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Competition-winning design of new Iraqi parliament released


January 15, 2013

The Council of Representatives building at the heart of the design (Image: Assemblage)

The Council of Representatives building at the heart of the design (Image: Assemblage)

Image Gallery (5 images)

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.

Sources: Assemblage, Building Design Online, The Guardian

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

Very nice, but (dare I say it), also very impractical. A fragile-looking design like this is just begging for one of the many suicide-bombers over there to blow themselves up and damage it.

Something in a much more solid material (concrete or stone) would be much more durable, less likely to attract the thugs, and less prone to damage if they did do their thing.

What about something based on a ziggurat? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziggurat

That could form the external walls, and inside it you would have the parliament itself. Solid, local design, very practical.


So it's a house of cards?

Jon A.

This is a very handsome design.

And Zaha does beautiful work too.

Lewis Dickens

Looks like a forced fit to me. But I like the idea about the ziggurat! What happened to function leading to form instead of symbolic mimmickery.

Mikal Sabir
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