Dewan Architects and Engineers combine traditional and contemporary design in sensitive redevelopment of Al Kadhimiya
Dewan Architects and Engineers have won an international competition to develop a culturally and historically sensitive site in Al Kadhimiya, Baghdad. Selected from a shortlist of 10 design practices both international and domestic, Dewan's concept design was termed the 'most comprehensive, aesthetically pleasing and sensitive to area’s historical, cultural and social character'.
Recognising the importance of the historical local market and traditional houses at the Al Kadhimiya site and the need for the conservation of religious tourism in Iraq, the winning firm has formulated a thorough mix of contemporary and traditional architectural structures inspired by previously successful urban projects in Tunis, Fes, Aleppo and Cairo.
Speaking on the firm's recent success, Chairman and Managing Director of Dewan, Mohamed Al Assam, explains: “The strategic concern of our design was to find methods to adapt the area to contemporary demands without damaging the spiritual legacy contained in its surviving historic structures. The development needs to be manoeuvred in such a way that the place does not lose its ‘soul’, and this was one of our most important considerations throughout the design process.
“Another consideration was that during seasonal religious ceremonies and festivities, the area of Al Kadhimiya receives large numbers of visitors. It is critical that the urban fabric can cope with exceptional demands during such peak periods, and it is equally as essential to ensure that it can remain lively and attractive for residents throughout the year.
“The final design we submitted envisions the shrine as the innermost ‘kernel’ of the city, enveloped and protected by different urban layers that mediate between the interior and the exterior world and together form a coherent whole.
“The inner urban layer includes important elements of the historic urban fabric, which will be upgraded, renovated and substituted on a plot-by-plot basis according to information to be collected in the future, with the aim of retaining the scale and the main characteristics of historic Baghdad. Other, more peripheral layers introduce contemporary residential structures that cater for modern needs of vehicular accessibility, public facilities and commercial functions.”