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Synchrony-city: Sarajevo in five acts and few intervals

Selma Harrington (Department of Architecture, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK) (ANIMA DESIGN, Dublin, Ireland)
Branka Dimitrijevic (Department of Architecture, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)
Ashraf M. Salama (Department of Architecture, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)


ISSN: 2631-6862

Article publication date: 26 September 2019

Issue publication date: 21 October 2019




The purpose of this paper is to focus 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 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.

Research limitations/implications

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).

Practical implications

This discourse is relevant to the current situation where the city of Sarajevo expands again, in the complexity of a post-conflict society.

Social implications

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.



Harrington, S., Dimitrijevic, B. and Salama, A.M. (2019), "Synchrony-city: Sarajevo in five acts and few intervals", Archnet-IJAR, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 573-594.



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