Delhi and New Delhi

In October 2007, a USAID-funded educational-development program flew five of us to India to try to recruit planning professors to teach in Kabul. This was my first time in India. Coming from Kabul, New Delhi is quiet, uncrowded, orderly, and unpolluted. I have since learned that much of the ‘uncrowding’ is due to the violent removal of hundreds of thousands of people from informal settlements in the center of the city. Amitav Baviskar (2006) writes that this demolition and eviction campaign was intended to make Delhi feel like a ‘world city.’ It did indeed have that effect on me; India feels like a ‘developed’ country like Thailand and the United States. Does the violence that produces urban order make it so?

India rejoices

I just thought this package labeling was hilarious, at the same time that it is very telling about the mood in India today. During the week that I was there, the Rupee and the Indian stock exchange were climbing, and the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change, led by Rajendra Pachauri, shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. It was interesting being in a country that is feeling good about its future. It has been eight years since I have experienced social optimism.

Venezia

Canal grande

I spent five days in Venice with my family, thanks to Professor Balbo’s hospitality. As numerous writers have pointed out, Venice is unlike any other city in the world. The first, obvious point is that all the major routes are canals; about 3/4 of the routes in Venice are stone, and one quarter are water. But this also blocks cars and mopeds from entering Venice, which is even more striking than the presence of boats among the houses.

horizon view

This time we stayed in Giudecca, so here I am looking across at Dorsoduro. In the center distance is the campanile of Saint Mark, which is on the far side of the Grand Canal.

1m alley

As for the paved paths: they are often very narow. In this case, 1.5 meters. My Afghan students will note how clean this is. In part this is because Venice is almost entorely paved. There is little opportunity for dust to emerge within the city because it is all covered with stone.

wall flowers

Since most Venetians do not have yards, they like to hand flower-boxes out of windows. The effect is lovely. But also notice the extreme simplicity of the building itself, which is typical of most Venetian houses. The building is a box, covered in colored plaster, with detailing only at the openings and the roofline. Maybe at the base. As part of a dense urban fabric, it works just fine.

hidden garden

Where there are gardens, they are usually in the courtyards of houses. They are only visible if doors are open or if the door is an open metal-work gate like this one.

corner

More paved pedestrian streets. On the left, notice the small bags of trash. In Venice and now in many cities, residents have to separate their trash into paper, glass, metal, and garbage. The first three are recycled; only the last is dumped.

older couples

For many years, young people left Venice for better opportunities on the mainland. The city functioned as a combination retirement community and tourist resort. Recently, though, a web and multimedia industry has begun on this island, so young adults are moving here for the first time in many years.

public fountain

Venice and other Italian cities still have working public fountains.

sunset colors

The hazy air at the end of the Lombardy Plain makes for wonderful sunset light in Venice.

San Marco landing

Approaching the landing at Saing Mark’s. Here the view is carefully designed to impress the visitor. On the right, the Duke’s Palace. Beyond it, the edge of St. Mark’s chapel. In the middle distance, the clock tower. To the left, the campanile. On the far left, the library and the beginning of the galleries that wrap around St. Mark’s Plaza.

tourists

In most cities, tourists are the most lucrative business. They demand few expensive resources such as schools, and they spend a lot of money. The next four pictures are from the gallery of the Dukes’ Palace…

more tourists

where there are lots of tourists…

and more tourists

and more tourists…

still more

and still more tourists.

Capella San Marco

Venice has been designed for receiving tourists for hundreds of years.

statues

Archiecture corner: on the right, the Duke’s Palace. On the left, St. Mark’s chapel. kind of an interesting juncture between them.

iwan of San Marco

On the front face of St. Mark’s is an outward-turned apse, with beautiful mosaic illustrations. This outward-turned archway is very unusual in Europe. It is much more similar to the ‘iwan used in Iranian public buildings.

overwhelmed infrastructure

Venetians try very hard to keep their city clean, and the tourists do too. Notice that all the trash is piled up around the garbage can.

leaning towers

Torcello

priest and grapes

Various images of Naples

[note: I shot and posted these pictures in 2007, but I never had a chance to build the web-pages to show them. At that time I used Mozilla and FTP to create and manage my pages, so it took far more time than blogs. With WordPress I can generate pages far more quickly. But I still don’t have enough time to write about this page! So enjoy the unlabeled images for now. —Pietro, 17 Dec 2013]











































Central neighborhoods of Napoli

This is the most important single page of images for my students at Kabul University. There are many paths to a modern city, both physically and institutionally. What these images show is a city of extremely narrow streets, similar to the width of the informal streets in Kabul, but with five-storey buildings on all sides.

