HOLY CITY MASTERPLAN

Location: Kadhimiya, Baghdad, Iraq
Client: Baghdad Mayoralty

[URBAN DESIGN / CIVIC ARCHITECTURE]

Major regeneration scheme for the holy town of Kadhimiya, Iraq. Inspired by the morphology and poetics of the Baghdadi house, the design successfully resolves a complex matrix of religious, infrastructure, and conservation demands.

Primacy in Kadhimiya

The Al-Kadhimiya Mosque contains the tombs of the seventh Twelve Shi‘ah Imam Musa al-Kadhim and the ninth Twelve Shi‘ah Imam Muhammad at-Taqi. Kadhimiya is therefore regarded as a holy city in Shia Islam, with the Iraqi centres of Baghdad, Samara, Karbala and Najaf.
Also buried within the Kadhimiya mosque are the famous historical scholars, Shaykh Mufid and Shaykh Nasir ad-Din Tusi. Directly adjacent to the mosque are two smaller shrines, belonging to the brothers who compiled Nahjul Balagha - Shaykh Radhi and Shaykh Murtadha.
 

Image Source: Traditional Houses in Baghdad Warren and Fethi, 1982

Image Source:
Traditional Houses in Baghdad
Warren and Fethi, 1982

 

A shrine was first built over the Imam’s tombs, and afterwards the substantial al Kadhimiya Mosque. The gradual accumulation of urban fabric around the Shrine resulted in the distinctive historic urban form of Kadhimiya seen today. The Shrine’s status in the town is primary - the town owing its existence to the Shrine.

Urban grain and the Traditional House

Despite numerous examples of valuable historic houses in Kadhimiya, with the continual rebuilding due to termite attack and the fragility of mud brick, very old houses are actually rare. 

A deeper history in fact resides in the housing type itself, found in grand and humble dwellings alike, and perpetuated through generations of continual rebuilding using a set of agreed relationships between rooms and spaces.

The dialogue between the street entry and the hosh, hosh and talar, tarma and ursi, shanashils and the street - these are deep cultural practices represented in and supported by built form. 

 

The urban grain therefore - the collective form of all these elements brought together - is a historic entity in itself of significant cultural value, perhaps the highest value.

The proposals therefore treat the existing historic urban fabric with great care and respect. Demolition of historic property is minimised, but in particular the pattern of buildings and spaces which make up the average house and street is valued and supported.

Overcrowding and Services

The religious importance of the Shrine attracts large numbers of national and international visitors. 5,000 - 10,000 people visit the Shrine on a normal day, rising to 15,000 - 20,000 people on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On special religious days over 6,000,000 people visit the Shrine in a 48 hour period. These numbers of visitors in Kadhimiya’s tight historic urban grain produces unpleasant and dangerous overcrowding.
 

Basic services such as sewerage, fresh water, electricity, and public transport is already inadequate for the local population. The large number of visitors to Kadhimiya places enormous additional stress on these basic services. In addition, the need for higher service sectors such as efficient food provision, professional services, hotels/accommodation, etc, is also very great.

Image Source: Google Maps 2009

Image Source:
Google Maps 2009

Location

The town of Kadhimiya is located in Al-Kazimiyyah a northern neighbourhood of Baghdad, approximately five kilometres from the centre of Baghdad. Located adjacent the Tigris River itself, the historic urban fabric of Kadhimiya is clearly visible, appearing like a circle enfolded in an arm of the River. Primary north-bound roads flow past Kadhimiya from the centre of Baghdad, leaving a series of secondary roads to form a network of local connections. 

The A’lmma bridge to the south-east and floating bridge to the north connects Kadhimiya across the Tigris to the Adhamiyah district in the east. Kadhimiya has its own railway station (currently disused), located 2 km/20 minutes walk south-west of Kadhimiya town centre. This railway runs south to the centre of Baghdad, and north to towns on the Tigris and No.1 motorway. Al-Kazimiyyah is one of nine administrative districts Baghdad.

Concept

  • Create a generous new shaped space around the Shrine. Protect and support this space with a wall/building carrying essential services to visitors
  • Continue the historic encircling of the Shrine with an outer circle of smaller squares distributing services for visitors and residents deep in the existing residential districts
  • Form a new cluster of spaces and buildings on a the large disused land plot to the west, providing major new facilities and services
  • Provide a new primary western axis to the central Shrine area. Link this to a repositioned railway station with a large new pedestrian boulevard
  • Embed all new work carefully in the existing urban fabric, so that its distinctiveness and historic value is well respected

Sacred Wall

To encircle, protect, and support the Shrine, a new Sacred Wall is proposed. The Sacred Wall forms a new outer circle around the Shrine and works to enhance the intensity of space around the Shrine, filter access, and provides numerous much-needed functions for visitors. The Sacred Wall acts to mark the space of the sacred from everyday life, bring clarity to where the Shrine space ends and the urban fabric begins.

