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A Patchwork of Identities

– An introduction to the project by Joacim Granit.

 

For several years, Färgfabriken had a unique opportunity to implement projects and exhibitions in various cities throughout our world. In Asia, former Eastern Europe and the Balkans, in the Middle East and in our immediate surroundings around the Baltic Sea. Meeting people with different cultural experiences and perspectives has taught us much. Everywhere, we have seen a willingness and a commitment to finding solutions to make our cities more livable. We have seen that there are themes that are universal. Such as democracy, transparency, as well as economic, ecological and social issues, which of course, bounce back to how cities are physically planned and built. In many cases there are structural barriers that hamper sensible development and change.

With these starting points Färgfabriken has developed New Urban Topologies, an ongoing project where we, together with local partners, investigate the city as an organism. New Urban Topologies is based on creating an international network of actors from different disciplines. It could be described as a project where the method is a sort of democratic acupuncture.

There are ways to define and describe our cities, thier content and identity, that rarely come up when we talk about our cities from the technical planning perspective. These angles are however constantly present in film, literature and in many other forms of cultural expression. Stories, memories, impressions and sedimentations that create a Patchwork of Narratives. These experiences, need to be highlighted, as they are not only present among writers or artists but are central to the lives of a city’s inhabitants.

This publication examines the concept of the city and also tries to capture the soul of two cities: Mostar and Beirut. Both carry a traumatic history and are facing great challenges. Currently, there are enormous refugee flows to Lebanon and Beirut. It puts the country and the city under great pressure, while large financial interests tear-down and build-up a new commercialized Beirut. The city's skyline consists of cranes resembling a swarm of mechanical insects.

Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina is a relatively small city that is separated by a boulevard which in turn, twenty years after the war, is divided into a Bosnian and Croatian side; the war has left deep scars. The generations who experienced the war find it hard to forget the horrors, while the younger generation seeks a different future, one of hope. Mostar's Old Town and the bridge Stari Most, both of great symbolic value, were shot down by artillery during the war. These parts of Mostar are rebuilt, but still a number of ruins remain. For a visitor it can be perceived as exotic, but for all those who were there twenty years ago – and even for us who were not – it should be a reminder of how fragile peace can be, how easily and quickly what we all take for granted can disappear.

If we look at the two cities' ethnic structures we see that the boulevard in Mostar divided the city into two parts. Beirut, on the other hand, forms a mosaic. When moving around in the city between the districts one is faced with different political and religious symbols that mark the groups that live there. These symbols and signs serve as clear markers and create sharp boundaries throughout the city. Also in Stockholm, where Färgfabriken resides, segregation is clearly readable. Here the planning has parted city and suburbs into a system of islands, separated economically.

There is a nostalgic and romanticized image of the concept of the city. We need to ask ourselves if it is open to everyone? You are certainly welcomed to visit it, but are you welcomed to live and inhabit its central parts? Economic factors have resulted in invisible barricades that are built around our inner-cities. It is clear that the concept of City must be redefined. Today we see how the city is reborn in various forms, in a multitude of places, and outside the central areas. This in turn creates a new pattern through stories, myths and the identity we all seek, which in turn results in a Patchwork of Identities.

Joachim Granit, Creative Director Färgfabriken

 

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