Assemblage winning proposal, via AAS Architecture
The original contest was run by the RIBA on behalf of the Iraqi authorities, and Assemblage was awarded first place in August 2012, picking up $250,000 in the process. In second place came the sculptural, rock-like forms of Capita Symonds, with ZHA’s proposal trailing in third. One juror described Hadid’s design as “very convoluted,” adding that “Alan Howarth [former architecture minister and member of the jury] was very clear that the design needed to be all about how MPs meet their constituents and how people get together — but her scheme threw everyone apart.”
Assemblage's winning proposal, AAS Architecture
Harsh words indeed – so it is no wonder that Assemblage might feel dazed and confused about how the selection process played out following their victory. The firm had been awarded an overall score of 88% by the jury for their striking design, a juxtaposition of cuboid and cylinder shaped forms linked by a broad avenue. The circular form is comprised of tapered fins, forming an elegant, perforated curve reminiscent of Rome’s iconic Colosseum.
The comparison with a building so synonymous with violence is tragically poignant at a time when the so-called Islamic State is reaking havoc in the north and west of Iraq. That fact has caused many to fundamentally question the political wisdom behind the decision to forge ahead with plans for a $1 billion dollar complex, when a humanitarian crisis looms once again for so many across the country. Should this kind of public project be put on hold in such dire circumstances, or is there a chance the construction of such a building could be viewed as a catalyst for peaceful political dialogue for generations to come? At present, the overriding consensus must surely lie with the former, but the project is being forced through nonetheless.
Assemblage's winning proposal, via AAS Architecture
Aside from the architecture, the biggest criticism of all has pertained to opacity – from the moment Assemblage were announced as winners, the process has been cloaked in secrecy, with discussions behind closed doors leading to a complete turnaround. If you’re wondering why you have reached this stage of the article and still haven’t seen an image of ZHA’s chosen proposal, it’s because the design has never been released publicly … prominent home-born critic Ihsan Fethi complained roundly about this farcical reality in an email sent on behalf of the Iraqi Architects Society:
“I personally tried in vain so many times to even have a quick look at the design with no success. Of course this is contrary to the principle of transparency and it is absolutely unacceptable for us Iraqi architects, or any Iraqi citizen to that matter, to be prevented from seeing what their Parliament would look like. We absolutely have no idea.”
Images via: Architizer