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Research

Vision for a Place of Peace: Jerusalem 2050
Diane E. Davis and John de Monchaux
(With additional steering committee participation of Bish Sanyal and Lawrence Vale)

This is a four-year research project, jointly sponsored by DUSP and MIT's Center for International Studies with the participation of Palestinian and Israeli Scholars. Jerusalem is a city also known as Al Quds, claimed by two nations and central to three religions. What would it take to make Jerusalem simply a “city”? What would it take to make this city into a place of difference and diversity in which contending ideas and citizenries can co-exist in benign, yet creative, ways?

In order to break out of the stalemate that has reinforced despair and conflict in Jerusalem, and relegated questions of urban livability to the back burner of national political diplomacy, the project aims to bypass the standard route of negotiation between "representative" peoples and turn instead to the liberating potential of imagination and design. Rather than aiming for unity or synthesis among competing parties in their plans for the city, we will encourage the production of bold and 'non-negotiated' visions for Jerusalem, with the assumption being that only through such methods can there emerge a shared understanding of the basic urban conditions necessary for a tolerant and culturally vibrant city to flower, independent of ethnic or religious partisanship.

A second but related aim of this project is to promote the use of design and other creative imaginings of space as techniques for arriving at a more positive social, political and economic organization of the city. With these principles in mind, we are currently hosting an international, juried Just Jerusalem Competition. Rather than crafting solutions based on the claims of peoples and their religious identities on the one hand, or nations and their historical and ethical claims to existence on the other, our hope is that this Vision Competition will provide opportunities for Jerusalem's inhabitants to ask new questions and imagine new possibilities that may offer an exit from the destructive cycle of violence, hatred, and terror that has not just shattered peoples and nations, but also significant parts of the city itself.

The project is built around the belief that the act of preparing and sharing visions of Jerusalem at mid-century may contribute to peace in at least four ways. First, those preparing a vision would include many teams made up of individuals holding very different views. Their efforts to reconcile these differences will itself be a model for the conduct of larger debates in the region. Second, we suspect that many of the participants will discover that they share a set of deeper values that will underlie their vision-and that these values may also resonate with many of those who see and debate the results. Third, some of the visions will be so attractive that they will prompt an effort to design a path of actions intended to achieve that vision. And fourth, one or more of the visions may just make such extraordinary good sense that it motivates political forces in the region to bring new and creative proposals to the current debates and negotiations.

For more on the origins and development of the project, see the Just Jerusalem 2050 website.