Like a traditional Baghdad house where the plan of the courtyard and ursi is made pure despite varying geometries of the street or land plot, here the internal line of the Sacred Wall is a defined shape, whereas the external wall line is allowed to scribe to the existing urban pattern.

The portal gates are the main entry points to the Shrine area, and contain a number of essential services, such as security check-points, toilets, washing, cloak-rooms, local administration, and maintenance/storage areas.

Seven main portals are proposed in the Sacred Wall. These portals relate to the shrine’s primary gates/babs and to strategically important streets and axes.

Necklace of Courtyards

To inject new services and infrastructure to local communities in Kadhimiya, and enrich the urban grain, a circular “necklace” of small courtyards is proposed in the existing residential districts. These new courtyards act as nodes. Their edges are natural locations for local community services like primary schools, small shops and cafes, and small local businesses. They are small local meeting places, providing shaded open space, greenery, and services. The courtyards are also intended as infrastructure nodes, radiating new water, power, and sewerage lines deep into the existing communities. 

The courtyards may have different strategic emphases depending on the larger masterplan, such as being renown for good eating places, or be an intensity of local professional services. The courtyard spaces are linked by a ring of revitalised existing streets, which would be clearly recognised when crossed or followed, and are also intersected by radial paths leading from the Shrine to the periphery. The proposed courtyards are created on under used open space with minimal demolition of existing buildings.

New Quarter

On the disused space to the west of the centre a collection of major new buildings is proposed, formed around a new primary western axis from the Shrine. The buildings are strategically arranged on a raised plane, which carries a large variety of logistical services inside, but which also allows a vehicle-free environment at surface level for the large number of visitors. The new Mosque, Library, Religious School, and religious/general administration buildings are assembled here. Dramatically top-lit Eating Halls are placed at natural ground level adjacent the local urban street pattern, for easy movement from all sides.

 

In character, the new buildings play particular roles/functions: 

The new mosque is an important new religious landmark and has a formal disposition. It is oriented to match the Shrine and has a generous shaded courtyard/Sahn and colonnades. The proposed dome is the focus of an important new street axis leading the south-west. 

The Library and Religious School buildings are paired inside a large architectural decorative screen. Movement through the screen and building portals and interstitial spaces is rich with spatial complexity and interplay of natural daylighting. Separate reading rooms for men and women crown the Library building in the intense booklined reading rooms on the top storeys. In relative contrast, the Religious School building has layers of formal teaching rooms at entry level, but which breaks into an informal assembly of rooms and elevated small courtyards higher up where the residential community of scholars live.


Image Source: Google Maps 2009

Image Source:
Google Maps 2009

URBAN FRAMEWORK

Location: Thamesmead, Bexley & Greenwich, London, UK
Client: London Boroughs of Bexley & Greenwich, Design for London
Consultants: Urban Practitioners, Colin Buchanan, Landscape Partnership

[URBAN DESIGN]

Area-wide vision for the town and associated landscape of Thamesmead, London. The study involves an extensive analysis of existing urban conditions, and proposals for new and existing developments across Thamesmead. Outputs include a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), providing an area-wide spatial framework and key principles guiding all future development. 

Image source: http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/bexley/assets/galleries/thamesmead/master-plan

Image source: http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/bexley/assets/galleries/thamesmead/master-plan

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smallritual/6232590242/in/set-72157627865550724

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smallritual/6232590242/in/set-72157627865550724

Thamesmead

The study has four key aims which are summarised below:

To gain a thorough understanding of the current economic, social and environmental context of Thamesmead;
To identify the main issues and opportunities arising from this contextual analysis;
To identify appropriate planning and non planning policy approach to address these issues and opportunities; and
To develop appropriate strategy and policy document(s) in line with 3 above.

 

In line with these aims, the study has two main objectives:

To co-ordinate the actions of the two Boroughs and the three major partners; and
To provide a basis to bid for regeneration funding.

