Mortal Cities & Forgotten Monuments

Design research and book

“How does it feel when the town you live in is destroyed by war?”
Towns and cities derive their identity from structures both historical and modern. In a war, the attackers often plan exactly which structures to destroy in order to weaken morale. Hence their preference for places of cultural relevance, for museums, libraries, squares, and bridges. A city is bereft of its soul and thus changed almost beyond recognition for its erstwhile inhabitants. People get emotionally traumatized when their cities are destroyed: they lose their physical point of reference.
Arna Mačkić’s book Mortal Cities & Forgotten Monuments is an eye-opening inquiry into this seldom-considered impact of war on the citizens of a town. Arna Mačkić, who together with her family had to flee her native city during the Bosnian civil war of the 1990s, proposes an approach to rebuilding her country’s cultural heritage.

The task of rebuilding collective and inclusive identities through architecture is not exclusive to cities affected by war. Building inclusivity and overcoming exaggerated concepts of national heritage is a universal challenge. Mačkić’s proposed interventions in the public space are rooted in local tradition but designed to look toward the future, free of any political or religious associations. Mortal Cities & Forgotten Monuments offers a sound starting point to explore how architecture can contribute to building an inclusive society.

Edited by Arna Mačkić and Rosa te Velde
With Contributions by Arna Mačkić, Bogdan Bogdanović, Chris Keulemans, Thomas A.P. van Leeuwen, and Rosa te Velde

Awards:
Best Dutch Book Design
Dutch Design Award – design research
The Guardian – one of the best architecture books 2016

Sales locations
Book stores all over Europe and USA

Online:
Park Books
Amazon
Bol.com
The University of Chicago Press Books
Architectura & Natura

Winner Dutch Design Award 2015 in the category Design Research

Jury report:
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

Jury report:
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.

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