Rifat Chadirji is an architect who has imbued his work with a deep understanding of the roots of authentic regional expression, as well as a true appreciation of modernism and its principles. Chadirji has shown a unique capacity for the synthesis of form and function that translates traditional architectural idioms into contemporary expressions.
Chadirji's contributions transcend a mere body of work, important as that may be, for he also is a major figure in one of the most important and influential architectural schools in the Arab world. The Baghdad School of Architecture, where Chadirji taught for many years, has keenly felt Chadirji's influence. Rejecting the use of the forms of the past, Chadirji devised a synthesis of form that could translate into a new and contemporary urban aesthetic -- one that would guide the articulations of a genuinely modern Iraqi town-scape in the latter part of the 20th century.
"I set out to learn from traditional architecture and to achieve a synthesis between traditional forms and inevitable advent of modern technology. My aim was to create an architecture which at once acknowledges the place in which it is built, yet which sacrifices nothing to modern technical capability. At the same time I was concerned to understand analytically the reasoning behind traditional devices of environmental control such as courtyards, screen walls, natural ventilation, and reflected light."
In 2015, Chadirji was awarded the Tamayouz Architectural Lifetime Achievement Award, an award that celebrates the pioneers of Iraqi architecture and is "presented annually to an individual who has had a significant contribution towards the advancement of architecture in Iraq." In November of the same year (2015), Rifat Chadirji was presented with an honorary doctorate from Coventry University inn the UK.
Bazarov, Konstantin. "Rifat Chadirji." Contemporary Architects, 163. Chicago: St. James Press, 1987.
The residence of Hussein Jamil is one of Rifat Chadirji's earliest works. It was built between 1953 and 1955 in the Masbah neighborhood of Baghdad. Its design exemplifies the architect's desire to both innovate and maintain a sense of regionalism through the incorporation of traditional ideas, realized in a modern way.
The house sits on a long, narrow lot, where it occupies the entire width of the central portion toward the back of the lot. It is approached from the front by a long pathway on the right leading to the main entrance, and a driveway on the left leading to a covered garage on the other end of the facade. The space between these two paths was left open for a garden. A semicircular drive from the street at the back of the lot also gives access to the rear of the house.
The house is built on two floors, with ample open areas that communicate between indoor and outdoor spaces. Chadirji called these spaces tarma (pl. tarmat), a term whose traditional meanings include pavilion or kiosk, and can also denote the arcade around a central courtyard, one of the main components of traditional domestic architecture in Baghdad.1
The main entrance to the house is in a recessed paved area on the right end of its front facade. Glass double doors open onto an indoor "tarma," a large courtyard-like space covered by a roof with large skylights. Directly across from the entrance on the other side of the roofed courtyard is a door leading onto a hallway which gives access to the guest areas of the home, located at the back of the house. This unit includes a reception room, dining room, and covered porch that gives access to a second story roof deck. These reception areas overlook the back drive, patio, and garden.
The left wall of the large "tarma" at the entrance is composed of sliding glass doors. Behind these is a hall with a fireplace and staircase leading to the second floor. This hall gives access on one end to a bedroom and office, both which face the front of the house, and on the other to a private wing including the kitchen, storage rooms, and the garage.
Ascending the flight of stairs on the hallway behind the glass wall mentioned above, one reaches a rectangular hall on the second floor, which opens on its long side onto a large roof deck covering the space above the reception areas on the ground floor. On each of the second floor hall's short sides, a door gives onto a suite of two bedrooms and a bathroom, one opening onto the front and one to the back side of the house via balconies.
A separate staircase from the garage leads to a private, enclosed roof deck and a bedroom for a servant.
Chadirji discusses the traditional Baghdad house in Al-Ukhayḍir, 34-41.
Chadirji, Rifat. Al-Ukhayḍir w’al-Qaṣr al-Billawrī: nushū‘ al-naẓariyya al-jadaliyya fī al-‘imāra. London and Cyprus: Riad El-Rayyes, 1991.
Al-Sulṭānī, Khālid. Rif‘at al-Jādirjī: mi‘mār, 138.Amman: Adib Books, 2016.