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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity is available to ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leading specialist i...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Support Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This role's responsibility also include operat...

Recruitment Genius: Field Engineer - Northern Home Counties

£27000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Their revenue and profit have g...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy