Currently reading : Scars


15 July 2014

Author : helenlevin


An anarchist may be asked, “How will your free society begin, how will you end the government?” The anarchist may have no answer, no way of initiating a self-ruling society without fearing brutal retaliation from the rulers in power. But in a war, when violence damages the buildings, streets and cities, it also destroys the established authoritative order””so who’s left to enforce the rules?

The destruction of Sarajevo in the ’90’s inspired architect Lebbeus Woods to speculate on how to divest from authority and initiate individual empowerment by repairing the city. He saw an opportunity to reinvent the society in Sarajevo, a chance to end the authority-sponsored war cycle and replace it with peaceful individual authority. The anarchy would emerge through the desire to build a city for oneself, by oneself, from the discarded fragments of the established, violent government.

Lebbeus saw the potential for healing the trauma through architecturally mending the city. This would create personal space in the depths of ruin. He knew it was necessary to holistically process the urban detritus, to think about both destruction and construction as a cycle to rebirth.






“The new spaces of habitation accept with a certain pride what has been suffered and lost, but also what has been gained. They build upon the shattered form of the old order a new category of order, within which existence feels it’s strengths, acknowledges it’s vulnerabilities and failures, and faces up to the need to invent itself as though for the first time. There is an ethical and moral commitment in such an existence, and therefore a basis for community.”

No higher authority is needed when the virtue of each individual is true and accepting of the good and the bad. Those willing to use comradeship and compassion as rulers of their daily lives, not other people, would create a new place for themselves to self-rule.

Lebbeus describes the reconstruction as an injection of free spaces–actual spaces where an individual is free–growing out of the destroyed remnants of government ruled society. The spaces are not Classical or nostalgic, nor do they promise the government sponsored gift of a romantic future. This way, the buildings “assert no control over the thought and behavior of people by conforming to typologies and coercive programs of use, to preestablished ideologies and their plans to predominate in human activities under the name of an enforced unity of meaning and material. Traditional links with centralized authority, with deterministic and coercive systems, are disrupted. People assume the benefits and burdens of self-organization.”


Through the midst of his philosophical positivity, Lebbeus warns of the potential ugliness that building yourself a place out of leftovers might bring, the same way that a scab on a wound looks jagged and rough next to smooth, healthy skin. The scabs fuse and heal day by day, protecting the wound until it heals. The visible beauty of the work is understood through the rebuilding process, just the same as how our bodies naturally heal.




More on Lebbeus Woods’ website. All images and quotes from War and Architecture.






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