Confusion Over Design Contract for Iraqi Parliament

By John Lee.

Peter Besley, director at London-based architecture practice Assemblage, has told Architects' Journal that despite winning the competition to design the £620-million Iraqi Parliament complex, there was still confusion as to who would actually be awarded the contract.

The company feared losing the project to the firm run by Baghdad-born Zaha Hadid; a spokesperson for Zaha Hadid Architects has admitted talks with the competition organisers – but insisted no decision had been reached on the contract.

Hadid, whose firm last year increased profits 10 percent to $2.9 million, is designing the flagship Central Bank of Iraq headquarters, and according to the report was seen by many as the natural designer of the Parliament complex. But all members of the jury for the RIBA and Iraqi government-run contest were anonymous, and all bidders submitted unbranded entries.

Assemblage was given a score of 88% by the RIBA jury, while Zaha Hadid Architects lagged behind in third on 76%, with Capita Symonds second on 81%, according to Building Design Online.

Besley said:

"Our scheme won on merit. It is a landmark design but not a stylised icon, which we think has had its day. We have been paid the prize money and awarded first place.

"If an international competition is run and a consensus reached, and then the contract is snatched, that is a big problem. It is disappointing for us but it is bad news for architecture."

The new parliament building is to be built on a 50-hectare site at the disused Al Muthana airport in Baghdad, which was due to be the location of a super-mosque planned by Saddam Hussein until he was toppled in 2003.

(Source: Building Design Online, Architects' Journal, Assemblage)

(Picture: Assemblage proposal for new Iraqi Parliament building)

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