Strada tipica di Napoli

Typical street. Four meters wide, with shops on the ground floor, and balconies up above extending 80cm over the street.

Piazza tipica, Napoli

At some intersections, the streets open up into squares.

Even though the streets are narrow, they are used by motor-scooters,

And by cars!

Some side streets are even narrower. This one is about 3 meters.

Because the whole width of the street is paved, it can be used by pedestrians with strollers, as well as vehicles.

At this intersection you can see how much the buildings create shade.

As in Kabul, people sometimes build out over the street. Often this marks off separate neighborhoods.

Porta grande

Garage doors open off the streets into central courtyards of houses.

Courtyards within the buildings are actually much more spacious than the surrounding public streets.

hard stone street-pavers

The streets are paved with very hard stone. Notice how it has become polished.

These streets work well for the local economy. Trucks can get in to supply stores, but they must drive quite slowly–which makes the streets pedestrian-friendly as well.

Maybe this can work in Kabul, too.

 

A change of heart

Those of you who are following these webpages know that I am focused on post-war urban reconstruction and political-economic development. And I think Franz Fanon and Desmond Tutu describe the critical steps necessary to get beyond a condition of war: psychological and spiritual transformation. In the long run these internal, personal changes are what show up in more aggregate effects like economic growth, government transparency and accountability, and political stability. So I look for signs of these changes, and think a lot about how they occur at an individual and public scale. But I was not looking for it to happen to me on this trip to Sarajevo. This page is an essay about unexpected emotional transformation. I hope I can do some justice to the event as I try to put it into words.

The back-story is that I grew up in a predominantly Jewish community in Connecticut. Many of my schoolmates did not have grandparents, or aunts and uncles, or cousins. Their parents had settled in American suburbia to live out quiet, normal lives in contrast to their extremely disturbed childhoods. But the shadow of genocide was a fact of life where I grew up.

With that background, the war in Bosnia was extremely upsetting for me: it seemed that Milosevic and the Serbian nationalists were adopting increasingly fascist tactics against Muslims, Jews, and Catholics. History repeating itself? Or even a continuation of fascism, an ‘unfinished job’ of ethnic cleansing to make culturally homogeneous new nation-states? It was easy to portray Serbs as ‘the bad guys’ in a distinctly American, distinctly black-and-white moral lens. Eisenhower had said “never again,” and I felt that the US was betraying its moral commitments by failing to intervene in 1993 and 1994. Certainly, some Bosnians who were portraying the war to American media used the language of absolutist morality to argue the cause of their side; there were many atrocities; and ethnic cleansing is indeed a form of genocide. But, as in Afghanistan, the situation is not simple. Since my job in Kabul is to understand the effects of a complex and continuing set of conflicts, and their potential impact on the future development of the capital, I had accepted the moral complexity of the Afghan conflicts several years ago. But in post-Yugoslavia I had assumed the American political position: that there were good guys and bad guys, and the Serbs were the bad guys.

Larisa Kurtovic decided that–of all the things I needed to see in Sarajevo–the most important was to see the many sides of the war and its consequences. I think that, since cosmopolitan tolerance is an essential part of Sarajevan identity, the one thing Larisa could not tolerate was American Manicheanism. So she showed me how Sarajevo is now Islamizing in unprecedented ways, and how that may be problematic in skewing Bosnian identity. Then, over my objection, she showed me one of her favorite buildings in Sarajevo: the Orthodox church of Saints Michael and Gabriel. It is the oldest building in the city (6th century), and it has a museum with icon paintings dating back to the late middle ages. One retelling of recent history is that the killing of several men in a wedding party outside of the church was the ‘first shot’ in the Bosnian war, with Orthodox as victims of a Muslim thug.

When I arrived in Sarajevo I felt much more comfortable around mosques; Larisa joked about me as “Haji Pietro”. But of course I did know a lot about the icons and relics in the church of Saints Michael and Gabriel. Not only are the Orthodox my co-religionists in a general sense, but as a member of Saint Gregory’s I had learned a lot of details about Orthodox Christianity, and felt rather at home in an Orthodox church. I could no longer see the Orthodox–the Serbs–as abstract monsters. They are human beings who have major differences–and even more commonalities–with all the other citizens of Sarajevo.

