It was on the 10th BIENNALE OF VENICE IN ARCHITECTURE in summer 2006 when it was the first time of Earth’s history officially announced that half of the world population already lives in urban settlements. This could be a good reason of rising the importance of spatial planning and spatial planners. Alas it was only two years later that the overheated real estate “balloon” exploded at the Wall Street Exchange in NY, that caused the years long recession in Europe and locally in Slovenia bankruptcy of all larger construction companies. Consequently architects, urban designers and spatial planners became largely unoccupied.
After six years of recession the growth of European economies started again and it is time to rethink what will be the future of urban and spatial planning. First of all it will be time to solve the less pleasant open problems like: unfinished constructions and decaying “torsos” of stopped projects due to bankruptcy of most construction companies in Slovenia. These included also bad maintenance of our “monuments” from close past. Now it will be time to solve the global visions of the future urban and spatial planning but at the same time also problems that are close to Europe in the few last years. Indirectly we are co-responsible for the big tragedy in our close vicinity that started with the so called “Arab spring” in 2010 or actually already in 2003 with the invasion of USA and UK military forces on “Husein’s Iraque” though no hidden weapons for mass destruction were ever found there.
If the member states of European Union are now in the phase of preparing the destruction the system of illegal transport of refugees across the Mediterranean Sea (with which the organizers are now in Libya earning unimaginable sums of money) it will not stop the flow of refugees from battlefields in Near East and Africa. War destructions of urban areas in those countries and regions will remain as the most direct reason for mass migration of thousands of fugitives to the “promised peaceful land – European Union”!
Even in the proverbial historical disagreements between Sunni, Shia and Curds the Europeans has its already a little forgotten responsibility .After the end of the First WW the Ottoman empire was disintegrated and the winning Allied European forces were designing the border lines of newly established different Arabic states of the Middle East. The border lines were schematic and defined more to please the interests of the European powers. From the very beginning they already implied the reasons for different future war conflicts. Immediately after the Second WW the never ended Israel - Palestina war started and then from mid seventies till late eighties the internal Lebanon 16 years long war took place.
In this part of Earth so deeply divided it seems to be impossible to create conditions for more tolerate cohabitation of different non tolerate believers. This is the picture of today’s belligerance conditions of Middle East. But can we find out in spite of such situation what kind of useful task the urban and spatial planners can do.
Maybe the useful and important role of urban planners can be the creation physical and social living conditions for refugees saved directly from the boats in Mediterranean Sea. The young refugees trying to avoid wars could be considered as a very positive input in to the fast aging population of all European Union Member States. The mistakes from past segregation of “foreigners” into new satellite settlements close to historical urban centers with little or none possibilities to find occupation for young and even educated foreigners should be avoided.
As long as the bloody wars will continue the flow of refugees will not be possible to stop. The European Union will not be able to do any other solution then start to include the refugees into every days’ life activities of Europe’s home inhabitants. The urban and spatial planners will have to dedicate more thinking about social and econom8c cohesion, while the spatial cohesion will become more important in the next phase or only then when most of the wars will be stopped.
There is an absolute impotence of stopping the war by United Nations and by the world super powers. The only graspable success was the USA airplanes’ bombing that saved from occupation the city of Kobane (the last Kurd City in Syria on the very Turkish border) by Islamic State Forces. Never the less the Islamic State Forces are in command of almost all the border between Iraq and Syria. At the same time they already occupy Palmyra only 215 kilometers from Damascus.
The Middle East towns where the war is going on are becoming more and more similar to the Nepal’s Capital Katmandu, which was totally destroyed by the massive earthquake. We hope the ground under Mount Everest and Himalaya will settle down soon. Hopefully the battles going on in Middle East will finally stop too. And then in the close future the times will return when the urban and spatial planners will be performing their profession the way they have been taught and they can perform it best: design and construct new settlements all over the globalizing World.
PETER BASSIN, M A, GSD Harvard University
Slovenia, July 2015