45-meter tall columns, remnants of Saddam Hussein's stalled super-mosque. The architects may choose to keep or do away with them. Photo via
Zaha Hadid Architects is in the running for the bid to design the $1 billion Iraqi Parliament building in Baghdad, the city of the architect's birth. The project would be Hadid's second in her native country, the other being the new headquarters for the $500 million Central Bank of Iraq, which the firm was commissioned in 2010. According to BD Online, the full shortlist includes British firm Assemblage and Iraqi practice Al-Khan in collaboration with Canadian Adamson, plus U.A.E. contender Dewan Architects & Engineers. Located in the center of the city on the ruins of the Al Muthana airport, where Saddam Hussein had began building what would have been the world's largest mosque, the site's high visibility will necessitate, in the words of Assemblage director Peter Besley, "an international landmark" deeply regional in design. So does that discount silly shapes and naive symbolic forms? Probably not.
The designs are due in July, with an international jury to select the winner by the end of the year. At stake is more than the parliament bid, however, which is itself just part of country's postwar rebuilding program. The contest's winner will be awarded further commissions, including new hotels, infrastructure, and public parks, not too mention a masterplan of the urban center that will definitively reshape the Iraqi capital to come. Our (half-serious) grudge with Zaha aside, we hope she gets this one.