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.
In 1969, Rifat Chadirji entered a competition to design a new mosque and Islamic cultural center for the city of London along with several other international architects. Although Chadirji's design did not win, it remains an important part of his architectural oeuvre, as it is an example of an attempt to design a building type characterized at the time by a rigid adherence to tradition.
Unlike his design for the Siraj al-Din Mosque in Baghdad, characterized by its simple but bold plan, the London mosque bears more resemblance to traditional models, with its large central dome and minaret. The design is notable for these features, as well as the architectural details, such as windows and furnishings embellished with modernist geometric designs.
The plan is based on a series of octagonal units that connect to one another through irregularly shaped courtyards and halls. Visitors enter through a portal on the west side of the complex, which leads onto an enclosed open air courtyard. This in turn leads onto an inner, irregularly shaped open court. The inner court gives access to the various components of the complex. On its west side, double doors lead onto an octagonal unit houses a foyer and bookshop. On the east end is an octagonal unit housing an apartment for the director of the cultural center. On the south side of the court are entrances to the main building. The main building includes an irregular foyer with an octagonal ablutions unit on the west side, an octagonal unit that serves as coat storage on the east, and the entrance to the prayer hall on the south. A separate entrance to the mosque for women leads from the octagonal foyer and bookshop on the west side of the complex, past the ablutions unit and into the west wall of the prayer hall.
The prayer hall is the largest octagonal unit. Four of the side walls are longer than the other four, which contain the main door, the mihrab (directly opposite the door), and two sets of floor to ceiling windows.
On the north end of the complex, separate from the agglomeration described above, are two further octagonal units housing apartments for the caretaker and imam.
Al-Sulṭānī, Khālid. Rif‘at al-Jādirjī: mi‘mār, 114-119. Amman: Adib Books, 2016.