Margareth Otti

Learning from Arizona-Market

The largest informal market of Eastern Europe, the Arizona market, lies in Northeast Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the district of Brcko, an area with special status in international law. According to the Dayton treaty, ownership of the once disputed area around the city Brcko remains undecided. The 'Serbian Republic' and the 'Federation of Bosnians and Croats' could not reach a decision on this matter. The Brcko region now has a government with a high degree of self-administration, under the supervision of the international organisation Office of the Higher Representatives", OHR for short, and the SFOR(Stabilization Force). A new type of area developed out of a compromise to bring peace, a territory which has no terminology in international law. In military terminology the Brcko district is called the 'Zone of Separation' between the ethnic groups, it further represents a 'Zone of Transformation'. The Brcko district is an interim solution, a transitory political space, just as the Arizona market may be described as a doubly transitory area. A black market is an area of transit and of ephemeral stay. Secondly a black market is a temporary phenomenon, a transitory effect and an adaptor between irregular relationships and order. The Brcko district crosses a street with a particular name, the 'Arizona road', also called the 'Arizona corridor', the connection of Brcko in the direction of Sarajevo. The SFOR and UNO troops stationed in Bosnia code (for ease of orientation) the streets in Bosnia with place names from their countries of origin, such as 'Arizona', 'Illinois', 'Texas' and 'New Jersey'. A confusing geographic association develops through this coding and re-orders the locally marked space to a globalised linguistic space. In 1997 the OHR and the SFOR decide to allow the Arizona market to develop.

The Arizona market was founded with the goal to boost trade between the part republics, to create jobs and to soften the barriers between the enemy population groups through their economy. On the Arizona road, about ten kilometres from the city of Brcko, the SFOR troops flattened an area between fields and forests and provided the most basic building materials. The Arizona market emerged - in contrast to normal black markets - on an open field and grew rapidly. A conglomerate of improvised constructions, unimpeded trade and constant change emerged here - a space of transit and direct adaption of space. The uncontrolled and unplanned growth of the market, without planning for consistent levelling is used years later to reproach the SFOR. The Arizona road is the only possibility to reach the market, it does not only give the market its name, but its existence. The street becomes the direct limit of the market, the vehicles slow down level with the first stands. At weekends kilometre long traffic jams develop, depending on the buyer onslaught of up to 10,000 visitors from the area, but also from Croatia and Hungary. These traffic jams become a walking speed experience through the open shop areas of the stands of the Arizona market. The landscape of Arizona passes to the left and right, is simultaneously stage and scenery. The parking lots form free areas between the dense formation of the buildings and are looked after for a daily rate of 2 KM (1 convertible Mark = 0,59 Ä). The Arizona market has formed a self-organised system in the course of its development with different zones, particular structural prototypes and architectural and social organisations and information systems. The Arizona market is a network - independent elements do exist, yet the whole is a networked, self-changing organism. It has grown to a chaotic city, like lichen or moss, where an inner order has nevertheless formed. The approximately 2500 buildings, (from wooden shacks whose sales rooms pass directly into the public space of the street, up to purpose-built two family houses) form a dense, functional structure. Next to the sales stands are 60 cafes and restaurants, 16 motels and nightclubs and an area where goods are sold directly from trucks. The trucks are lined up to form shopping streets, the loading area becomes the sales room. The infrastructure is improvised, there are two toilets, two power generators and an open water and sewage network. At first one can hardly find the way in the dense formation, soon one recognises main streets, areas differentiated according to type of goods, various atmospheres. The Arizona market may also be understood as a transitory space of ephemeral architecture. If at first the improvised structures were made of wood, cardboard and corrugated iron, now there is more of a tendency towards purpose built structures, and also the size of the buildings grows with the market. The buildings partly stand alone on the Arizona road. Inside the market however, they join together and form a labyrinthine system of footpaths and stands whose roofs of coloured foil make light effects, a bazaar-like 'shopping atmosphere' develops. Even deeper in the market the labyrinth dissolves into parallel streets, the sales stands with pulpit roofs are already made out of brick or concrete in parts. One finds isolated porta-kabins, the police owns one of these, others function as toilet facilities. Shop closing time is 4pm, the dealers lock their shops and leave the market just like the customers. The goods on offer have changed since the emergence of the market. In the beginning it was a cattle market, which was soon connected to the sale of cigarettes, arms and food. Today there is an incalculable variety of goods available: groceries, juices, vegetables in supply sacks, sanitary goods, car parts, scooters, clothes, tools, plants, small parts, bicycles, original CDs and as cheaper pirate copies, cement mixers, sofas and 'label products' such as trainers and sport articles. The Arizona market offers a wide spectrum of goods, which no supermarket can match in such abundance. In addition the cheap prices (even as a basis for haggling) are a reason for the rush of customers. In time the goods on offer changed from traditional goods from the local region to products of the global players, in the meantime one finds, (even if fake and smuggled), Adidas next to Nike on the table. One subject not only reluctantly discussed in the market but also in the UN administration, are the innumerable motels and nightclubs. Here motel is synonomous with brothel and here primarily smuggled girls are forced into prostitution. The women from Eastern Europe, mainly from Moldavia, Romania and the Ukraine, arrive through newspaper small ads, which offer a 'good job abroad', at the Arizona market probably in the 'Restoran Cum', in German 'Godfather', where a situation of dependency is immediately created through the removal of passports. A motel in the Arizona market is called a '66 woman flat share', another nightclub has an extra room for illegal female immigrants. The owner is the former chief of police Ravne Brcko, a further 21 police are supposed to be involved in business of this sort. Even though forbidden in Bosnia, prostitution and the trade in women counts as a blooming branch of business despite, some say because of, the presence of the UNO and SFOR troops. So behind insignificant motels with names like 'Caffe Don' or 'Motel Scharm' is the exploitation of girls and women, who are sold as goods in a flourishing illegal economy.

