, as recorded by a writer, an architect and a journalist, and outlines a pattern of unbroken inter-relations between urban and architectural space (tangible) and sense and identity of place (intangible).
This discourse is relevant to the current situation where the city of Sarajevo expands again, in the complexity of a post-conflict society. Challenged by the political divisions and the laissez - faire economy, the public mood and interest is under-represented and has many conflicting voices. Inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and the accounts from the siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s, this conceptual paper contributes to the formulation of a cross-disciplinary discursive prism through which the fragments of the city and its periods come together or apart, adding, subtracting and changing layers of meaning of the physical space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-594
Number of pages22
JournalArchnet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research
Issue number3
Early online date27 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


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