Zaha Hadid wins contract to design new Iraqi parliament – after coming third

 

Awarding a contract to one of the world’s most celebrated architects to design a landmark $1bn (£590m) building that, it’s hoped, will herald a new dawn for a country whose future appears in doubt should not be too controversial a decision.

Yet news that the Baghdad-born British architect Zaha Hadid has quietly signed a contract to create Iraq’s new parliament complex has caused a stir in the UK and Iraq, after her practice originally came third in the open competition that was supposed to decide the best design.

In the contest run by the Royal Institute of British Architects on behalf of the Iraqi authorities, Ms Hadid lost in August 2012 to a team led by the British design studio Assemblage, which included Adamson Associates, the executive architects for London’s Shard building.

There is now anger after it was revealed that Ms Hadid personally signed the contract to design the complex last month at the Iraqi embassy in London – with some in Iraq upset they have been unable to see the plans.

Assemblage director Peter Besley alleged that his team was “completely frozen out” by the Iraqis – despite being announced competition winners and receiving the $250,000 first prize.

Mr Besley told Building Design magazine: “Like many things in Iraq, they start off on the right foot but don’t carry it through with the transparency required.”

It had become increasingly clear last year there was reluctance to build his design – a cylindrical building surrounded by walls patterned to provide shade – and Mr Besley had questioned whether Ms Hadid’s Iraqi heritage automatically made her the natural choice of architect for the new parliament.

“Most new parliaments are by non-nationals. The message it would send the world could in fact be provincialism. Elsewhere in the arts, new winners emerging from left-field is taken for granted.

“To win the Booker Prize you submit your book, not your brand. All architects have a stake in this outcome. It strikes at the root of what keeps architecture a vital, believable art.”

The decision has also now upset Iraqi observers, despite Ms Hadid’s status as the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize – the so-called Nobel Prize of architecture – with a track record of designing successful buildings including the London 2012 Olympics Aquatics Centre.

In an email sent by the Iraqi Architects Society, the critic Ihsan Fethi  complained about the apparent secrecy surrounding the Hadid team’s design. “I tried so many times even to have a quick look at the design with no success,” he said.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for any Iraqi citizen to be prevented from seeing what their parliament would look like.”

Ms Hadid was unavailable for comment last night. But a spokesman for Ms Hadid’s practice has previously said it could still pursue the contract because “the rules allow for any of the submitted proposals to be selected for construction, irrespective of placement in the competition”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones