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Competition: Al Umma Park, Baghdad

An open international ideas contest has been announced to regenerate Al Umma Park in central Baghdad, Iraq (Deadline: 15 August)

Open to architects, students, engineers, planners and designers – the single-stage competition seeks innovative proposals to reimagine the dilapidated 46,000m² riverside park which occupies the former site of an ancient city gate.

The call for ideas – organised by Iraqi architectural awards initiative Tamayouz – aims to generate a ‘uncompromising open source of ideas tackling social issues’ which can be used by local government to rebuild the war-torn country. The overall winner will receive the Dewan Award named after a practice in Dubai which sponsors the competition.

Al Umma Park, Baghdad

Al Umma Park, Baghdad

Source: Image by Google Earth

Al Umma Park, Baghdad

According to the brief: ‘As a result of decades of neglect followed by the Iraq–Iran war in the 1980s, to the UN imposed 13-year embargo that started in 1990, Al Umma Park has greatly degraded. However, its transformation from a family-friendly urban space into an unwelcoming and inhospitable environment following the 2003 invasion has perhaps been its most challenging time – as well as for the whole of Iraq.

‘This competition seeks a new urban planning and architectural approach that helps Baghdad celebrate its heritage and raises awareness of the importance of maintaining all the layers of its history and heritage. The objective is the urban rehabilitation of Baghdad’s central park, restoring it to its former glory – a recreational space that served as an attraction for families and a platform for Iraqi art and history.’

Located on both sides of the Tigris River roughly in the centre of the country, Baghdad is the capital and largest city of Iraq and home to around 8.8 million people. The historic settlement has lost more than half of its heritage and listed buildings since the 2003 invasion. Located on the edge of the historic city centre, the contest site was first opened as King Ghazi Park in 1937 and later renamed Al Umma Park following the country’s revolution in the late 1950s.

The park was formerly a major focus of entertainment and recreational activities but is now considered dilapidated and dangerous. The green space features several major artworks including the 1960 Mural of the People by Faiq Hassan and Motherhood Statue by artist and sculptor Khaled Al-Rahhal.

The latest Dewan Award contest is the seventh competition to be organised by Tamayouz which is headquartered in Coventry, England. In 2017 the organisation held a contest for new housing for refugees returning to Mosul following its liberation from Isis. The winning scheme, by Anna Otlik from Wroclaw in Poland, featured new homes co-designed by the returning families themselves.

Last year Tamayouz launched a contest to transform Baghdad’s abandoned Old Governorate Building into a new design centre. The overall winner – Brooks Murray Architects from London – proposed transforming the ruin into a new landscaped courtyard.

The latest contest aims to transform the park into a new ‘green lung’ for the city featuring a heritage centre with café and lecture hall, new art installations, a pond, ‘speakers corner’ events space, and subterranean connection to the Baghdad metro.

Applications from multi-disciplinary teams of up to four members are encouraged. Judges include the co-founder of Lebanon’s UNIT44, Jala Makhzoumi; Mohamed Al-Assam, chair of Dewan Architects and Engineers; and Italian architect Matteo Poli.

The overall winner, to be announced in November, will receive USD $6,000 or a paid internship at Dewan Architects and Engineers in Dubai worth around 10,000 AED per month. A second prize of USD $2,000; third prize of USD $1,000 and seven honourable mentions will also be awarded.

The top three winners will also receive an invitation including free travel and accommodation to attend the annual Tamayouz Award Annual Ceremony which will be hosted this year in Amman, Jordon.

How to apply


The registration deadline is 15 August and submissions must be completed by 20 August.

Contact details

Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Ahmed Al Mallak

The founding director of the Tamayouz Excellence Award discusses his ambitions for the competition

Ahmed Al Mallak

Ahmed Al Mallak

Ahmed Al Mallak

Why are your holding an international ideas contest to rethink Al Umma part in Baghdad?

The idea of the contest came from our partners in this competition Dewan Architects + Engineers; they choose the theme of the Dewan Award for Architecture annually through their teams in Iraq and provide all necessary information and logistics for the success of the design challenge. This competition comes after 22 main public spaces in the Iraqi capital have been redesigned. The 22 public spaces were part of an initiative to revitalize Baghdad, but the organisers commission the 22 spaces from one design firm, artist and contractor, and all are done in a very short period of time, not taking into consideration the context of these spaces and their use, so we are trying to educate the authorities in Baghdad of other practices to commissioning/selecting designs.

What is your vision for the new public space?

The area of the current park is 24,830 square metres. We have asked the participants to include the surrounding roads within the new park area which doubles the area. Three of Iraq’s most important public art commissions are located within the competition site and designers need to better integrate two of them. Sustainability issues need to be addressed in the design. The park falls in between the old organically urban part of the city and its newer grid neighbourhoods, and providing those neighbourhoods and their residents/users with spatial relief and a recreational area with necessary facilities is important.

Mothering statue in Al Umma Park, Baghdad

Mothering statue in Al Umma Park, Baghdad

Source: Image by Codelyoko

Mothering statue in Al Umma Park, Baghdad

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The competition is open to all. In previous competitions, we received entries from well-established firms such as the London-based Brook Murray architects, who won the 2018 Baghdad Design Centre competition, and university students led by their lectures who won our previous School in the Iraqi marshes competition. We encourage the participation of multi-disciplinary teams and emerging practices to help the undiscovered talents make their names on this project. International firms don’t need to collaborate with local firms to apply.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

After we launched the competition to rethink Alumma Park in Baghdad, we launched our other competition for 2019; Barjeel Museum for modern Arab art in Sharjah, which aims to design an architectural and cultural landmark that hosts the Barjeel collection and represents modern art, architecture and design in the Arab world. This competition comes at a time when schemes lack a necessary depth of understanding of Arab culture springing up in the region, especially in the gulf. We are hoping this competition will start a design debate on the architectural language of museums in the Arab world.

Are there any other recent similar public space regeneration projects you have been impressed by?

Superkilen in Copenhagen by Superflex, Topotek 1 and Bjarke Ingels Group, opened in 2012.