Contested Fronts is an exploration of architecture’s role for commoning practices in ethnically and socially contested spaces.
It focuses on the agencies of the ad-hoc technologies of architecture that contribute to conflict transformation by advocating reconciliation processes to go hand in hand with urban reconstruction processes. Contested Fronts introduces three levels of investigation of the frontiers where architecture claims an active role: geopolitical, disciplinary, and everyday urban politics’ frontiers. To achieve this, it concentrates on the agencies of ad-hoc technology materiality and use that encourage the emergence of collectives, with their members coming from areas across divides. Ad-hoc technology involves means of spatial engagement, cartographic representation and visual communication. It assists the tactful organization of physical spaces and events.
To build a decisive critical mass of resistance to the dominant trends of post conflict reconstruction.
Contested Fronts is an open source built around the Hands-on Famagusta project, i.e. a collective platform for reconciliation through the creation of common urban imaginaries across the Cypriot divide. The Contested Fronts Open Source Archive includes international practices, networks, and pedagogical programs, which are complementary to the Hands-on Famagusta project, to build a decisive critical mass of resistance to the dominant trends of post conflict reconstruction: Archis Interventions SEE, Build Up, City Reparo, Institute of Threshold, Mapping Controversies, Passages. It addresses two major challenges emerging from the case of Famagusta: first, the operation in actually hostile environments where institutions produce narratives based on division; second, the confrontation of actual trends of post conflict reconstruction processes based either on large scale segregating private developments or on inflexible bureaucratic, non-transparent produced plans, both unable to encourage commoning practices or handle the ever changing contested urban environments.
Preventing Famagusta to be the next divided city of Cyprus?
The Contested Fronts Open Source Archive starts from Famagusta and not from Nicosia, well known for its divided status, because it could contribute to the prevention of Famagusta becoming the next divided city of Cyprus.
Famagusta is a Cypriot coastal city, located on the eastern edge of the island, just north of the UN cease fire military zone, and east of one of the UK military bases on the island. Famagusta inhabitants are Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. However, since the 1974 war with Turkey the city has been deprived of its Greek Cypriot inhabitants who were displaced to the southern part of the island during the war. The Famagusta population was 38,960 inhabitants in 1973, of which 31,960 were Greek Cypriots and 7,000 Turkish Cypriots. The population in 2011 was 37,939 inhabitants consisting of Turkish Cypriots (some of them displaced from the south part of the island in 1974 to settle in the city) and settlers from Turkey. Famagusta consists of all kinds of enclaves with the most notorious one being the Turkish army controlled ghost area of Famagusta. It is an abandoned urban area, located by a beautiful sandy shore, which used to house around 30,000 Greek Cypriots. A French/Venetian walled city and a university enclave are the other two major enclaves with defined borders.
There are indications that, in the framework of the Cyprus Federal State, the south part of the city will be under the Greek Cypriot territory and its north part will be under the Turkish Cypriot territory. Such scenario is part of the United Nations on-going negotiations between the two community leaders who strive for agreement and hopefully keeping Turkey out of the north part of the island, where it has had an overwhelming control since 1974. During the last couple of years, the Hands-on Famagusta project team has raised awareness on the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Famagustians’ split mental maps that may lead to city partition. It has provided alternatives towards a unified city, influencing the on-going debate about the city future across the divide.
The Hands-on Famagusta project
Contribution to the Contested Fronts Open Source Archive
Counter Mapping: What if mapping creates problematization against dominant, divisive, mental geographies?
“Counter-mapping” involves the practice of mapping as a means of problematization for the civil society to question dominant, divisive, mental geographies. It involves cartographic processes that allow new viewpoints of common concern, by formulating new questions in regard to the embedded status quo of division.
The “Hands-on Famagusta” project
The counter-mapped ad-hoc technologies of the “Hands-on Famagusta” project are about large-size printed isometric drawings of the fragmented territory of the city, a transportable physical city model and board games. They are all used to encourage the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Famagustians to go beyond their split mental maps by firstly becoming aware of the severely fragmented urban environment and secondly by having the chance to see for the first time their city territory represented as a continuum of extensive landscapes consisting of built and non-built areas. The processes of cartographic documentation, as well as that of creating and using the material agents, have created collectives consisting of members coming from areas across the Cypriot divide.
