Friday, 10 June 2011

Book - City of Collision


The conflict between Palestina and Israel is ongoing and has occupied the region for the past century or even more. There is usually a lot of broad discussion on political issues and strategic planning. There is very little debate in the mainstream media on spatial planning and urban planning and its effects on everyday live.

This is a very crucial topic since the spatial planning aspects are tightly interlinked with the political and military planning and to a large extend represent the implementation of such strategies with all the consequences for everyday live and the general population.

Ranging from placement of settlements to the management of building regulations and the steering of infrastructure down to the building of walls and fences this practice is what effects live in the region the most. In the 2006 publication 'City of Collision - Jerusalem and the Principles of Conflict Urbanism' published by Birkhaeuser the editors Philipp Misselwitz and Tim Rieneits bring together a large collection of essays examining the topic from a range of different angles offering a variety of perspectives on the entangled situation through he lens of planning and spatial organisation. The book is to some extend a precursor of the more recent 'Atlas of Conflict' by Malikit Shoshan. However, the City of Collision offers a range of different perspectives and addresses topics from different angles as a series of punctuated discussions.

The publication is organised in five chapters each with five or six essays and extended with a graphical essay. The list of contributors is long and includes for example Eyal Weizman from the Goldsmith University. The project was supported by different instituions and a such is a collaboration between Berlin University of the Arts, the International Peace and Cooperation Centre, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, Department of Architecture and the ETH Zuerich, Institute dor Urban Design.

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Image by Bas Princen taken from ETHZ Kees Christianse / A view into the hills of Sur Bahir.

Very interesting and informative are the maps section inserted between the chapters. In either digrams or maps a specific topic is graphically investigated and presented as a short visual essay. These sections are extremely helpful as they not only shed light on process details but also provide a comprehensive spatial context for a the text essays.

The five topic are 'Conflict and Urban Transformation', 'Hosh and Apartment', 'Mobility and Immobility', 'Fear and Assertion' and 'Growth and Decay'. Each section is highlighting the differences between the Israeli and Palestinian side. This is graphically represented in the use of two colours blue for the Israeli sie and green for the Palestinian side.

The first section 'Conflict and Urban Transformation' is dedicated to the timeline of spatial changes and the changes in power and ownership. In maps the transformation from Palestine, as the British Mandate (1917), to the Oslo Accords (1993) and the Road Map (2004). These changes are presente overall, but also in detail on the level of Jerusalem and an example of a village, Sur Bahir. This is then for the rest of the graphic essays the focal area. It is an example of an Palestinian village next to an Israeli settlement.

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Image taken from unverzagt / Book spread page 202/203 graphical essay 'Mobility and Immobility' the road system Sur Bahir / Har Homa (2005).

The second graphic essa 'Hosh and Apartmet' is concerned with the building type and the building process. Here the traditions and practices are presented in detail and provide inside in the completely different mechanics of proceses of change between the two side.

The third graphic essay 'Mobility and Immobility' is concerned with the possibilities and impossibilities of travel and movement. Again focusing on the differences between the two sides. In diagrams and maps it is shown in detail ho route choices are forced and how travel times are influenced by the strategic planning and implementation of practice by the Israeli planning authorities.

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Image taken from unverzagt / Book spread page 272/273 graphical essay 'Fear and Assertion' the sound Sur Bahir / Har Homa (2005).

The section on 'Fear and Assertion' is probably the most interesting as it starts to divert from the objective map making and entering the realm of the subjective perspective and perception. Stil the essay concentrates on representing spatial aspects. There is for example a graphical depict of how the two villages Sur Bahir on the Palestinian side and Har Homa on the Israeli side see each other. Further more this section looks at the soundscape, the lighting after dark and the graffiti's in both villages. This section manages to transmit a feeling for how live is different at a more substantial and subjective level.

The fifth section 'Growth and Decay' is focusing on the everyday changes of the urban landscape. Thus looking at urban transformation in terms of building stock, but also religion, wealth and ecology. Furthermore it also looks at family clans and changes in ownership as well as at decay and wast management or the absence of management.

As such the book has not lost any of its actuality since it is covering the ongoing conflict where little progress was achieved in the past ten years. Practices and mechanics are still largely the same. The discussion of course is specific to the location and puts forward vivid examples of the region, however it can reach out and provide insight for similar landscapes of conflicts from around the globe.

City of Collision book coverCity of Collision book cover
Images taken from tcdc receource centre / Book front and back cover.


Misselwitz, P. & Rieneits, T. eds., 2006. City of Collision: Jerusalem and the Principles of Conflict Urbanism, Basel: Birkhauser.

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