Iraq is not a country which often gets mentioned in architecture dispatches for obvious reasons. The US-led invasion in 2003 began a decade and a half of devastation in the country which only seems to be coming to some sort of conclusion now. More than a million people have died and countless homes have been flattened across the country, leaving many of the survivors without a roof over their heads.
One of the hardest hit cities is Mosul. Islamic State fighters have finally been expelled from the city following a lengthy siege, and the rebuilding process has just begun. The road ahead is long and it is vital that new homes are built as quickly as possible. The Tamayouz Excellence Award, Rifat Chadirji Prize aims to focus global attention and talent onto some of Iraq’s most pressing social issues – in this case, the theme was on rebuilding Mosul by supplying affordable housing.
With more than 220 entries from 42 countries the competition was fierce, and the jury was looking for a housing solution which was practical and scalable in order to add density and housing capacity to the city in a way which was both efficient and inspiring at the same time. These principles were followed by Dr. Rifat Chadirji, the prize’s namesake, who is considered to be Iraq’s greatest modern architect and has exercised a huge influence over the country’s built environment over his lifetime.
Ahmed Al-Mallak, the founder of the Tamayouz Excellence Award, said, “all contributing ideas responding to the humanitarian crisis is heartwarming. This competition had the value of reflecting difficult and controversial situations but through a reasonably optimistic lens. Although the competition finished, our work starts now to help organizations responsible for the reconstruction efforts.”
The winning entry came from Anna Otlik, an architect from Wroclaw, Poland. Her ‘Re-Settlement’ plan is notable for not only taking into account the needs of the 900,000 returnees to Mosul, but also considering what the future might hold for the city. Her optimism in Mosul’s future growth reflects the values of the competition and it is not a surprise that this elegant tessellation design won – it is hard to imagine a worthier winner.
The first phase of Re-Settlement will be determined organically by those who return to the city. The modular design will allow the new Mosul to be built around where people naturally end up congregating. It is worth remembering at this point that much of the city is completely flattened, so the old system of roads and districts is largely irrelevant.
Once this initial matrix of people and new areas is established, the new settlements can then grow and evolve in a modular fashion. The city will naturally grow in the ways it is needed to, and the beauty of the modular system is that this will now be a city which truly reflects the people who will live in it, both in the short and long term. It is also a nice nod to Iraqi architecture from the past which has been heavily influenced by modular designs and patterns to a greater degree than most other places in the world.
Other noteworthy entries include The Five Farming Bridges by Vincent Callebaut Architectures which aimed to build the new city around the five destroyed bridges of Mosul, and The Big Mosulian Family by Ali Nashwan and Fatima Ehsan which aimed to use the built environment to create a community network to raise future generations in a healthy environment.
What is clear is that this competition will not solve all the problems of Mosul. Too much has happened to the city in recent years to allow everyone there to move on. However, building new homes for the people there is clearly of the utmost priority, and where you essentially have a blank canvas this is the perfect time to consider something which is both innovative and beautiful. Re-Settlement is an ideal solution and hopefully the people of Mosul will be better served in the future.