Architectural firm Assemblage has released details of its competition-winning design for new Iraq parliament buildings. With the circular Council of Representatives building at the center, Assemblage has attempted to capture a sense of transparency that it hopes will be mirrored in government itself.
"A modern parliament building must embody the transparency between citizens and their government which reflects the essential democratic relationship," the company writes in a press release. "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."
According to Building Design Online, Assemblage was told it had won the design competition last August, beating 130 competitors including Capita Symonds and Zaha Hadid Architects which finished second and third respectively. However, Assemblage has only recently revealed its winning design.
The released images suggest Assemblage has made good on the promise of transparency. From the outside, the Council of Representatives building is a complex grid of quadrilaterals, arranged over seven vertical tiers. These seem to punch into the building, either narrowing or widening as they go, giving the impression of a building that is all entrances – literally hundreds of them. In reality, these pods mask the building's true, solid exterior.
The effect is strongly reminiscent of Rome's Colosseum, but amplified and made angular. Assemblage says that the circular form was influenced by Madinat As-Salam (City of Peace) built by al-Mansur in the eighth century which stood near to the site of the new parliament.
The Council of Representatives building is the design's iconic centerpiece, but it is part of an urban plan that encompasses surrounding streets, courtyards and buildings, including a new Federal Council building.
However, Building Design Online reports that the scheme's future is far from certain. The international competition was overseen by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), but the client, the Iraqi Council of Representatives, is not beholden to the outcome of the competition, and has been holding talks with Zaha Hadid Architects. ZHA's design is yet to be released, but according to The Guardian, competition judge Piers Gough said it featured a "fantastic chamber" but included "deliberately convoluted connections between things."
For now, the final form of Iraqi's next seat of government remains a mystery.