Diving from the Bridge

Amir Pasic is a native of Herzegovina. An architect and city planner, he won an international award in 1987 for his work in reconstructing the old city of Mostar. The historic core of the city, which had been in decline, was reconstructed with sensitivity to both historical detail and social viability. Residents of the old city were not priced out of their property. They were encouraged to open businesses and museums that would serve the tourists expected to come to a revived Mostar. The plan worked, and before the war broke out in neighboring Croatia in 1991, Mostar had a strong tourist economy and a vital old town.

When Mostar came under attack, Pasic escaped to Istanbul with detailed plans of the city. He now directs an institute with graduate students from around the world dedicated to rebuilding Mostar yet again, with attention to both historical detail and social vitality. When people start talking about religious and political exclusivity, he just changes the subject back to rebuilding this great city. He has given out invitations printed up for the reopening of the reconstructed city in the year 2004.

One Mostar tradition is the annual bridge dive. Daring young men and women would dive off the high-arched old Ottoman bridge, far down into the Neretva River. In the summer of 1994, in the wake of the siege, when east Mostar had been pummeled into ruin and its inhabitants starved, shelled, and confined to cellars for months, the people came out for the annual event. The spectators got out their swimsuits and sat along the banks of the river. An improvised, temporary bridge was placed over the blasted-out central section of the great bridge, and the divers dove.

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