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Iraqi Parliament Building Competition

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At first, my trusty filter bubble didn’t know what to think when I googled iraqi parliament competition but we got there in the end. Remember this from January 2013?


Assemblage? Winners of an RIBA-run competition? You can read the full project description here. Here’s the highlights.

A modern parliament building must embody the transparency between citizens and their government which reflects the essential democratic relationship. 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.

Oh dear. No wonder they didn’t win. Or rather, no wonder they won but weren’t picked to get it built. Runner-up to the non-winners were Capita Symonds (who?) with the following entry.

Capita Symonds was given a score of 81% by the RIBA jury that was asked to help out with judging by the Iraqi authorities.

Capita Symonds

The core of the complex is the parliamentary hall that is situated inside a conical volume and is intended to represent the transparency of the legislation. 

Architects do have a fondness for saying that X represents the transparency of parliament. It’s responsible for people saying things like this “The building is meant to be as transparent as possible, evoking and encouraging the notion of open government.” Or “glass symbolizes the transparency of government”. Well, some say that symbols are just substitutes for the real thing.

Anyway, the transparency of RIBA-run architectural competitions was called into question. In an email sent by the Iraq Council of Representatives, Hadi Majid, an Iraqi-born associate director at Capita Symonds who also runs his own firm and is leading Capita’s bid, was told: “Regarding the three winners of the competition it is still a going-on [sic] process.” The scheme has been mired in confusion after Assemblage said its discussions with the client had dried up while a spokesman for Hadid confirmed it was still speaking to the project’s technical committee.

So yes, the third winner was the proposal by Zaha Hadid Architects. Funny though, there’s absolutely no information of in on the internet as of yesterday. I guess that is about to change very quickly because  BREAKING NEWS! …. (and astonishing coincidence)

breaking news

Even ArchDaily can’t find an image of the winning proposal. 

So then, what we have is a competition with winners recommended by the RIBA and the competition organizers awarding the contract to whoever they want. Given what we have recently started to suspect about the nature of the government in Iraq, this now comes as no surprise. In fact there’s something tragically poetic about it.