Design research & book nr. I
Architecture has played a large role during turning points in the history of former Yugoslavia, both during the Second World War, when Yugoslavia was formed, as well as during and after the last civil war of 1992 – 1995. Arna Mačkić’s ongoing design research Mortal Cities & Forgotten Monuments deals with concerns as the archaic-futuristic monuments of the 1960s and 1970s, built to commemorate the victims of fascism during the Second World War in former Yugoslavie. Moreover, she focuses on the destruction of cultural heritage during the Bosnian war of the early 90s and how lessons from the Balkans can nourish new ways of thinking about symbolic architecture.
A year of research in 2013 has culminated in the first book Mortal Cities and Forgotten Monuments. Besides the topics just mentioned, Mačkić explores a new ‘open’ language of shaping cultural memory through architecture that goes beyond political, religious or cultural interpretations (and hence tensions, claims and ‘truths’) without ignoring or denying the past. She outlines possible design interventions in urban space, based on an open design language that transcends current societal fragmentation by being rooted in old traditions while constructively aiming at the future. Based on this, an architectural proposal is put forth for the city of Mostar (Bosnia-Herzegovina), destroyed during the war and now divided. Mackic pleas for a cultural heritage in which these dark pages from history are given a place in the city, to promote the healing process of the city and its residents.
Winner Dutch Design Award 2015 in the category Design Research
The designer does not adopt a position and treats the sensitive history with great care. She does not rely on ethnicity or religion, but takes collective habits or memories as starting points for the rebuilding of cities under the shadow of conflicts past. A principle that is certainly applicable in other countries, regions, and cities. Thoroughly recorded and properly illustrated.
For the jury, Mortal Cities & Forgotten Monuments is a well-conceived research project on the topical theme of identity and nationality. Above all, it is visually appealing, straightforward, and subtle. In terms of both the research and design, the designer has achieved a successful balance. She remains impartial, and handles a sensitive history with great delicacy. The jury was also impressed by the fact that the principle is applicable in many other regions, which can be seen from the invitations to apply the acquired knowledge in other countries.
Winner Best Dutch Book Design 2014
Architect Arna Mačkić fled to the Netherlands in the nineties from what is now Bosnia. In this book her research focuses on the heroic antifascist monuments erected during and after the establishment of communist Yugoslavia in 1942, on the destruction of cultural heritage during the Bosnian war of 1992-95, and on what role, in the years that followed those periods architecture or monuments may have played and may yet play in public space.
Mortal Cities Forgotten Monuments is the result of a highly personal investigation. In it, Mačkić and the designers use the historical material to tell their story. They create typologies of the shapes of monuments, the basic forms of which are used on the text pages. Existing historical photographic and textual material is liberally employed to document the changing city. Parts of older works are included in facsimile form, and in the last part of the book Mačkić documents her own future-oriented research into the famous bridge in Mostar as the city’s new unifying cultural element.
The result is a hybrid, layered collection. With its rigidly enforced use of mainly monochrome illustrations, uncoated paper and robust typography it gives an impression of stolidity which in its imagery suggests parallels with the monuments of the communist era. On the matter of the book’s qualities the panel were divided: it is difficult to penetrate the contents through the structure of its design, and the pages in which the text forms an image prompted some debate about design for design’s sake. Nevertheless, this is an unusual book in that within the genre of architecture books it occupies a necessary political niche that is entirely its own. It is individual in both content and design and explores the medium’s intrinsic boundaries, such as the use of illustrations, shaped typography, documentary conventions and perception of truth, to create an investigative statement.