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Libeskind reveals plans for Kurdish museum in Iraq

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Studio Libeskind has finally unveiled its plans for a £150 million Kurdistan Museum in Erbil, north Iraq

The announcement comes nearly six years after rumours of the secretive project were first reported by the AJ.

The project for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will create a national museum for the stateless Kurdish peoples who are currently fighting ISIS in Iraq.

Studio founder Daniel Libeskind said: ‘The museum aims to convey the spirit of the Kurdish people, their rich culture and the future of Kurdistan.

‘The design had to navigate between two extreme emotions: sadness and tragedy, through the weight of history, and of joy and hope, as the nation looks to the future.’

Around 182,000 Iraqi Kurds were killed in a genocidal campaign – known as the Anfal – during the late 1980s.

Today the population of Iraq is around 17 per cent Kurdish and there are an estimated 37 million stateless Kurdish people worldwide.

Erbil – Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital – has been inhabited since the 23rd century BC and its Ottoman-era citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Located at the base of the citadel, the 14,000m² building will be the region’s first facility focusing on the Kurdish people’s history and culture.

It will feature permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, a lecture theatre, education area and digital archive alongside a community centre and landscaped outdoor spaces.



Studio Libeskind’s Kurdistan Museum in Erbil

Libeskind was first invited to draw up proposals for the museum by the prime minister for Iraqi Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani in 2009.

At the time, investment in Erbil was booming and the city was tipped by local politicians to be the next Dubai.

The project was expected to start in 2014 but was derailed when ISIS captured nearby Mosul, plunging the region into crisis amid ‘cultural cleansing’ of Iraqi and Syrian heritage sites such as Palmyra.

Construction of the high-profile museum will start ‘once the region is stabilised and the threat posed by ISIS is minimised’ – according to a statement from the practice.

Design team

Architect: Studio Libeskind (US)
Exhibition designer: Haley Sharpe Design (UK)
Structural engineer: Expedition (UK)
Mechanical and environmental engineer: Atelier Ten (US)
Project managers: Jackson Coles (UK)
Consultants for landscape and botany: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK)
Development, management and content production: RWF World (UK/Iraq)
Project director: Tim Renwick (UK)

Project description

The form of the museum is created by four interlocking geometric volumes that represent the Kurdish regions: Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq. The volumes are intersected by a line that is broken into two angular fragments, representing the past and future of Kurdistan. The two fragments create an emotive duality: a heavy and opaque mass, the Anfal Line, which symbolises the genocide under Saddam Hussein; and the Liberty Line, a lattice structure filled with greenery that ascends towards the sky and culminates with an eternal flame – a powerful symbol in Kurdish culture.

At the junction between the Anfal and Liberty Lines is an open-air courtyard conceived as a tranquil and meditative space at the heart of the museum. The courtyard references those found in the Citadel and throughout the ancient, urban neighbourhoods of Erbil. There is a water feature that extends from the landscape through the museum, bringing to mind the rivers and fertile valleys of Kurdistan. The landscape offers performance spaces, café seating and picnic grounds where people can gather.



Studio Libeskind’s Kurdistan Museum in Erbil

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