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.
Iraqi architect Rifat Chadirji made a design for the Siraj al-Din Mosque of Baghdad close to the beginning of his career in 1955. The design is an important part of Chadirji's evolution as an architect, as it represents a boldly modern form for a building type known for its adherence to tradition.1
The building as designed takes the form of a rectangular hall, with the qibla on one of the short sides of the rectangle. The entrance opened on the side of the mosque opposite the qibla. Four large pillars placed close to the corners of the hall support a large arched vault, which covers the central portion of the hall. Chadirji included two walls made of perforated screens on either side of the building: one at the main entrance and another behind the qibla wall.
The design references traditional Iraqi and Islamic forms, while remaining thoroughly modern in style: the basic idea of a large hall with a central vaulted bay is present in many mosques, especially those from the Ottoman period where large central domes defined architectural excellence. The shape of the vault - a parabolic arch - also recalls the Arch of Khusraw at Ctesiphon. The perforated screens recall traditional carved woodwork in mosques and other Islamic buildings in Baghdad, but the motif has been changed from eight-pointed stars to a new pattern of Chadirji's design.
1. Al-Sulṭānī, 168.
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, 168-169.Amman: Adib Books, 2016.
September 12, 2018 (AKDC staff): edited description; edited preferred name to reflect design status.