Cities and Wars

A city is considered to be a population settlement where diverse services coexist to satisfy the needs of the inhabitants. They are also entities with strong political, economic, and trade functions. The first city in history was Uruk, in Mesopotamia, currently in southern Iraq, around 3500 BC.

 

It took just over a thousand years to have records on the first documented war. The narrative records are found in the Stele of the Vultures –currently in the Louvre Museum in Paris–. This relief explains the victory against the city of Umma defeated by Uruk.

 

 

Regardless of time and space, the ravages of war and any civil conflict are immediately reflected in the city. The milestones become the main target to demonstrate the civil strength of both the opposing city and the disagreements that occur within the territory. Cultural heritage is often the objective of opposing countries because behind all these milestones lies the memory and identity of a city. Destroying them is erasing part of their culture and rebuilding them entails more than good intentions.

 

Rebuilding a monument or a space after a war is not an easy task, because behind all the rubble there is a life that was given to safeguard a nation and a political ideal. If the rubble is on the side of the victorious country, it will stand proudly in the name of the heroes, but if it is on the side of the defeated country, the landmark that will be built in its place will change the way of approaching space.

 

 

On the other hand, the heritage of each inhabitant is also involved, their houses, apartments, and housing sites are a grain of sand in the memory of each country. When a residential building is damaged, part of history is damaged, because in every corner of the place people weave the memory of their life. With each object, each photograph, and each destroyed book, the social construction, and identity of the inhabitants are slowly erased. Rebuilding, restoring, and remodeling are more difficult than building. Therefore, the damage caused by civil conflicts in architectural spaces is invaluable.

 

Some philosophers like Kant assured that for there to be progress there must be a conflict in any of its representations, however, the damage caused to nations does not represent progress, and not every time the word progress is a Synonym of progress.

 

It will take many years, even decades, for a damaged space to become habitable again. In the case of spaces such as houses or apartment complexes, the return will no longer be possible and it will become an uninhabited and ruined site. The same happens with hospitals and spaces considered intimate.

 

 

Public spaces run with a little more luck. They are rebuilt and in their place, generally, a landmark is established that represents the memory of those who gave their lives in honor of their homeland.

 

Our surroundings are full of incomplete monuments due to wars. In Latin America, the archaeological zones are an example of this. Greece is also an area that was devastated by war and we are left only with the reconstruction that historians have made of what was once that glorious city. For its part, the Roman coliseum has a certain aesthetic in its ruins, which unfortunately does not happen with the city of Palmyra in Syria.

 

What in some areas was kilometer zero of the patrimonial disaster is now a place to take a selfie and post it on social networks. Time and spatial reconstruction have erased part of the history of that space, creating a change in the collective memory of a country.

 

 

Almost 4,500 years ago the first war was documented. Now, thanks to technological support, there is information about the political events that are currently happening in Russia and Ukraine. At the end of the day, the truth of the facts will be immersed in the city, and the best way to understand it will be reading it with our own feet, in its spaces, among its streets, landmarks, and in its monuments; not in selfies, nor newscasts because as Octavio Paz writes: “Architecture is the incorruptible witness of history because one cannot speak of a great building without recognizing in it the witness of an era, its culture, its society, their intentions” and above all their wars. The architecture and sometimes its ruins are the witness of each stray bullet.

 

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