International Participants, (networks, practices, and pedagogical programs)
“Build-up” is a social enterprise active at the intersection of technology, civic engagement, and peace-building. They support grassroots innovation, they foster collaboration and have a strong, grounded understanding of peace-building. They have run programs on the ground in conflict and post-conflict countries across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. They facilitate research, design, and implementation of technological tools and methodologies in participatory processes around peace-building, conflict prevention, and civic engagement. Participatory design and empowerment through engagement in social change are at the core of their approach. With experience in local governments and policy-making institutions, they help navigate the pathways by which citizens and organizations can effect change. They work collaboratively with changemakers to integrate multiple voices, find strategic entry points, and overcome challenges to organizing for social change.
“Archis Interventions Southeastern Europe Network”
The aim of Archis Interventions, a community-based, non-profit offshoot of Archis is to support cities by supplying ideas and concepts that will help to revitalize public space and renew faith in public dialogue. Main focus of the work of Archis Interventions is post-conflict planning. Local partners play the main roles in the process, since they are the ones requesting intervention in the development of their city (www.archis.org). The activities of Archis Interventions in southeastern Europe began in 2005, when Kai Vöckler and his Kosovar colleagues founded a local branch in Prishtina (Archis Interventions/Prishtina). A network of independent urban initiatives and organizations in southeastern Europe was launched in 2008 by Kai Vöckler, in cooperation with Srdjan Jovanović Weiss. In almost all large cities in southeastern Europe, there exist independent urban initiatives that use their expert knowledge and experience to defend the interests of civic stakeholders. Such initiatives often work in isolation from one another or have only limited opportunities to participate in international urban discourse on new urban development, and planning methods and concepts. The aim of the Archis Interventions SEE network is to network regionally, develop international cooperation projects, share past experience, transfer relevant knowledge, and, last but not least, strengthen local initiatives by embedding them in supra-regional networks.
“Creating Thresholds”: What if territories of exclusion open up to the city commons through practices of exchange?
“Creating Thresholds” is about practices of exchange across edges, transforming limits into porous borders, instigating the opening up of territories of exclusion to the city commons (services and programs, transport infrastructures and networks, and physical spaces). It is about strategic and tactful actions that introduce spaces of exchange, based on transformative themes for urban regeneration and hands-on actions for reconciliation.
The “Hands-on Famagusta” project
The ad-hoc technologies of the “Hands-on Famagusta” project for creating thresholds are:
Four transformative themes incubated in a summer workshop in Nicosia. They are the motor of the “Hands-on Famagusta” project team to make explicit the need for common urban imaginaries beyond the ethnically contested city. They are about: 1. sharing infrastructures, 2. creating a wide public waterfront, 3. turning the future of the ecological and cultural assets of the city into a common concern, 4. resisting the absence of the city commons during the extraordinary conditions of post-conflict reconstruction processes.
A matrix of disenclaving strategies together with urban design projects: The disenclaving approach is about strategies that on the one hand introduce the city commons into urban enclaves, and, on the other hand, embed reconciliation processes deep into potential reconstruction processes. They are both introduced in the pedagogical approach of the Urban Design Studio at the Department of Architecture, University of Cyprus.
Used graffiti stencils of the action pigeon logo and urban games: Creating temporal communities around the practice of making graffiti through a playful urban engagement across urban edges.
The “Found-in Translation” project: The ad-hoc technology for creating thresholds extends into practices of exchange between members of the two communities in conflict (Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot), during the collective process of translation of the Hands-on Famagusta web platform from English into Greek and Turkish.
International Participants (networks, practices, and pedagogical programs)
“Institute of Threshold: Border
Infrastructures”. It is a process of long engagement of a fictional institute of border infrastructures that will serve to archive and connect rhizomatically with the current conditions of conflict territories and related practices. What will happen if the border is removed, not existing anymore? Or, are already borders a liquid and fluid zone? What could be the autonomous infrastructure of conflict zones? The proposal of the “Institute of Threshold” is about reactivating these questions in order to create a speculative,realistic approach of the function and spatial contradictions of border infrastructure. Cyprus as a contested borderland in the Mediterranean Sea is surrounded by refugee/migrant flow, civil war, sea patrols, and liquid military control. As a starting point, the “Institute of Threshold” provides questions of conditions covering the mapping and constellation of surrounding zones and passing corridors in east Mediterranean. Urban warfare, destroyed and curfews siege towns, border crossings and nomadic dwelling point out the era of post-human condition. We want to articulate with ongoing cases of a conceptual framework of decay, autonomy, infrastructure, decolonization, and forms of non-belonging.
