Dewan was shortlisted among ten other international and Iraqi firms to participate in this competition. The project contains the Historical area with the Holy Shrines in the centre and the its surroundings with a radius of 500 m. an area full of historical markets, traditional houses and cultural and religious activities.
More images and architect’s description after the break.
The main objective of the project was to renew and enhance the function of al-Khadimiya as a very special district of Greater Baghdad, distinguished by the presence of its holy shrines, the character of its historic streets and houses and the vitality of its commercial areas.. These qualities, so typical of historic cities, are closely related to the human scale of the built environment and to pedestrian modes of movement that foster strong social interaction. The sense of place and the cultural identity of al-Khadimiya is reinforced by seasonal religious ceremonies and festivities, when the area receives large numbers of visitors. While it is important to ensure that the urban fabric can cope with exceptional demands during such peak periods, it is equally essential to ensure that it can remain lively and attractive for residents throughout the year.
The overriding strategic concern of the Dewan proposal is how to rejuvenate and to adapt the area to contemporary demands – without destroying the spiritual legacy contained in its surviving historic structures and without radically changing the lively mix of functions that is the secret of its success, and it needs to be steered in such a way that the place does not lose its “soul”.
The Integrated Conservation and Development Scheme presented by Dewan was intended to materialize the basic idea to conceive the shrine as the innermost “kernel” of the city, enveloped and protected by different urban layers that mediate between the interior and the exterior world and together form a coherent whole. The inner urban layer includes important elements of the historic urban fabric, which will be upgraded, renovated and substituted on plot-by-plot basis according to information to be collected in the future, with the aim of retaining the scale and the main characteristic of historic Baghdad. Other, more peripheral layers introduce contemporary residential structures that cater for modern needs of vehicular accessibility, public facilities and commercial functions.
This mix of historic and adapted modern structures, combined with proper landscaping, is intended to provide fresh social and economic impulses to al-Khadimiya and turn it into a model of living and evolving historic city. Examples of such successful urban rehabilitation that combine “old” and “new” exist in a number of historic Arab cities such as Tunis, Fes, Aleppo and Cairo (Darb al-Ahmar).