NY Hosts Exhibition of Baghdad Architecture

New York’s Center for Architecture is hosting an exhibition entitled: City of Mirages: Baghdad, 1952-1982

The history of modern architecture in Baghdad has been relatively underexplored and is still not well known. Though specialists in Iraq, and in exile throughout the world, have already undertaken detailed analyses of the topic, many of these studies have been difficult to access throughout Europe and the United States. Moreover, the destruction of war has made it impossible to recover the complete modernist record of Iraq. While it is not the definitive work on the subject, City of Mirages tells a story about Baghdad and the architects who were invited to participate in the making of its modern image.

The exhibition describes an era in which Baghdad was a thriving, cosmopolitan city, and when an ambitious program of modernization led to proposals and built work by leading international architects. City of Mirages features work by Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, José Luis Sert, Alvar and Aino Aalto, Gio Ponti, Alison and Peter Smithson, Constantinos Doxiadis, Ricardo Bofill, Willem Marinus Dudok, and Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Fifteen (15) models of various scales represent both built and unbuilt works by these distinguished architects, and are accompanied by a large-scale model of Baghdad, which will reside in the Center for Architecture’s double-height space.

According to Renata Holod, Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, “Iraq, like many modern Arab states, underwent major social, economic and political changes in the 20th century. The dream of a kind of universal modernism engaged its reformers and modernizers. Thus, modern architects were invited to design projects to transform the nature of urban environments. Forms and amenities were imported with the belief that through them a new society would be shaped. The exhibition shows the ambitious development scope of the commissioners, and the responses to this challenge by architects whose practices at the time focused more and more on the universal modernist ‘elsewhere.’”

The exhibition is on view from February 22, 2012, through May 5, 2012 at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, New York City.

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