The story continued in Naples, at the conference of the Association of European Schools of Planning. I presented in the same session as a Serbian woman, Tijana Dabovic, who described the problems of regional planning in Belgrade. Tijana and I had a long conversation afterward, and one critical thing I learned is that Serbians abroad face the same challenge as Americans: they are stereotyped, and have to begin many interactions by either apologising for or distancing themselves from horrible policies of their government. And Serbians are a bit tired of that. Didn’t they have a democratic revolution to throw out Milosevic? Didn’t the world support the Serbian opposition? Yes, it would be better if the new government were completely transparent, completely free of corruption, and totally cooperative with international standards of justice; but what is the international ‘community’ really demanding? Perfection? Was Serbia suddenly supposed to turn into a sociopolitical peer of Iceland or Norway? Diplomats and human rights organizations gave Serbia about three days of grace before punitive pressure began to be applied to turn over war criminals. The new government, meanwhile, has a lot of internal social and political tensions it needs to balance if it is to remain in power. Rather than be encouraged, Serbs are being threatened and disparaged by people like me who presume we know who is right and who is wrong, assigning collective punishment to whole populations for the actions of their violent political leadership. After demonstrating against the impending invasion of Iraq in the winter of 2002-2003, after being dismissed by George W. Bush as part of a ‘special interest group’, how should I feel about being held responsible for the disaster of Iraq?

Tijana would like to study and then work on regional planning for greater Belgrade. As in so many cities, regional planning there is desperately needed. Often, whole national economies depend on the successes and failures of regional planning of a dominant capital city. This may sound rather anticlimactic compared to the high drama of nationalist politics, but that is a problem: because political drama often distracts policymakers from the prosaic, long-term, bureaucratic processes that define development in the broadest sense.

Tijana and Larisa are very different people. But these two women have given me a glimse of the Balkans beyond war. How much more have I yet to learn from them? My sense is that for both of them, cosmopolitanism means more than ‘tolerance’ and ‘coexistence.’ The Afghan term adamiyat may be closer, with its rough English translation as ‘humanism.’ Right now, I think Americans see the ex-Yugoslav states through a lens that was shaped by how we retell the story of the Second World War, and it is a perspective that will not help the long-term future of Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and espeically Kosovo if it becomes independent. Westerners can afford to stand on high principle; meanwhile these longstanding neighbors will need to get along with each other for the indefinite future. It is the challenge of urban life writ large: civil life together, acknowledging profound difference and thriving with that difference.

Conflict and modernity

1

The Turkish Cultural Center is the building in the middle. It is very (post)modern, but it fits into the urban fabric extremely well, in part because it makes several comments about the adjacent fabric.

1

I believe this is another new cultural center (Larisa please verify). The entry pavilion obviously refers back to Ottoman ablution-fountains, but the building behind is extremely contemporary. These are two good examples of modern design within historic urban fabric.

1

In contrast, some of the 1980s architecture in the middle of the city is rather painfully ugly. On the left, the Holiday Inn where the Western journalists stayed during the siege (1992-1995). On the right, twin office towers. I think their only redeeming quality is that they reflect the beautiful surrounding scenery.

1

In central Sarajevo a new commercial tower is under construction, and the cleared land in the foreground of this photograph will be the new U.S. embassy. I hope the Americans don’t then presume that they can close off the central boulevard of this city too.

1

As I mentioned on the previous “social housing” page, large-scale advertisements on buildings in central Sarajevo mark the arrival of capitalism here. The image above is ironic, because this battered housing is occupied by embattled squatters. And yet the billboard mounted on this end says “this is what your home should look like.”

1Here, the beverage ad is in good condition, much better than the elder housing on which it is mounted. Note also the scaling-up of the housing in the background.

1

It is interesting that, at the same time that Islam is much more evident in the buildings and clothing of people in Sarajevo, the new advertising makes alcohol more visible too.

Sarajevo: streets and social housing

The streets of Sarajevo

The first eight photographs on this page are of streets in eastern, older Sarajevo.

1

Larisa was curious about my reaction to Sarajevo. Coming from Kabul, my impression is that it is definitely a European city, reminiscent of Austria and parts of Italy.

