Assemblage has succeeded against a prestigious shortlist – which included Zaha Hadid Architects, Capita Symonds, Fevre Gaucher and ADPI – in an international competition for the new Iraqi parliament complex in Baghdad. The $1Bn USD project challenged contestants to design a new, large scale complex amidst the remnants of a partially built super mosque planned by Saddam Hussein (photos of the existing site here).
The London-based practice will be awarded $250,000 USD and asked to produce a master plan for the surrounding city, as well as additional government buildings, a new hotel and public parks. The anonymous jury plans to exhibit the submitted projects, along with the judging committee’s decision. However, a date has yet to be announced.
Continue after the break for more images and the architects’ description.
Assemblage’s concept for the parliament complex is conceived as a work of urban design and not as one large architectural object. The majority of the complex is formed as a pattern of streets – indoor and outdoor – and green courtyards, connecting an arrangement of buildings of a variety of functions. Against this fabric, key landmark buildings and plazas are highlighted, such as the Council of Representatives and the Federal Council. The dialogue of landmark buildings in a low rise urban grain is highly legible and navigable. It is also flexible, easy to phase, zone, and replace. A grading of family relationships exists within this fabric of buildings. The many courtyards and streets allow excellent daylighting and services access, whilst also providing a variety of identities for groups of users as in an urban environment. An extensive horizontal brise soleil structure extends across the two story fabric, providing continuity of shade and a roof level service zone. A major architectural elevation in its own right, this datum is carefully designed in terms of views from the landmark buildings and forms a plane against which they are read clearly.
The Council of Representatives building is placed as a landmark in the primary arrival plaza on axis to the Zawra Park approach. It has a circular outer shell of monumental brise soleil which protects the building and whose deep shadows tell of the intense Iraqi sun. Encircled within are the two great hemicycles of the Great Hall and the Council Chamber, with technical spaces and services embedded in the spine walls. The charged space between these two great volumes is the Entrance Foyer, further dramatized by raking rooflights. A press conference hall is situated at lower ground level. The public and members may populate the building’s facade by appearing amongst the large fins of the brise soleil. Generous areas adjacent the facade may be occupied on all floors, animating the entire perimeter of the building at all levels. Navigation is simple and intuitive. Users of the building look down from the perimeter areas into the Great Hall and Entrance Foyer, witnessing the motions of government. This transparency in the building is direct: to at once look out over the land and its citizens, and then at those who represent and serve.
A modern parliament building must embody the transparency between citizens and their government which reflects the essential democratic relationship. This is not literal transparency, but is about the building’s feeling of public ownership and accessibility. It must impart the positive possibility of the State: larger than the individual, but supportive and engaging – not aggressive or oppressive.
The Council of Representatives building is formed in the shape of a circle: a strong, simple geometry of great architectural power and lineage. In this context as an image of the State, it is a symbol of convergence and stability. A circle has no one elevation, presenting the same face to all. Divergent axes are co-ordinated and brought into agreement. The building’s circular plan echoes the shapes of the hemicycles within – themselves a geometry of agreement – and allows views out in all directions from the generous perimeter areas. Direct reference is also made to the historic City of Peace, from which Baghdad takes its name. Having stood just north of the parliament site, the circular city was built by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansour in 766 AD at a time when Baghdad was at a peak of power and prestige.