Sunday, May 8, 2011

ironic and iconic: saddam's mosque and the people's country club

        Kinda like an elephant in the room...but bigger. The Saddam Grand Mosque, to be precise. I stared at the cranes, eerily unmoved every time that I visit Baghdad. While people are born, the government shifts, new buildings appear, and others meet the grave in the haphazard and contrived sequence of events known as life, Saddam's Grand Mosque remains untouched. Despite the rapid changing context of the city and country that envelops the mosque, the monument stands.
       In 1997, the Iraq News published an article on Saddam's plan to approve the design for what he referred to as the world's largest mosque. The largest hall has the ability to welcome 30,000 guests before denying a worshipper.  The mosque sits adjacent to a large artificial lake, in the plans, shaped like the Arab world.  
      A manmade island, with shape and topographical contours to match the thumbprint of Saddam, is a design in the mosque is Saddam's attempt to remind God of the Ba'athist dictator whenever God looks down from above.
      Al-Thawra, the newspaper for the Ba'ath party reported that the mosque was part of a "campaign of faith," initiated by Saddam to teach the Islamic religion. Plans of this initiative included a mosque in Saddam's name in each of Iraq's 18 provinces.
      Despite issues of perspective in my photograph, the largest dome is rumored to span the size of a football field. Total estimated cost: US $1,000,000,000.
      Now, the unfinished construction project with a caved in dome stands as one of the city's most captivating living monuments.

        Since I last wrote, I completed a thesis on the link between architecture, politics, and national identity in Iraq from 1918 to the present. Architecture in Iraq must be considered in a large historical trajectory—from colonialism to modernism to the rise of Iraq as a nation state to today’s postcolonial search for local identity.  Architecture, often iconic of Iraq’s national identity, has been closely tied to Iraq’s political climate since the country’s birth in 1921, which was the topic of my research paper for 691 in the fall. In Iraq, the official design emphasis wavered from stressing Iraq’s pan-Arab ties to stressing an identity concentrated more on Iraq’s Mesopotamian heritage. However, between the wavering design languages, the rise of the political monument under Saddam, and the wars that destroyed much of the built environment, Iraq sits in an architectural design vacuum today.
        Like architecture, current Iraqi national identity also falls in a vacuum. One cannot characterize Iraq as a people, with the far right, the far left, and the majority uninterested in polarized politics. What ties those in the all three political ideologies together is the most human form of feeling and experience, and namely, loss—the point at which my thesis proposal began on.
       That research will continue this fall, but nonetheless--great article by NYT on state of design in Iraq now:

1 comment:

  1. First, let the man be, where ever he may be, may he rest in peace.
    Second, because of Stupidity at the highest levels of the US Government, Saddam got cought up in something personal that was carried out in a response that ended up in the deaths of over 100,000 Iraq's. All because of G W Bushes War on Islam - Muslims! Now to be followed up by another War monger, Obama, who is one and the same.
    What the Iraqis might consider is kicking the whole lot of the American support staff out of the Embassy....reducing their 16,000 plus down to 16 or something of that effect.
    The whole War now it comes out was done on trumped up charge?