Zaha Hadid has dropped her fee for work on the new Iraqi Parliament building by a little more than a third in a bid to keep the project alive
Her practice has reduced its design fee for the flagship scheme from £46 million to £30 million because of the ‘importance of the project for Iraq and its people’, sources close to the practice have confirmed.
The Iraqi Parliament insists its new headquarters is still going ahead, despite the brutal sectarian uprising in the country, which has derailed a raft of other projects.
Ayad Namik Majid, secretary general of Iraq’s Council of Representatives, told the AJ that the recent troubles had caused ‘no problems’ for the prestigious scheme. He confirmed the estimated £630 million project – planned for a 20ha former airfield – was ‘proceeding [as planned]’ and the first images of the scheme could be revealed within weeks.
The statement came just weeks after Hadid signed a contract in Iraq’s London embassy (pictured) to design the new 250,000m² structure. The appointment has been controversial. ZHA came third in the original design contest, behind Capita Symonds and Assemblage, before it emerged that the Iraqi authorities had chosen her last November (AJ 14.11.13). But no images of Hadid’s concepts have been seen. Ihsan Fethi, a leading Iraqi architectural critic, complained the lack of imagery was ‘contrary to the principle of transparency.’
Hadid’s studio declined to comment on the appointment or the recent uprising although a spokesperson for her practice said: ‘At this time, our thoughts are with the Iraqi people.’
Elsewhere in Iraq, many other practices have seen their schemes suspended after thousands of Islamist militants – known as ISIS – took charge of large areas north of Baghdad in a bid to create an independent Islamic state. The Sunni-led uprising – which came shortly after the re-election of a Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad – surprised many international consultants, who were warming to a new sense of stability in Iraq.
Paul Stallan, of Glasgow-based Stallan Brand, said plans for a new oncology centre in Baghdad had been put on hold following the insurgency. The fate of his studio’s new University of Oil and Gas in the southern city of Basra is also unknown.
He said: ‘We were just at the start of [reconstruction]. There was a sense that planning infrastructure was in place, money from oil revenue was flowing through to district level for community housing. You could see an overall structure coming forward.
We are surprised by the speed with which [reconstruction] has unravelled
‘Mostly it was [being spent on] roads and power projects but there were education and health projects also coming through.
He continued: ‘We are still surprised by the speed with which [reconstruction] has unravelled.’
Urban economist Martin Crookston, who worked at Llewelyn Davies Yeang on a masterplan for the holy city of Najaf, agreed the impact on reconstruction was severe. He said: ‘The current events, coupled with the absence of the big bucks that were available for reconstruction last time around, are bad news for foreign investment.’
Hannah Corlett of Assemblage said the insurgence was ‘severely effecting’ progress on her studio’s architectural and infrastructure projects.
She said: ‘We do not know how recent events are affecting the medium to long term attitudes of other firms but we are aware that very few practitioners were willing to travel to Iraq even before the recent escalation of violence.’
Amir Mousawi of London and Baghdad-based AMBS said progress on the new 45,000m² Baghdad library and a raft of other schemes by his studio had been delayed.
He said: ‘We were waiting for the library budget to be released following the reformation of government. Obviously that has now been slowed and there are a number of other projects that are also waiting for the budget to be released.’
He added: ‘Most of the projects are public sector and a lot of the bureaucracy has come to a halt which means fee payment is also being held up.’
AMBS projects impacted include the 1,500,000m² Youth City masterplan surrounding the practice’s library scheme. The outfit is also project managing hospitals, hotels, a sports complex and football stadium in Basra which could now be setback.
Mousawi said: ‘I’m concerned about everything we are doing in Iraq. I’m optimistic and positive that it won’t be drawn out and the situation can be resolved.’
Amir Mousawi, director at AMBS
According to my father who is based between Baghdad and Basra the situation is not great But we are optimistic, the rest of the world is seeing how barbaric ISIS are and are awakening to the threat they pose internationally.
It is unfortunate Iraq has become a fighting ground for this Islamic-religious war that is trying to take us back to medieval times. It is difficult to uphold a democratic government when you have foreign radicals entering the country via Syria.
I’m hopeful the international community will not sit by idly. There are crazy new extremes in Iraq. Before Jews, Christians and Muslims all lived as Iraqis. Now people all want to know what kind of Iraqi you are. Before the common enemy was Sadam Hussein but now there is chaos.