Tamayouz Excellence Award, Rifat Chadirji Prize, Baghdad Design Centre, Brooks Murray Architects, UK Architects, Iraq projects

UK firm Brooks Murray Architects highlights winning design for Baghdad Design Centre competition

This year's winning proposal for Tamayouz Excellence Award's Rifat Chadirji Prize, designed by UK-based practice Brooks Murray Architects, aims to respect its context as well as "universal human needs", said the architects. 

While last year’s Rifat Chadirji Prize – named after the prolific Iraqi architect – challenged architects to design a solution for Mosul’s housing shortage, this year, the award looked at transforming the unused site of Baghdad’s old governorate building into the Baghdad Design Centre.

The main criteria of the award was to incorporate the original façade of the building into the redesign. Receiving an overwhelming participation of 310 firms from 54 countries, the prize’s second place went to Ali Habibianfar and Parisa Davoudi, and third place went to Mustafa Kamil.

Brooks Murray Architects' design was a collaborative project led by the practice's Felipe Fuentes and Ollie Burchell, while landscape architect Janet Benton advised on landscape design. 

The design concept centred on four notions: creating a design that was mindful of its context and universal human needs, restoring the original walls of the old governorate building and leaving them as standing memorials, formalising the location as a public meeting point, and creating a new cultural institution.

While the project's buildings surround a central courtyard, which serves as an open public space, the south side, behind the restored front facade, is to be occupied by two mature Ficus trees. This shaded area is intended to be used as a secondary, smaller informal seating area that provides a dramatic frame to civic events, like concerts and public speeches. 

The jury panel, which included architecture figures such as Rasem Badran, director of Dar Al-Omran; Khaled Al-Sultany, Iraqi academic, architect and architectural critic and historian; Akram Al-Ogaily, senior vice president of Hill International; Ali Naji, CEO of Najmat Al-Sharq for housing and development; and Wendy Pullan, director of the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research at Cambridge University, said of the design: "This project offers an example of how urban ruins can be regenerated into new complexes. Its response to the urban and design brief highlights the importance of the original wall and incorporates it as the main feature of the project. Its transformation into a living function will help create life in the project’s internal space and public plaza, which responds to the traditional local fabric and enriches the urban surroundings. Covering the façade with trees will also allow the viewer to remember it as an urban ruin." 

"It is an honour to win the Rifat Chadirji Prize given the number and quality of the entries this year," said Gavin Murray, director. "We sought to design a scheme that respected the historic walls of the Old Governorate Building and provided a new civic space.

"Mindful of our limited local knowledge of the history, context and cultural influences affecting the Old Governorate Building, we sought to design a scheme that was respectful of its context and universal human needs; to meet, exchange ideas and enjoy life."