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During the course of wars, the infrastructure of cities faces destruction. Fighting, regardless of its intentions, destroys roads, bridges, commercial and residential buildings, as well as the architecture they embody.

Throughout history and around the globe, calls to stop wars have focused on the value of people’s lives. In recent decades, there has been a lot of attention paid to protecting cultural heritage. However, there has been little consideration for the value of public places and people’s memories of these spaces.

Buildings – such as residential and commercial structures, schools and hospitals – are often destroyed in the chaos of conflict, leaving behind psychological trauma that can last for generations. In a recent paper, we set out why cities and their buildings need to be protected. This infrastructure, unique or not, represents people’s history, culture and social fabric.

In our paper, we coined the term “wartime urbanism” to describe what we believe needs to be done to preserve a city’s distinctive characteristics in times of conflict.

We propose three ways to do this: mapping a city’s real estate development and its relative urban value; enacting national and international laws that criminalise the destruction of physical assets; and raising public awareness about these laws and the importance of city assets.

During times of conflict, cultural heritage and city places can be protected under various laws. However, for these laws to be effective, governments must implement them during periods of peace.

We argue that politicians and urban practitioners should incorporate wartime urbanism into city planning and design. This would help protect buildings, infrastructure, services, facilities, and public and private places before, during and after wars. The less severe the material damage (in terms of human lives and physical structures) from conflict, the faster reconciliation can be.