Historic cities are complex. Through their coherent morphology, they integrate the past and present, cultural traditions and contemporary functions, and bring together the private and public domains. They are characterised by a granular and organic quality that calls for adapted planning methodologies if urban revitalisation is to succeed. Even in peace time, cities deserve special attention.
Planning for reconstruction has to cope with an unprecedented situation in which centuries-old urban and architectural heritage has been destroyed, residents have been displaced, institutions dismantled, and regular planning procedures abandoned. Planners have to recognise that war-torn historic cities are not only composed of endangered monuments, but also depend on complex functional systems that require renewal and adaptation to the changed conditions.
Different forms of reconstruction, from conservation and repair to restoration must therefore go hand in hand with urban redevelopment. The challenge for planning authorities is to guide this combined repair and transformation process from the outset.
Given the scale of destruction suffered by historic cities in armed conflicts, their reconstruction is a long-term undertaking. Numerous key planning tasks have to be addressed. First, the parties involved need to agree on how to recover and rebuild the cultural heritage. Second, they have to define the individual priorities and stages, and decide on the allocation of resources.
In the interests of healing the deep wounds arising from conflict, this planning process must involve not only experts, planners and political decision-makers, but also civil organisations and local residents and businesses.