1

Of course, it does have many mosques, and their minarets are distinctly Ottoman style.

1

But increasingly, there are mosques across all of Europe, so even that difference is disappearing. And a street like this looks more European than anything else.

1

Old Sarajevo is quite dense, so there are some very tight alleys giving access to houses.

1Note some interesting little features here: the red car on the left has a “disabled” sticker in the window, indicating special parking rights which were recently implemented in Sarajevo. On the right, small bags of trash ready for collection. I forgot to ask, but I think the blue box may be for recycling of bottles.

1

Here the municipality is repaving a street in the commercial district with stone. What we (tourists) think of as “historic” stone-paved streets are usually modern acts of urban design to make shopping districts more attractive. Note the new copper drainpipe from the shared eaves of several shops.

1

1Another street repaved with beautiful white stone is now a pedestrian-only street.

1

These last three photographs are of the main boulevard that extends out into western, New Sarajevo. This boulevard is at least 60 meters wide, with a tram line down the middle. It works, but it is not beautiful. Not that it has wide sidewalks, but no one is walking on them except us, and we are only there for the specific purpose of taking these pictures.

1

Yes, it carries a lot of traffic.

1

One of the good things about this wide street is that it provides views of the valley beyond.

Social Housing in Sarajevo

1

Large amounts of high-rise public housing were built in New Sarajevo along the main boulevard.

1

I think American planners would object to all of this housing, because the high-rise public housing we built in the U.S. was such an amazing failure. Here, I have mixed feelings. This housing is better-built than U.S. public housing, and enough of it was built to really make a difference to the housing shortage in Sarajevo. It also wasn’t built in relentless, identical “slabs” as Americans had done. I think most of this was built in the 1980s, so Yugoslavian architects may have learned from the mistakes of both the West and the USSR. But it is very gray, with the color of concrete dominating the design. I think it is often cloudy in Sarajevo, so I would think brighter colors would be better.

1

A major challenge is: what happens at the ground level? There seems to be enough space for cars at the moment, because Sarajevans do not seem to own as many cars/capita as Western Europeans do. But the space around the base of these towers must be carefully managed into the future to balance open-space and livability needs against economic growth.

1

Already New Sarajevo is changing dramatically. The two apartment towers on the right, in the distance, were privatley built. And the advertising in the foreground indicates the shift to capitalism by its size, location, and content!

1

New commercial buildings are also being built in the area between the housing towers and the main boulevard.

1

This is older housing, closer to the center of the city. It was badly damaged by artillery-fire during the siege, and it has been repaired with brick. By the way, the towers are not leaning; that is caused by the wide-angle lens on my camera.

Sarajevo

From Istanbul I flew Turkish Air to Sarajevo, the cultural heart of Bosnia.

Larisa Kurtovic

Larisa Kurtovic and I were both graduate student instructors for Michael Watts last fall. She is a PhD student in Anthropology at Berkeley which means that she is the social science equivalent of a rocket scientist. She wanted me to visit Sarajevo this summer, and since I was going to Naples to present at the AESOP conference, I thought it would be wise to take this rare opportunity to have a Bosnian show me the city.

1

The destroyed building in the middle right of this photograph is a former barracks. It reminds me of Darul Aman Palace in Kabul, with its twin cupolas. The new house in the foreground is made with concrete posts and slabs, and hollo clay-tile bricks. This seems to be the typical construction today in Sarajevo. When finished it will be stuccoed over, so that it looks like the houses behind it in this photo. In the distance are the twin towers that mark central Kabul, and a new cylindrical office tower rising from behind a low ridge.

1

Here is a postcard-view of the center of Old Sarajevo. The National Library is at the bottom right. It was a sad day for many Sarajevans when the library was hit and burned. It is still being restored.

1

This different view from almost the same spot shows a ruined house in the foreground. I suspect it was destroyed in the war, but it was one of the only un-rebuilt houses I saw. As in Kabul, the un-rebuilt buildings are those on the most valuable property, where reconstruction involves property-control conflicts.

Three houses of faith in Sarajevo

1

Given the cosmopolitan nature of Sarajevo, I wanted to show three houses of faith. Here, one of Larisa’s favorite mosques integrates extremely well with the central pedestrian shopping district.

Nearby, the courtyard of another mosque provides a space of calm in contrast to the crowded streets.

1

As you can see from going back to the mosques I photographed in Istanbul, both these mosques are very Ottoman in design.

