Iraqi modernist architect Hisham Munir wins Tamayouz Lifetime Achievement Award
Renowned Iraqi modernist architect Hisham Munir was recently presented with the Tamayouz Lifetime Achievement Award for Architecture at a ceremony held in Amman, Jordan in early December.
The prize, which was previously awarded to Iraqi architecture pioneers including Mohamed Makiya, Rifat Chadirji and Kahtan Al-Madfai, honours individuals who’ve made significant contributions toward the advancement of architecture in Iraq, and comes as part of the greater Tamayouz Excellence Award programme.
The director of the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research at Cambridge University, Dr Wendy Pullan, and the Associate Dean (International) of the Faculty of Engineering, Environment and Computing at Coventry University, Barbara Howell, presented Munir with the award.
“[This award] is in recognition of [Munir’s] lasting contribution to architecture in Iraq as a celebrated practitioner and mentor to generations of aspiring architects, and for his role in the establishment of the Baghdad School of Architecture,” said Pullan.
Founder of Hisham Munir & Associates, Munir is largely considered one of the most prolific Iraqi architects, who built more than 100 buildings and structures across Iraq and the greater Middle East. His projects include the University of Mosul (1956), the former Awqaf Building in Baghdad (1964), the Iraqi Ministry of Trade (1965), the Sheraton Hotels in Baghdad and Basra (1981), and the Agricultural Museum (1975-1981), which was so beloved it was transformed into the headquarters for the Ba’athist authorities, and later the headquarters for the U.S. military in 2003.
Munir’s achievements also include the establishment of the School of Architecture at the University of Baghdad in 1959 and his time served as dean, during which he implemented many of the lessons learned as an architecture student in Texas and California in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
A source of great pride for the architect is the circled story of how his firm won first place in 14 out of the first 18 design competitions they entered — more than any other firm in Iraq, he often reminds his peers. “And only in Iraq, do they repeat the competition and change the judges only for us to win first place again,” he joked while accepting his award.
“To me this is the crowning achievement of the many awards I have received during my 40 years as an architect because this award is to promote and honour both professional and academic achievements, which is unique,” Munir said.
“We are delighted to be able to celebrate the achievements of Hisham Munir, who inspired and still inspires generations of young Iraqi architects with his work. His buildings are still used, and function after more than 50 years of neglect and lack of maintenance,” said Ahmed Al-Mallak, founder of Tamayouz.
“It’s important for us to highlight Munir’s contribution as an architect and an academic because serious, hardworking and honest individuals like Hisham Munir are what Iraq needs to look up to today to get back on its feet,” Al-Mallak added.
Middle East Architect will be running a follow-up interview with Hisham Munir in an upcoming issue.