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Competition: Baghdad Design Centre

An open international ideas contest has been launched to transform Baghdad’s abandoned Old Governorate Building into a new design centre (Deadline: 6 September)

Open to multidisciplinary teams of architects, students, engineers and designers, the anonymous competition seeks ambitious proposals to convert the historic Al-Rusafa district landmark which was reduced to ruins amid looting and vandalism following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

The call for ideas – organised by Iraqi architectural awards initiative Tamayouz – seeks radical proposals to help protect the city’s many historic buildings threatened by comprehensive regeneration following the conflict. Concepts should retain the building’s surviving façade and include a 200-capacity flexible exhibition space along with a workshop, library, offices, co-working area, café and outdoor public space.

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

According to the brief: ‘This competition hopes to see a new architectural approach that helps Baghdad celebrate its heritage and raise awareness of the importance of maintaining all the layers of its history and heritage.

‘The transformation of the site into a design centre that showcases the best of contemporary Iraqi design and is also a space of creative collaboration forms the basis of the brief. Whilst creating a new and optimistic vision for the future of design within Iraq the proposals should also set a benchmark for the respectful treatment of cultural heritage in a true fusion of the old and the new.’

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.

The Old Governorate Building occupies a prominent waterfront site within the Al-Rusafa old town district close to the Abbasid Palace. Constructed in the early 20th-century the complex was heavily vandalised following the conflict and now only its façade remains. The site is now used as a meeting point by locals.

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

Last year Tamayouz held a contest for new housing for refugees returning to Mosul following its anticipated liberation from Isis. The winning scheme, by Anna Otlik from Wroclaw in Poland, featured new homes co-designed by the returning families themselves.

This year’s competition seeks proposals for a new design centre featuring a 200-capacity flexible exhibition space along with a workshop, library, offices, co-working area, café and outdoor public space. The competition language is English and the judging panel has yet to be announced.

The overall winner will receive the inaugural Rifat Chadirji Prize worth around $5,000 along with flights and accommodation to attend the annual Tamayouz awards ceremony. There will also be a second and third prize worth $1,000 each, a sustainability prize of $500, and seven honourable mentions.

How to apply

Deadline

The registration deadline is 6 September and submissions must be completed by 9 September.

Fee

Early registration from 9 February to 6 June: $50
Standard registration from 7 June to 31 August: $75
Last chance registration from 1 September to 6 June: $100

Contact details

Tamayouz
The Apex
2 Sheriffs Orchard
Coventry
CV1 3AA
United Kingdom

Email: info@rifatchadirji.com

View the competition website for more information

Briggait Phase 2 case study: Q&A with Ewan Imrie

The architect at Collective Architecture discusses lessons learned creating a new arts centre inside Glasgow’s former fish market

Ewan Imrie

Ewan Imrie

Ewan Imrie

How will your project transform a disused space into a new arts and design complex?

The Briggait Creation Centre project involves the transformation of the historic Briggait former Glasgow Fish Market into a unique, multidisciplinary, creative hub. This follows Wasps £6.8m first phase of development, completed in 2009, which saved these halls from potential demolition and provided studio/office space for artists and creatives. This second phase aims to extend the range of facilities that Wasps offer artists and the public by expanding into new art forms, including dance, performance, street art and circus skills, creating an inspirational arts hub with national and international reach.

The project combines a sympathetic conversion of the existing halls, where the large proportions are maintained and functionality increased, and a dramatic new extension housing the professional quality dance studios that faces the River Clyde. The extension has an expressive form projecting dynamically over the pavement and reaching out towards the river exploiting the Clyde promenade location. The form has been expressed as stacked boxes representing the distinct spaces within and the glazing floats freely providing dramatic views while drawing light deep into the large studio volumes and giving clues as to the dynamic activities within.

Briggait Phase 2 by Collective Architecture

Briggait Phase 2 by Collective Architecture

Briggait Phase 2 by Collective Architecture

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

The key design move involves a dramatic atrium that brings light and social space into the heart of the development. This fulfills several functions: navigation is simple and intuitive and building users are encouraged to mingle; views are provided into all the main studios giving a sense of the multifarious activities to encourage collaboration and trying new things; large glazed screens allow visual connects to the historic structures and the Merchants Steeple (the oldest part of the site).

