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Hadid or Assemblage? Confusion reigns over Iraqi Parliament victory

The winner of the competition to design the £620 million Iraqi Parliament complex has described the confusion over who will be awarded the contract as ‘bad news for architecture’

Peter Besley, director at London-based practice Assemblage, told AJ the company feared losing out on the prized project despite winning the competition.

Zaha Hadid Architects has admitted talks with the competition organisers – but insisted no decision had been reached on the contract.

Baghdad-born starchitect Hadid is designing the flagship Central Bank of Iraq headquarters, and was seen by many as the natural designer of the Parliament complex.

But all members of the jury for the RIBA and Iraqi government-run contest were anonymous, and all bidders submitted unbranded entries.

Besley said: ‘Our scheme won on merit. It is a landmark design but not a stylised icon, which we think has had its day. We have been paid the prize money and awarded first place.

‘If an international competition is run and a consensus reached, and then the contract is snatched, that is a big problem. It is disappointing for us but it is bad news for architecture.’

Under the Assemblage design, the majority of the complex is formed as a pattern of indoor and outdoor streets and green courtyards. These connect an arrangement of buildings of a variety of functions.

Assemblage

Key landmark buildings and plazas are highlighted, such as the Council of Representatives and the Federal Council.

A horizontal brise soleil structure extends across the two-storey fabric, providing continuity of shade and a roof level service zone.

The Council of Representatives building is placed as a landmark in the primary arrival plaza on axis to the Zawra Park approach.

A spokesman for Zaha Hadid Architects said: ‘ZHA was invited to Baghdad by the technical committee for the Iraqi Parliament competition on 29 August 2012 to answer specific technical queries related to ZHA’s competition design submission.

‘All discussions with ZHA have been initiated by and are in response to the committee’s technical queries.’

Postscript (AJ 17.01.2012)

Assemblage has called for patience over the awarding of the £620 million contract to design the Iraqi Parliament complex.

The London-based practice won the international competition for the project but speculation has persisted that the commission will go elsewhere.

Zaha Hadid Architects has admitted talks with the contest organisers, while Capita Symonds has refused to rule itself out the running.

Yet Assemblage director Peter Besley told AJ he remained ‘hopeful’ his practice would eventually be awarded the job.

‘We need to be patient,’ he said.

‘Iraq has not benefited from the last 40 years of architectural culture, it has been under a terrible regime and suffered two wars. The country is now re-entering the arena and it would be wrong of us to criticise it.’

He added: ‘They are holding elections and [the Parliament design contract] is probably the last thing on their minds.

‘It is important we keep this in perspective. Their inbox is quite full right now.’

Baghdad-born starchitect Hadid is designing the flagship Central Bank of Iraq headquarters, and was seen by many as the natural designer of the Parliament complex.

But all members of the jury for the RIBA and Iraqi government-run contest were anonymous, and all bidders submitted unbranded entries.

Besley said: RIBA deserved congratulations for running a ‘very impressive’ and ‘meritocratic’ competition.

He added: ‘We are confident we have the best scheme. We would love to do the job and hopefully we will.’

A spokesman for Zaha Hadid Architects said last week: ‘ZHA was invited to Baghdad by the technical committee for the Iraqi Parliament competition on 29 August 2012 to answer specific technical queries related to ZHA’s competition design submission. ‘All discussions with ZHA have been initiated by and are in response to the committee’s technical queries.

‘To our knowledge, no decision has been made. ZHA is unaware if other practices are discussing their submissions with the committee.’

Capita Symonds said its bid was ongoing until a final decision was made.

Capita Symonds' proposals for the Iraqi parliament

Capita Symonds’ proposals for the Iraqi parliament

Under the Assemblage design, the majority of the Parliamentary complex is formed as a pattern of indoor and outdoor streets and green courtyards. These connect an arrangement of buildings of a variety of functions.

Key landmark buildings and plazas are highlighted, such as the Council of Representatives and the Federal Council.

A horizontal brise soleil structure extends across the two-storey fabric, providing continuity of shade and a roof level service zone.

The Council of Representatives building is placed as a landmark in the primary arrival plaza on axis to the Zawra Park approach.

AJ reported in November that the rebuilding of Iraq was gathering momentum almost 10 years after US-led forces invaded the country in March 2003.

 

‘To our knowledge, no decision has been made. ZHA is unaware if other practices are discussing their submissions with the committee.’

AJ reported in November that the rebuilding of Iraq was gathering momentum almost 10 years after US-led forces invaded the country in March 2003. http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/daily-news/emerging-markets-uk-firms-urged-to-take-up-work-in-iraq/8638672.article

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