With the launch of the international and multi-partner “Passages” program, aimed at professionals and the general public alike, “City on the Move” is seeking to emphasize the role of passages as essential links in our journeys around the city. For two years (2014-2015), a network of international experts worked to develop research and scientific, cultural, and artistic events on this theme. Given that passages have always been present in our cities in different forms, why today in particular? How do we do full justice to these essential and yet often neglected connections? What are the potential avenues for development and innovation available to these small mobility spaces? As an interdisciplinary IVM action-research project, the “Passages” program includes the implementation of real innovative demonstration passages in different cities around the world.
“Introducing Urban Controversies”: What if controversy becomes a transformative device of conflict towards the making of city commons?
“Introducing Urban Controversies” has to do with the unfolding of the positive aspect of conflict within the making of the architectural and urban projects where the urban actors are in constant re-alliance and dispute. Disputes in regard to the role of the commons during post-conflict reconstruction or urban regeneration could be well structured, creating arenas of creative confrontation amongst urban actors with divergent agendas. Urban actors across divides would have the possibility to re-ally beyond their ethnic identity or social status. Emerging collectives of heterogeneous actors could be the protagonists in transforming ethnic and social conflicts.
The “Hands-on Famagusta” project
The ad-hoc technology of “Hands-on Famagusta” project for urban controversies is a web platform consisting of three pools of designerly knowledge about controversial questions in regard to the role of the city commons during post conflict urban reconstruction (“Actors and Agendas”, “Other Cities”, and “Urban Design Projects”). The web platform operation is supported by a series of board games that transform the controversial questions into playful negotiations and re-alliances among the game players.
The pool of “Actors and Agendas” is formulated during offline activities, such as roundtable workshops and consultation meetings between the “Hands-on Famagusta” project team and Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot Famagustians. The pool of “Other Cities” shows concrete examples from other urban areas relevant to Famagusta controversial questions. The pool of “Urban Design Projects” consists of students’ projects about the future of Famagusta produced by the Urban Design Studio of the University of Cyprus (part of L.U2.CY’s activities) and by the School of Architecture, KTH, Stockholm. The same pool also includes Urban Design references that support the the creation of the city commons.
Mapping Architectural Controversies (MAC)
Mapping Architectural Controversies (MAC) is an interactive website dedicated to students and researchers working on controversies surrounding design projects, buildings, master plans, and urban and development issues. Documenting and visualizing recent controversies in architecture, it also aims to address a broader audience interested in the design of cities, spatial networks, and built environments as well as planners, representatives of city government, NGOs, and citizens. Originally based on the EU-funded project MACOSPOL, Mapping Architectural Controversies draws on a variety of documental sources and visual methods to explore the multifarious connections of architecture and society. “Mapping Controversies” comprises a research method, a teaching philosophy, and a way to approach public debates. The platform serves as a database on controversies related to a variety of topics of Science, Technology, Innovation, Design, and Urban Planning. It provides tutorial guidance to the “Mapping Controversies” teaching and learning methods, and their relevance to architectural studies, and showcases some initiatives in enhancing the public understanding of controversies.
“Why Controversies”? Nowadays, we are confronted more and more with uncertain architectural knowledge concerning the latest innovations in engineering and building construction together with the changing demands of clients and communities. This causes us to become embroiled in various controversies surrounding architecture and urban design, which reshuffle the multifarious connections between architecture and society.
City Reparo is a multidisciplinary consultancy working with the social, public, and private sectors on city transformations in the built environment. It is a social enterprise comprising a range of practitioners from architectural, urban design, planning, and social science backgrounds. A primary focus of City Reparo is urban structure and, more particularly, how the form and layout of cities affect the everyday experience and life chances of local communities. In the context of contested urban space, City Reparo advances the Jane Jacobs notion that the city should be everyone’s neighborhood.