War has become an integral part of the political agenda. Electoral programmes are based on it, and national budgets often framed to finance it. In the past politicians used to promise their constituencies “no more war”. Today that slogan has been replaced with “war for ever”.

A similar change of attitude also reflects the way in which those concerned with the built environment deal with the subject. War seems no longer to be something abnormal or alien to the urbanized world. Indeed the various combinations possible between the two terms this issue of OHI is dedicated to – war against the city, cities at war with other cities, the city at war with itself (shuffled according to whether the focus is on the city as a victim of conflict or responsible for it) – are at risk of becoming mere academic disciplines, fields of specialization.

In 2002, an issue of Open House International already addressed the topic. Scholars with different backgrounds and experiences reported on a number of cities. They analysed and reflected on the situation before the armed hostilities, both in physical terms and in terms of the conflicts of ethnic and civilian character, and the role of external forces and actors; the war in its different manifestations: a never ending conflict, a succession of battles and precarious truces, bombing, the threat of bombing; the prospects (if any) of reconstruction, with particular reference to the different effects for the various groups and interest.

Today, 16 years later, the ambition of this issue is not only to provide further empirical investigation but to contribute to the broadening of the discussion going beyond the case study logic.

The call welcomes papers that consider problems whose relevance is not confined to a specific situation and which are interwoven one with the other. Contributions on the following themes are especially encouraged:

  • the war as means to accelerate the introduction of a market economy and the ancillary privatisation of land, housing and public services as well as the relaxation of land use planning rules;
  • the armed conflicts driven by both internal and external forces expressing complex rivalries for appropriation and control of natural resources;
  • the intentional exacerbation of hostility between groups of different ethnic and /or religious composition;
  • the role of the international community that simultaneously participates in the destruction and proclaims itself anxious to provide humanitarian aid and help with reconstruction;
  • the war’s profiteers (i.e. global corporate interests, financial institutions, construction companies and architectural firms);
  • the forced relocation of displaced people into “special” settlements which brings to an increasing fragmentation of post-war landscape;
  • the incorporation of war into the planning discourse that has perverse effects on all our cities and not only on those directly devastated by armed operations.

Editor: Paola Somma, paola@community.iuav.it