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Rifat Chadirji, Yasoub Rafiq Residence, Baghdad, 1965. Image courtesy of Rifat Chadirji.

Historic(ist) Encounters: Transforming Post-WWII Architecture in Baghdad
Amin Alsaden
Nov 09, 2016 (6pm)

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This presentation will examine the critical encounters that took place in mid-twentieth-century Baghdad between native architects and some of Modernism's most renowned figures who were brought to the city as part of country’s oil-fueled development campaign. Specifically, the buildings of Rifat Chadirji will be compared with Walter Gropius's proposal for the new campus of the University of Baghdad, as the two struggled to give shape to the ambitions of a newly independent Iraq. By reading both against the crisis of historicism declared by contemporaneous architectural historians, Alsaden will demonstrate how working in Baghdad created tensions that forced a radical shift in architectural practice.

Amin Alsaden is a PhD candidate at Harvard University whose work focuses on global exchanges of ideas and expertise across cultural boundaries. His research interests include modern architecture, especially in the Muslim and Arab worlds; questions of globalism and universalism in architectural history and design; governance and space in conflict zones; formal and cognitive attributes of interiors; sociopolitical and professional motives behind cultural institutions and districts; and monumentality in contemporary art and architecture. His dissertation investigates a crucible moment in post-WWII Baghdad, when a host of factors produced an unprecedented architectural movement characterized by a unique intellectual agenda and aesthetic, later exported to a modernizing Middle East; it aims to demonstrate the social role architecture played in a crisis-laden Baghdad, and how the creative class embraced a cosmopolitan ethos manifested in their output. Alsaden holds an MA from Harvard University, a post-professional MArch from Princeton University, and a BArch with a minor in interior design from the American University of Sharjah. He practiced at various firms in Europe and the Middle East, most recently at OMA and MVRDV in the Netherlands.

The Graham would like to thank Perrier for supporting our public programs.

For more information on the exhibition, Every Building in Baghdad: The Rifat Chadirji Archives at the Arab Image Foundation, click here.