June 27, 2005
by Canadian Architect
An architectural competition organized by the Iraqi Ministry of Culture asked participants to design a Research Centre and Museums in the reflooded Mesopotamian Marshes, considered by many to be the cradle of Western civilization and what is often referred to as the Garden of Eden.
The winning design team of RKBT is a global collaboration comprising three Canadian architects of Iraqi origin: Sahar Rassam, Riadh Tappuni and Sal Tappuni, Canadian architect Richard Kroeker, and sustainability engineer Trevor Butler from the UK.
During the 1990s a combination of upstream damming of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and local drainage projects resulted in the almost complete disappearance of the Marshlands and their human inhabitants which represented a unique aspect of the Iraqi cultural heritage. The catalyst for the competition was a restoration effort, prompted by the reflooding that started immediately after the 2003 war, and which wasdriven by international initiatives like "Eden Again." Its aim is to reflood these marshlands and ensure the future of the 5000-year-old Marsh Arab culture and the economic stability of large portions of southern Iraq.
The RKBT competition solution will provide an opportunity to understand, document and express the history of this unique community and will be used to express all aspects of life in the Marshes.
The centre will facilitate ecological research of all elements of the marshes, paying particular attention to the rare plant and animal life specific to the area. A section of the project relates to crafts and indigenous occupations practiced by the people, with a view towards training, skills upgrading and assistance in creating jobs and appropriate industries to benefit the community.The various functions of the project are housed in six interconnected buildings placed on earth islands in the marshes to interact with their unique marsh habitat.
The six buildings of the project are: Environmental Research Centre, Library, Multipurpose Hall, Natural History Museum, Archaeology Museum, and Popular Heritage Museum.
Traditional construction systems and materials, such as marsh cane, reed and compacted earth will be used to build the centre, but these will be developed in order to achieve up-to-date performance standards, particularly durability and thermal control. The approach aims at involving the local community at all stages. Sustainability and ecological conservation are also main objectives. Furthermore, the project will act as a demonstration pilot case in promoting sustainable and ecological building techniques.
The next step towards realizing the Research Centre and Museums of the Iraqi Marshes is the campaign to raise the funds required to build it. For more details of the winning scheme, please visit www.tappuni.com/rcmim.html