Social issues

- Resident satisfaction with sports, leisure and culture facilities;
- Provision of and access to essential services;
- Adequate access to public transport, connectivity, ease of movement and safety;
- Pockets of deprivation within the Thamesmead site;
- Fear of crime;
- The quality of housing;
- Education and skills

Environmental issues

- Increasing car use, high carbon dioxide emissions and poor air quality;
- Improvement of and access to Biodiversity Action Plan species and habitats;
- Flood risk;
- Water resources;
- The quality of the townscape, views and vistas;
- The quality of landscapes and open space;
- Land quality; and
- The quality of housing.

Economic issues

- Attraction of inward investment
- Unemployment and employment opportunities; and
- The quality of employment areas

Biodiversity and environmental protection

To protect, restore and enhance biodiversity, flora and fauna;
To protect, restore and enhance the quality of landscapes and townscapes, including open space.

Natural and environmental resources

To improve land, soil and water quality, reduce contamination and encourage the sustainable use of these resources;
To reduce fluvial and surface water flood risk;
To minimise the production of waste, increase landfill diversion and promote sustainable waste management and recycling;
To reduce light and noise pollution 

Climate change and air quality

To limit air pollution levels, to adhere to levels set out in the national air quality strategy and improve overall air quality
To reduce negative contributions to climate change, to reduce vulnerability to climate change and to improve the localities ability to adapt to climate change 

Land use and development patterns

To reduce the need to travel by delivering more sustainable patterns of urban development, to reduce car dependency and to encourage more sustainable modes of transport
To promote sustainable urban living 

Cultural heritage and conservation

To maintain and, where appropriate, enhance areas or buildings designated for their historic and/or archaeological interest and protect their settings
To create places, spaces and buildings that are well designed, integrate with and enhance the diversity and distinctiveness of the local character appropriate home

Population 

To improve the quality and cleanliness of where people live
To improve the health and well being of the population
To reduce and prevent crime and fear of crime
To provide everyone with the opportunity for rewarding and satisfying employment

Social inclusion

To reduce poverty and social exclusion, encourage a sense of place, community identity and belonging
To improve the education and skills of the population overall
To improve access to essential facilities and services, especially where there is disadvantage
To provide everyone with the opportunity to live in a decent, affordable and appropriate home
To ensure a mixed housing supply to support a diverse community

Economic development and activity

To encourage and accommodate sustainable levels of prosperity and economic growth, reducing disparity in economic performance
To encourage and accommodate the indigenous economy and potential inward investment


STRATEGIC DESIGN FRAMEWORKS

Summary text

Location: Gravesend, Gravesham, UK
Client: Urban Practitioners

Strategic design framework for Gravesend and surrounding hinterland. The study involved a careful analysis of the existing town and district and included indicative master plans of focus areas.

Location: Dover, UK
Client: Urban Practitioners, Allies and Morrison

Analysis and master-plan strategies setting out urban principles for Dover, together with a sequence of site studies along the two main spinal routes of the central district. The studies and recommendations are for a variety of urban elements including built form, open space, axes and sightlines, water, vegetation, and not least, the extraordinary local topography.

Location: Leyton, London, UK
Client: Urban Practitioners

Summary text

Location: Charlton, London, UK
Client: Urban Practitioners

Summary text

Location: Stewarts Road, Battersea, London, UK
Client: Urban Practitioners

Summary text

Location: Black Horse Lane, Walthamstow, London, UK
Client: Urban Practitioners

Alteration and further development of an existing master-plan. The study includes reconfiguring building heights and placements, calculation of dwelling unit types and densities, and resolution of parking and access configurations.


PUBLIC REALM REJUVENATION

Location: Stoke on Trent, UK
Client: Stoke-on-Trent City Council
Collaborators: Area Landscape Architects, Spiers & Major Lighting Designers, Elliot Wood Structural Engineers, Cyril Sweett Cost Consultants.
Value: £20M

[URBAN DESIGN/LANDSCAPE DESIGN]

Shortlisted RIBA International design competition entry for the complete redesign of Stoke-on-Trent’s central city streetscape and squares. The scheme proposes strong landscape rejuvenation, clarified city quarters, and a central circular viewing tower from which to appreciate the unique Staffordshire topography.


SPAM HOUSE

Location: Seven Hills, London
Client: Private
Value: £50K

[PRIVATE RESIDENTIAL]

The scheme includes a striking suspended system of joinery and a new terrace facing expansive views across London. The detailing is bespoke throughout with a high material specification.

'Ahead of it's Time' Joanna Booth, Grand Designs Magazine Cover Story. May 2007