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Visionaries Conference

To assist in designing the specifications for our "Just Jerusalem" design competition, the Jerusalem 2050 Project hosted a visionaries conference. We invited scholars from the region and around the world who work in a variety of different disciplines to help us begin to think about the process of planning our competition.

Aims of the April 2005 Visionaries Conference

The Visionaries Conference provided an opportunity to showcase the involvement and commentary of a group of leading scholars who came to share their knowledge of Jerusalem and their hopes for what would make this city a place of peace – a place where every resident could enjoy the same “rights to the city” regardless of religion, ethnicity, and political affiliation. If we assume that every act in or about Jerusalem has political implications, the principal aim (and challenge) of this “Visionaries Conference” was to lay the foundations for a dialogue that would allow us to discuss Jerusalem and elicit visions for its future without replicating the contemporary discourses or political initiatives that have led to sustained and intractable conflict.

Participants were asked to consider this general aim from the perspective of a particular disciplinary vantage point (law, economics, politics, religion, history, sociology, arts, urban design/planning) as well as from a larger philosophical vantage point in which questions of rights, democracy, pluralism, risk, sustainability, and equality are considered. The logic here is that cities – like their citizens – are heterogeneous bodies comprised of multiple functions and objectives, each of which may presuppose a certain form of social, spatial, political, or economic organization and meaning. The more we can recognize “diversity” in our understanding of how the city has and will continue to function, in everyday terms at least, and the more we recognize the potential variability in scope and scale of the different activities (in virtual and lived space) in a context of increasing globalization in which the relations between cities and nations are in flux, the greater the likelihood that we can imagine a Jerusalem freed from “binary” logics (Palestinian versus Israeli, secular versus fundamentalist, Muslim versus Jew, and so on) that have produced so many of the city's current problems. The views advanced by individual visionaries, posed from distinct disciplinary perspectives to capture the city's multiple logics, were then compared and contrasted in a synthetic manner by a general commentator who provided a “meta” commentary on the general themes that emerge in the conference panels.

The goal of the Visionaries Conference was to produce a series of vignettes or scenarios for Jerusalem, based on the individual and synthetic views advanced by the Conference participants, excerpts of which will be published in a Competition Booklet announcing an international, juried vision competition called “Just Jerusalem.” Our hope is that each vignette will serve as an inspiration for the competition entrants. Thus what we were looking for were multiple views of Jerusalem - past, present, and future - that themselves would elicit the creativity and imagination necessary to make the Just Jerusalem competition an exercise in peace-making, in which utopian visions of the future become the starting point for creating a more just and livable present.

In order to offer some guidance to conference participants, we offered the following leading questions to get the dialogue started. The questions were not intended to be exhaustive or restrictive, but, rather, to create a common basis for interaction, commentary, and collective discussion. Our overarching goal was to elicit imaginative yet compelling visions for the future, as opposed to focusing on practical (or even agreed-upon) solutions or positions overly tied to the constraints of the present.

 

Leading Questions for Disciplinary Panelists

1. Given your knowledge of Jerusalem, what circumstances or conditions in the city - associated with either the past or the present - hold the greatest potential for a building a better future?
2. If you were to construct a mutually inclusive project for the city that would accommodate all residents (which may or may not entail the dismantling of “boundaries”) where and on what scale would you begin?
3. Which resources and transformations in existent institutions, relationships, and conditions (be they urban, national, or even international) would most enable the proposal you have in mind?

 

Leading Questions for General Commentators

1. What are the primary assumptions about - and methods for knowing - the city that emerges within the distinct visions presented in the panels?
2. What are the principle fault lines of difference (or points of similarity) about how peace might be achieved in Jerusalem, and do they vary within or across the various disciplinary-based panels?
3. What elements are missing or might be reconfigured in order to best achieve the visionary aims of individual panelists, or even to enable a collective effort at guaranteeing a promising future for the city?