From the Wild Wild West to the western style

In the year 2000 the government shows interest in the financial potential of the Arizona market for the first time. In January 2000 the UNMIBH (United Nations Mission Bosnia Herzegovina) speaks out for a closure of the market, the SFOR certainly feared armed resistance. The OHR finally decides to regulate the market together with the government of the Brcko district, to legalise and to bring the activities of the market under the control of the district. The government of the Brcko district hopes to make immense profits through taxation. The study of the Regional Development Brcko defines it ì... to tap into the financial potential it is necessary to create better working conditions in the market. In October 2000 the OHR began a partial closure of the market together with the international police troops. Until the end of 2001, 1624 shop owners were granted a trade permit, until the end of 2002, 19 brothels and shops without a trading permit were closed down. The ideal image of the structural re-organisation is defined in a government study as a shopping centre in the western style. With planning and execution, Italprojects were commissioned, a Bosnian-Italian co-operation of the Italian partner Alessandro Lucchetta with the local partner Jovica Stevanovic, who is simultaneouslythe building engineer and planner of the project. "Ibis", the building company of the Italproject with a predisposition to names with double meanings has already got a market "under control" in the "Republika Srpska" a few kilometres away from the Arizona market. A ìSlobopromî emerged. The Slobomarket pays tribute to the name of ex-dictator Slobodan Milosevic and is a 4.000 m2 hall with a few employees for the sale of car accessories. Italproject, the follow-up project of the Arizona market receives (through a contract with the government of the Brcko district) the responsibility for the next 20 years for planning, construction, financing and organisation of the transformation of the Arizona market into a ìshopping centre in the western styleî, in 20.000 m2 halls ìwhich will be constructed with the finest Italian materialsî. As the market is partly built on private land (originally dedicated to agriculture) differences arise out of the contract between the government and Italproject and the local landowners. The owners feel forced to sell their land and inheritance to international partnerships or foreign investors, and want to defend themselves.

