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The Melancholic City of Mirages

Part 2 Dissertation 2015
Zeina Al-Derry
Architectural Association London | UK
Was Baghdad able to become modern, thus losing its oriental quality, without losing its identity? What are the architectural consequences of that interaction? How does region and tradition inform design? At what point is a discernable traditional identity subsumed by modernism? To discuss these questions, this dissertation examined the complex histories of chaotic exchanges, demands and resistances, spatio-temporal and socio-geographic dynamics that are inherent to the city, and interrogated these investigations at the disciplinary level, historiographical level, as well as at a personal level. In this way, the work illuminates the necessity of architects remaining conscious of the binds and joys of historicity and contemporaneity.

The argument is advanced through the discussion of several architectural figures and is in favour of comparative approaches to historiography, which allows inside-outside perspectives to be traced in parallel. As such, the exploration of the contemporary architectural history of Baghdad – foregrounded by poems from the city’s literary history – illustrates the nexus between history, architecture, the quotidian commercial every day, culture, barbarity and, ultimately, hope. In this way, the conclusion evidences the necessity of architects having a critical awareness of the complexities of time, identity and architecture in Baghdad in order to balance realism with utopianism.

Zeina Al-Derry

Mark Campbell
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