1

This mosque and madrasa are newer or restored; I will need to find out which.

1

Even the apparently new construction is distinctly Ottoman in design.

Galata and the Airport

Galata

Galata is an urban district on the north shore of the Golden Horn. It was developed in the high middle ages by the Genoese as a trading colony adjacent to Constantinople.

Galata
This is one of the first buildings I encountered when I crossed the Galata bridge. Pretty obviously Italian in its design; but does it date from the period of Italian residency here?

Galata
The neighborhood, going up the hill, is extremely dense.

view from Galata Tower
From Galata Tower you get a wonderful overview of the neighborhood.

view from Galata Tower
Note the new universal roof decoration: satellite dishes.

view from Galata TowerIstanbul panorama 1: Suleymaniye mosque on the ridge, University Tower to the left of it.

view from Galata TowerPanorama 2: Galata Bridge in the middle, University Tower on the right.

view from Galata TowerPanorama 3: Sultan Ahmet mosque on the right, Hagia Sofiya on the left.

view from Galata Tower

view from Galata TowerGalata, the Bosphorous, and the Bosphorous bridge.

Ataturk Haveliman; Istanbul’s international airport

Marketing responds to many changes, including the rise of public piousness. So at the airport there are two large duty-free areas: one for liquor, tobacco, and perfume, and one for souvenirs. The souvenir shop has multiple bays, and each one seems to be dedicated to a different worldview. In the first bay, boxes of “Harem’s Secret” Turkish delight, with labeling in English and a classically orientalist painting of a white, reclining, nude woman on the cover. In the next bay, ‘tasteful Islamic’ souvenirs including plates with short prayers enameled on them. Then local handicrafts. And in the back, belly-dancing clothes and leather jackets. Walking around the store, I see another bay is done up in ‘tasteful Islamic.’

Duty-free bazaar
The duty-free “Bazaar”.

faux-antique escalator landing
Faux-antique panels at the escalator landing.

faux-antique escalator landing
“Harem’s Secret” Turkish delight candy (olive oil on the right)…

Tasteful Islamic
the ‘Tasteful Islamic’ section, done up in a spare Arab-modern.

handicrafts
Local handicrafts, including lovely lamps…

Tasteful Islamic
and the “Gipsy” section.

liquor and tobacco
The rather larger booze and smokes section…

phone booths
and the international-symbolic phone booths.

This reminds me that, unlike Afghans, Turks generally speak only Turkish. I did meet several Kurdish shopkeepers who, after hearing my list of English, French, and Farsi, offered Kurdish as an option. So it seems that Kurdish is openly tolerated even with strangers on the street in Istanbul. But, of those few who spoke a second language, it was Arabic. I expect they learned Arabic as part of religious education, and I noticed a fair number of Arabic-speaking tourists as well.

Because of my beard and my interest in mosques and prayer beads, a lot of Turks assumed I was Muslim, beginning with the passport-control officer who asked if I was Hajji. They would always ask kindly, discreetly, if I was Muslim. They were disappointed and a little embarrassed when I said no. Apparently it is still a sensitive question in public here.

Three mosques

Sultan Ahmet mosque

A big, urban, Friday mosque.

SultanAhmet mosque

SultanAhmet mosque

SultanAhmet mosque

SultanAhmet mosque

SultanAhmet mosque

SultanAhmet mosque

SultanAhmet mosque

SultanAhmet mosque

SultanAhmet mosque

SultanAhmet mosque

SultanAhmet mosque

SultanAhmet mosque

Mehmet Pasha mosque

A more intimate, neighborhood-serving mosque

Mehmet Pasha mosque vault

Mehmet Pasha mosque

Mehmet Pasha mosque graveyard

Mehmet Pasha mosque courtyard

Mehmet Pasha mosque courtyard

Mehmet Pasha mosque courtyard

Mehmet Pasha mosque courtyard

Mehmet Pasha mosque courtyard

Mehmet Pasha mosque courtyard

Suleymaniye mosque

Another monumental mosque, further back (west) in the city

Suleymaniye mosque

Suleymaniye mosque

Suleymaniye mosque

Suleymaniye mosque

Suleymaniye mosque

Suleymaniye mosque

Beyazid moque

Suleymaniye mosque

Suleymaniye mosqueSuleymaniye mosque

Suleymaniye mosque