The first step of the Italian-Bosnian co-operation will be made at the beginning of June 2003, according to the plans of the OHR and the Brcko district. This would transform the Arizona market into the most luxurious shopping centre in the world, with or without the agreement of the landowners. The real large investor, who is behind both of the directors of the Italproject, wishes to remain anonymous. In any case it concerns large amounts of money from the area around Venice, which should flow into the Arizona market in the next 20 years. The Italproject keeps all the profits for 17 years, in return it finances in 143.000 m2 of new shops streets, electricity and further infrastructure, which will pass into the ownership of the Brcko district after the contract runs out. The Arizona market will come to express a transitory space between bazaar and shopping centre in its architectural symbolism, connected to the desire of those with power to decide over the space, to participate in a globalised ideal world. The Arizona market is (as there are no job alternatives and the formerly state owned businesses have been destroyed) the largest employer in the area. The approx. 4000 business people who have their own stand or who are employed and pay rent, are not only Serbs, Croats or Bosnians, but also Chinese (whose wide reaching trade network reached the market from Sarajevo)and Roma, who are mainly settled here. The agglomeration of living spaces of the Roma out of the most basic materials at the edge of the market is the only area of the Arizona market where people also reside. Both sides wish the Roma to be separated from the rest of the area, a sign with the inscription ìcaution minesî keeps unwanted visitors away. Women, children and street vendors of perfume and knives offer services, from car washes and clouds of perfume to horoscopes and good wishes. The comparison with an emerging town of the ìWild Westî is not only close in the structure of the buildings, but also in the saying ìfrom plate washer to millionaireî. The rapidly growing market economy has changed the goals of people, some of whom previously used to work in the fields. The order of the relationship between the sexes is also being transformed, many women (who have become single mothers through the war) use the possibility to get a sales stand at the market. The women mainly work in a roofed bazaar-like area, where they sell clothes, shoes and small goods, and have organised themselves into ìsales collectivesî. Edisa, a 14-year-old girl (who through her stay in a refugee camp in Germany speaks excellent German), talks about her mother, who couldnít find a job as a teacher and whose earnings from the Arizona market are considerably better. The Italprojectís contract with the Brcko district promises to allow all current business and land owners a continuation of their business, to buy or rent in partnership with Italproject shops, naturally at a higher price in favour of the future infrastructure. The company ¢Posavina 108¢, which owns some illegal buildings on the Arizona market, aquired a contract in this way. ¢Posavina 108¢ is an organisation of Bosnian-Croatian war veterans, which according to SFOR knew how to avoid police controls at the market, are to be feared for their nationalistic activities, and whose founders have been on trial at the Hague war crimes tribunal. ¢Posavina 108¢ has sold their rights at the market to Italproject, allegedly connected to the promise to be allowed to control parts of the market even in the future. The directors of the Italproject specifically do not see it as their task to check where the money of the future shopkeepers comes from. The aim of the OHR at the Arizona market is (bound up to their withdrawal from Bosnia) to make a model project. The transformation of the Arizona market into Italproject should achieve the transformation from informal work to legal working conditions and in addition put organised crime (without provoking nationalistic outbursts) in market economy legal boundaries. The architectural language symbolises this intention, buildings inspired by networks, to globally intelligible stylisms of shopping-mall architecture. The investors and the government of the Brcko district expect as well as profits and tax money, an economic upswing and a political stabilisation to come from this. The shopkeepers are against this, the tenants and landowners of the Arizona market who feel passed over, forced to sell their land and soon to be ousted. Apart from the difficulties in carrying out the proposed top-down solution Italproject, which anticipates a resettlement of the Arizona market during the construction work, the question is posed as to the sustainability of this procedure and the consequences of a tabula rasa of the existing market. The location is specific to the Arizona market, yet random for a shopping centre. The goods will become more expensive, as the effect of regulation is to reinforce the particularity of the place. For the economic and political situation in the Brcko district, jobs are more important than the formalism of an illusionist and illusory ¢western¢ facade. Italproject has in addition caused a change in social structure, the many independent small businesses are dependent on the investing firm. Land acquisition is no longer possible through demarcating the boundaries in correspondence with the neighbours, as it used to be. The self-organisation of the market is frail, the already developed structures are being ignored, and the existing qualities and potential of the functioning controls ¢Arizona-market¢ are not being recognised.

The speculation about possible tax revenue from a "shopping centre" in the "western model" have greater weight in the planning and manifest themselves in the structural execution. The symbolic character of the architecture, which is supposed to mirror the economically and politically stable system of a democracy, shows a deceptive image of an investor architecture, with an aestheticism which leaves out the political and social, an architecture which pulls the profitability of architecture into the foreground and whose manifestation is an expression of power. The structural transformation of market grown structures similar to that in Arizona has often failed, yet the strategy works to reduce a structure (which stands in the way of one of the decision makers and financiers desired solution) to negative attributes such as ¢dirty, disorganised or criminal¢, and to use these as striking arguments to destroy the whole thing, not only in the case of the Arizona market.

The research on the Arizona market developed out of a preoccupation with literature from South East Europe, in particular from ex-Yugoslavia, e.g. by Dubravka Ugresic or Slavoj Zizek, and laid the first pointers in the direction of the Balkans. The architectural interest in the Arizona market grew out of the desire to attempt to step over the conventional design methods, which often leave out social, economic and political factors and see architecture exclusively as an aesthetically functional construct. The work on the project Arizona market emerged in the year 2001 on the initiative of and initially jointly with the architect and artist Azra Aksamija following a journey to Sarajevo. In the Brcko district and in Sarajevo, interviews and video recordings emerged with involved individuals and institutions such as the government of the Brcko district, the police, representatives of the OHR and CAFAO (Customs and Fiscal Assistance Office) in addition to the business people and visitors to the Arizona market. At this time there was a preliminary blueprint for a shopping centre, the government of the Brcko district hoped for a master plan like this from our projects at the Arizona market. Bosnia-Herzegovina is formally seen as a city with 4 million inhabitants (47% Bosnians, 32% Serbs, 18% Croats und 5% others) , the part republics, the Serbian republicîand the Federation of Bosnians and Croats, emerging from the Dayton Treaty in 1995 , also have a state character, education system, police force, legislation and Rechtssprechung and lies in the hands of the part republic. There is also slight connection between both of the part republics, for Bosnia-Herzegovina the term ìassociation of nationsî is more apt. Only mono-ethic public schools exist in the Brcko district. They also use different curriculae, more precisely, six Serbian, seven Bosnian and two Croatian schools.