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Improvised Design in the Siege of Sarajevo

by Jonah Goodman (5200 words)

Cut off from the outside world for four years by a besieging army, with food, water, electricity, fuel and weapons in short supply, the people of Sarajevo faced a daily choice: improvise and adapt or die.

Dr Stevan Šubara opens the kitchen window of his eighth-storey Sarajevo apartment, leans out, and points to the shallow river Miljacka, 300m (950ft) to his right. ‘Look,’ he says, ‘this was the front line. ’ Twenty years earlier, the besieging Serb nationalist army had lain beyond it, firing mortars, shells and sniper rounds across the water every day. ‘The Bosnian army,’ says Šubara, turning left to gesture the same distance uphill, ‘were shooting from there, trying to aim between the buildings.

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