The New Met’s Richard Williams visited Sarajevo at the end of 2014 courtesy of Igor Štiks. As well as attending the Otvoreni Universitet (Open University) for three days, Richard wandered the streets of the enigmatic Bosnian capital, trying to sense something of its history and future.
This is what happened…
Abandoned swimming pool, Podcarina, eastern Sarajevo above the River Miljacka.
Kovači Muslim cemetery, eastern Sarajevo above the Stari Grad (Old Town).
Mosque, eastern Sarajevo above the Stari Grad.
Festina Lente bridge across the River Miljacka. Designed by three product design students from the adjacent Academy of Fine Arts and opened in 2012.
The looping imagery is designed to turn a space of transit into a symbolic and literal pause in the city. It was well covered by the international design press.
It is only a few hundred metres from the Latin Bridge, the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Midday tram outside the Parliament complex. The system defines urban transport in the city. Inaugurated in 1885, it’s one of Europe’s oldest. The rolling stock is mainly Czech, delivered in the 1970s and early 1980s. Some vehicles retain signs of the 1992-6 siege, when the system was badly damaged.
The Parliament complex. The tower, completed in 1974 was heavily shelled during the 1992-6 siege.
Images of it in flames became icons of the conflict. The Greek government funded a reconstruction of the tower, completed in 2007. The building has since been known as Greece–Bosnia and Herzegovina Friendship Building. The Parliament itself occupies the 5-storey slab that defines one edge of the Trg (city square) Bosne i Hercegovine.
Sarajevo City Center, a 49,000m2 shopping mall completed in 2014 near the Parliament complex. Funded by the Al Shiddi Trading Establishment, a Saudi firm, it represents the now common presence of Arab capital in the former Yugoslavia.
There are eight malls of this scale in the city. Sarajevo’s economy remains fragile, but there is an air of prosperity and modernity in these malls, and seemingly enough wealth to sustain them.
Evidence of shelling, Fra Anđela Zvizdovića street near the Parliament complex. Artillery damage is much more prevalent on the outskirts of the city, especially towards the airport. This central city street is one of few that retains overt scars of the conflict.
Friday prayers at the mosque on Maršala Tita Street in the Habsburg part of the city.
A ubiquitous burek (pie) shops spread throughout the city. This one, on Maršala Tita, has an incongruously supermodern design, like something from a Tarkovsky film.
Modernist arcade, Maršala Tita street unknown architect. The design of the pilotis looks like the work of the great Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer. It isn’t, but there was much academic and cultural exchange between the former Yugoslavia and Brazil, both non-aligned during the Cold War.
Statue guarding the entrance to the Central Bank of Bosnia and Hercegovina. The bank was established in 1997. It issues the KM, a non-traded currency pegged to the Euro. The building, the old National Bank, is a piece of forbidding, heavy-handed academicism by Milan Zloković, built in 1929.
Social housing, mid-70s, architect unknown. Urban infill close to the Stari Grad.
Remnant of the 1992-6 siege, Stari Grad.
Ottoman town, looking east. Thick with mosques and tourists, and an enterprising species of stray dog.
Midday prayers at the Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque, Stari Grad. The largest and best-known mosque in the city, completed 1532.
Richard J Williams is Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures at the University of Edinburgh, where he has worked since 2000. He is co-investigator with Igor Stiks on the New Cultures of Urban Citizenship project. He has published very widely on cities and urban culture, most recently the book Sex and Buildings, published by Reaktion in 2013. Follow Richard on Twitter @rjwilliams44