UNESCO Mosul Competition Design Prompts Outcry


MOSUL, Iraq — The palm bushes have been the final straw. In a UNESCO competitors to revive Mosul’s most well-known landmarks, there they have been, within the successful design. Neither the palms nor the Gulf-style design are indigenous to the historic metropolis, Iraqi architects complained.

At stake weren’t solely the $50,000 award and the contract for a last design — which was funded by the United Arab Emirates and went to an Egyptian architectural staff — however, seemingly, the delight of Iraq’s second-largest metropolis, which was rising from the rubble of its battle towards the Islamic State 4 years in the past.

“It’s a fiasco, honestly,” stated Ihsan Fethi, certainly one of Iraq’s best-known architects, of the competitors for the Nouri mosque project. “The whole thing has been a terrible tragedy for us.”

Mr. Fethi and the Iraqi architects’ union had extra substantive complaints in regards to the successful entry for a brand new mosque advanced than transplanted bushes, together with parts they considered as anti-Islamic and a scarcity of parking. They say it betrays the architectural heritage of the historic metropolis.

It is a resentment all of the extra keenly felt in a rustic with a proud architectural historical past that fostered Rifat Chadirji, thought-about the daddy of recent Iraqi structure, and the design icon Zaha Hadid. In earlier a long time, structure was so essential to Iraq that it commissioned buildings by Le Corbusier and plans by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Iraqi Society of Engineers, which oversees the architects’ union, issued a statement opposing the project. The Iraqi Architectural Heritage Preservation Society rejected the successful design within the 123-entry competitors as critically flawed. It stated the design launched quite a few “alien” ideas that might change the positioning past recognition and known as on Iraq’s prime minister to intervene.

It just isn’t the positioning of simply any mosque. Formally often called the Great Mosque of Al-Nouri, it was the place in 2014 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then the chief of ISIS, declared a caliphate after the group’s fighters took management of Mosul together with nearly one-third of Iraq and components of Syria. Three years later, as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces fought to defeat the terrorist group, ISIS fighters blew up the mosque and an much more iconic minaret as they retreated.

Airstrikes and explosives flattened giant components of the outdated part of Mosul and killed hundreds of civilians in addition to lots of of Iraqi safety forces. Rebuilding the mosque advanced is seen as important to the concept regardless of its losses, the battered metropolis has moved past ISIS.

Al-Nouri mosque, named after Nur al-Din Mahmoud Zangi, the ruler of Mosul and Aleppo, dates again to the Twelfth century however was fully rebuilt within the Forties.

The $50 million project will even restore two closely broken church buildings close by and restore a Twelfth-century brick minaret close to the mosque — an emblem of Mosul so iconic that the tilted minaret is on Iraq’s 10,000 dinar notice.

In announcing the architectural competition, the U.N. cultural company stated the brand new design was supposed to advance the town’s reconciliation and cohesion.

But in lots of circles, it has performed something however, prompting an uproar amongst architects, city planners and a few Mosul residents who say it ignores Iraqi heritage. Perhaps in a nod to the United Arab Emirates, which is footing the invoice, the successful design options cream-colored brick and straight angles of the type discovered within the Gulf — a distinction to the arches, blue-veined native alabaster and limestone of conventional Mosul buildings.

“The local architectural language isn’t there,” particularly given this metropolis’s historical past, stated Ahmed Tohala, a lecturer in structure on the University of Mosul. “The materials, colors, elements, proportion, rhythm, relationship between the elements — it is another strange language.”

“It looks very much like the Emirates,” Mr. Fathi stated.

To be honest, a number of the necessities have been mandated by Iraq’s Sunni Endowment Office, which oversees Sunni mosques in Iraq. On a current day on the worksite, above the roar of a generator, Maher Ismail, the Sunni endowment’s project supervisor, declared it “a beautiful design.”

The expanded mosque advanced will embody a public park, a spiritual highschool and a cultural middle, whereas the mosque and minaret will probably be restored and architecturally unchanged.

Mr. Ismail stated the criticism of the advanced design had been generated by jealous architectural corporations.

“Some of the people who wanted to work on the mosque and had no chance to do it have created many problems to stop the work,” he stated.

After the outcry, UNESCO held a meeting with the Iraqi architects’ union, which maintained that it ought to have been consulted from the beginning. Among the principle complaints in addition to aesthetics have been competitors necessities that known as for an open courtyard subsequent to the mosque open to most of the people and a separate part for dignitaries to be constructed on a balcony of the prayer corridor.

“A V.I.P. section is anathema to Islam,” Mr. Fathi stated. He stated jurors, together with the pinnacle of the jury, his former pupil, lacked the required background in Islamic structure to have the ability to correctly select a successful design.

There have been additionally sensible considerations — in a metropolis with no public transportation system, there have been solely 20 parking locations deliberate, for use by staff of the advanced.

Mr. Ismail stated that as an alternative of placing a V.I.P. part within the prayer corridor itself, they deliberate a V.I.P. corridor subsequent to the mosque for visiting officers.

UNESCO additionally factors out that the competitors guidelines have been developed in coordination with the Iraqi Ministry of Culture. It says the winners are anticipated to supply a extra detailed last design with development to begin this fall.

Paolo Fontani, UNESCO’s Iraq director, stated there might be adjustments made to the ultimate plans, as is regular in a contest for an preliminary design. He stated UNESCO would seek the advice of with native consultants and designers.

The lead associate within the successful Egyptian agency, Salah El Din Samir Hareedy, died shortly after the competitors outcomes have been introduced. Mr. Hareedy died of issues from Covid-19, however meanspirited Iraqis joked on social media that it was the curse of Mosul residents upset over his design that killed him.

At the development web site within the coronary heart of Mosul’s historic part on the west facet of the Tigris River, crews have eliminated nearly 6,000 tons of rubble from the bombed web site, recovering and cleansing 45,000 bricks that will probably be used to rebuild the minaret. Pieces of marble and stone from the closely broken mosque have been cataloged and sorted for the restoration.

Local carpenters working below the supervision of an Italian knowledgeable are restoring broken woodwork within the mosque.

Across the road from the deliberate advanced, a brand new coffeehouse began by native activists flanks a row of brightly coloured retailers supposed to assist convey life again to the devastated space.

“It’s too modern,” stated Mobashar Mohammad Wajid of the advanced design. But Mr. Wajid, standing in his tiny artwork studio throughout from the coffeehouse that includes his calligraphy designs, stated that after the advanced was accomplished, Mosul residents would most likely be happy with it.

“When they see buildings are being rebuilt,” he stated, “they are going to be so happy.”


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