Briggait Phase 2 by Collective Architecture

Briggait Phase 2 by Collective Architecture

Briggait Phase 2 by Collective Architecture

What advice would you have to contest participants on creating a new design centre inside the ruins of the Old Governate Building?

The designers’ attitude to how the existing building will be retained and incorporated will be key to the design approach. For example, the existing fabric could be incorporated within the new building or be left as an external, free-standing folly element with a contrasting building erected within, or a combination of both. Also, whether the existing elements are cleaned and restored or a left to remain charred and damaged will greatly determine the character of the site and its poetic resonance.

Briggait Phase 2 by Collective Architecture

Briggait Phase 2 by Collective Architecture

Briggait Phase 2 by Collective Architecture

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 a contest for ideas to transform the Old Governate Building into a new design centre?

Annually, the award’s advisory board selects one of the most pressing social issues that Iraq is facing for its competition subject. Last year it was in Mosul’s housing post-Isis in order to respond to the return of countless residents. This year the board wanted to highlight the scale of damage that’s been done to architectural heritage sites in Iraq.

Since 2003, more than half of the listed and historical buildings have been lost in Baghdad. Most of Iraq’s heritage buildings have become victim to two negative approaches: either they are intentionally or unintentionally neglected, leading to their collapse or they are unlisted and replaced with modern, low-quality developments. The contest site is the Old Governorate Building, which was built around 1925 and destroyed in 2003 when Baghdad faced a sharp increase in looting in the week following the US invasion. Its importance comes from the neoclassical architecture style built using Baghdadi building materials. Now, only the damaged facades are left, which show the original details, but the site remains unused.

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

A contest like this is the best way to introduce a contemporary and an alternative approach to current conservation methods applied in Iraq. We also plan to run public lectures introducing the contest and highlight the importance of conservation throughout the year.

We would like the Rifat Chadirji Prize to provide a platform where we learn from each other; where Iraqi participants can see how international participants approach this design challenge and hopefully get a fresh take on the subject, and vice-versa, where international participants see a different side of Baghdad; a side that has been ignored by mainstream media.

What is your vision for the new Baghdad Design Centre?

We envision the new Baghdad Design Centre to be the heart of the cultural district in Baghdad (Old Al Rusafa area), creating a true architectural fusion of old and new, and a collaborative space for architects, artists and designers to work and meet. We also hope it becomes a public space that gives the neighbourhood spatial relief and meeting point.

This site of the Old Baghdad Governorate Building is 1,400m², and it’s surrounded by 8m-high original facades that are now damaged. Incorporating the damaged facades into the new Baghdad Design Centre is the only constraint the participants face.

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

We are hoping to get a similar mix to what we received in the previous cycle of the award, which saw 223 participants from 42 countries ranging from individuals to smaller and emerging studios, as well as student teams and medium-size firms.

Winners will make a name in Iraq and across the wider region. Rifat Chadirji is the most influential architect to have emerged internationally through his work in the Middle East. The prize is endorsed by him and bears his name, so for a Middle Eastern participant, it is equivalent to winning the Mies Award. The Rifat Chadirji Prize is also heavily covered by the national and regional media due to the sensitivity of the subject and lack of content on it.

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

Old Governorate Building, Baghdad

In addition to the contest, we run year-long activities in many cities such as Baghdad, Amman, Beirut, Coventry, Milan and Wroclaw including a number of exhibitions that showcase the shortlisted project, public lectures by the winners , and we produce a book about the award and send it to all responsible local authorities in Iraq. The award further culminates in a grand annual prize-giving ceremony covered by national and regional media outlets. Last year’s ceremony was in Jordan under the patronage of the Jordanian Prime Minister and the exhibition was opened by Minister of Housing and Public Works.

The statuette/trophy given to the winner of the contest is designed and produced) by Iraqi Artist Dia Azzawi, a pioneer of modern Arab art. His sculptures and paintings sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds. When I began meeting with him to design the awards, he took it upon himself to design 25 statuettes for 25 cycles.

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

In April we are launching our newest prize sponsored by Dewan Architects and Engineers in Dubai. The theme of the competition will be designing a Medium Elementary School in the Iraqi Marshes. Winners will get a 12-month contract at Dewan’s Dubai HQ with a competitive salary. The aim of the new Dewan Prize is to get local authorities involved in an international competition and provide them with a valuable source of information and ideas. This new prize will get the Ministry of Education in Iraq, UNESCO Iraq and local authorities in Basra involved.