Zaha Hadid is widely celebrated for her incredible, untethered design, but less so for her environmental sensibilities. So when we learned that the deal to design a major project for her home country, the Central Bank of Iraq’s Headquarters, is now official, we went looking for the slightest sign that this project might be at least a little bit green. Very few details have been revealed except a huge team of mostly mainstream engineers and consultants, but at least one firm involved in the project seems to recognize the importance of smart and sustainable design – Arup.
Iraq needs lean green development
Given the enormous amount of overall reconstruction that needs to be achieved in order to restore any kind of sanity to Iraq, all new developments ought to be as lean and green as possible.
But if one of TIME Magazine’s most celebrated architects eschews a sustainable project in favor of something like the Guangzhou Opera House, especially for a banking building that is representative of all that has gone wrong with capitalism (an unfair distribution of wealth chief among the list), that will send a terrible message to the country’s embattled residents.
Rivers are terribly polluted, wildlife are struggling to survive, and untold numbers of Fallujah babies are born deformed because of stockpiles of depleted uranium leftover from the more than one war in the country such that diverting excess wealth and materials to one splashy project would amount to a theft of the nation’s remaining natural resources.
We love Zaha Hadid’s flair and never dispute her architectural genius but mourn her refusal to acknowledge the 21st century’s environmental and social problems by persisting with unsustainable projects.
A glimmer of hope?
Now there may be a tiny chance that she has seen the so-called light. Among the firms involved in the CBI project in Baghdad is Arup, a global firm of consulting engineers that authored Climate Action in Megacities, “the first ever comprehensive analysis of actions underway to address climate change in the world’s megacities.”
On their website Arup claims to be ” at the forefront of low-carbon technology. From our work with renewable and distributed energy to electric transport and smart cities, we have the technical expertise to create any component of a resilient city.”
Is it possible this ethos will rub off on the world’s most famous Iraqi?
While signing the deal for the Tigris River development in Bagdad at a recent ceremony hosted by H. E. Dr. Muhielddin Hussein Abdullah, Charges d’Affaires of the Iraqi Embassy in London, Zaha displayed an unusual sentimentality.
“I am deeply touched that I have been asked to design the new headquarters for the Central Bank of Iraq,” she said, adding “I was born in Iraq and I still feel very close to it. I feel very privileged to be working in Iraq on a design of such national importance.”
Will she be touched enough to design a building that benefits all of Iraqis and not just the fat banking cats? We’ll see. But we’re not holding our breath.
image via Associated Fabrication, Flickr
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