Our office, Hisham Munir and Associates, designed the Civic Center master plan, and proposed a guideline to set the parameters for the individual building designs to share. For pedestrians, the idea of movement was incorporated using different colonnades. These colonnades are an integral part of the buildings, allowing for protected pedestrian movement and creating spacious courtyards that enhance the environment of activity, in addition to relating to the buildings' hierarchy. Parking and other infrastructures were incorporated into a semi basement.
The Civic Center project, by virtue of its function, housed the Governor's Office building, the Mayor's Office building, and all other city and state civic service office buildings, and had to be symbolic of the great city: BAGHDAD. As such, its design required a creative and inspirational point of view. The challenge was to create an innovative, sculptural form that could serve as a monumental symbol, representing the best of the city and its splendorous place in history.
The Mayor's Office Project Building
The project design of the Mayor's Office Building was the first building to be realized as a prototype in the context of the master plan and put forth in a competition. We won the first time, then others interfered. When the competition was redone, we won it again.
The site of the buildings within the Civic Center were not subject to city ordinance limiting height projections, as reflected in the two buildings we designed across street; the Reinsurance and Ministry of Commerce. The Mayor's Office Building was in a free open space that gave it the potential for creative features on all sides of the building.
Our challenge was to reflect and adhere to the advancements of technology, transforming materials and structure into sculptural form, thereby synthesizing the qualities of vernacular architecture with the modern pulse of the period. Thus, the building was reminiscent of Baghdad's alleys, featuring elements where the projections of upper floors and extended roofs supported climatic control and created shaded spaces.
Our design aimed to create a sculptural structure to symbolize authority and stature. This was further enhanced by creating a dramatic top floor that projected over and shaded the remaining structure and consisted of a double height floor with intricate sculptural corners reminiscent of the traditional Iraqi muqarnas.
The hierarchy of the Mayor's Office Building carries the formality, as well as the symbolic features, of the complex and the city. The grand plaza, where an entrance of grand height was intended, was moved to the side intentionally, to change the building's symmetry and to accentuate and emphasize the formalities of the main entrance in front of the building plaza for ceremonial purpose and for the receiving of dignitaries.
In its details, the building carries local motives, using traditional elements symbolic of the old alleys of Baghdad; shaded screens, traditional brick work, patterns on the walls and ceilings, pointed arches, the colonnade, and locally-made colored glazed tiles. These elements are integrated into the design work and extend inside. There, rich woodwork expresses traditional geometric patterns. All these features contribute to the unity of the design and environment.
The activities and services of the Mayor's Office were considered and distributed to different levels of the building, ranging from the basement to the seventh floor, according to their function. The ground floor, with its partial mezzanine, conforms to the directives and guidelines of spatial distribution, providing an auditorium for exhibitions and a facility for larger gatherings. The departments' functions occupied all seven floors, all of which were designed with an open office system to allow for flexibility and future changes, as needed. The design also features private offices for the heads of the departments. The Mayor's own office, the City Counsel, and Deputy Mayor's office, occupied the distinctive double-volume stories high on the eighth floor, and are further emphasized through their projection, shading the lower floors.
The Mayor's Office and the City Counsel and his deputies are both separated and connected through a vibrant private opening to the sky-framing courtyard. I chose to add this courtyard as a symbolic reminder for both the City Counsel and the Mayor, to inspire the love and respect of the City of Baghdad, within its whole context. I intended to keep alive a traditional element, but in a fresh modern way...high in the sky.
The cafeteria and the private dinning areas occupy a portion of the roof with a view of the immediate landscape and surroundings, creating an up-to-date version of an old Baghdad courtyard feature, an urban courtyard, going up the core of the building at various levels lined with full glazing, providing a light source and creating a continuous line of vision from one wall across to the other.
Brick, being a traditional building material, and the basis for the majority of architecture in Baghdad and throughout Iraq, was used extensively. The bricks were locally-made with colored glazed tiles in turquoise and other colors. Wood patterned screens were also used. With the addition of new materials, which were indicative of that period of time, the total entity of the sculptured building forms a dynamic which is reminiscent of Baghdad. These elements, combined, feature projections, recesses, shades, and shadows, complimented by modern technology, materials, and structural expression.
The building's details also reflect modern interpretations of iconic architectural features of Baghdad and Iraq, including shanasheel, intricate brick work, and arcades. Ceramic screens provide a modern interpretation of the wood work used in traditional shanasheel, and intricate sculptural forms are reminiscent of traditional muqarnas. The integrated colonnade in the Mayor's office, and the use of dimensional depth to create needed shades and shadows, accommodate the climactic needs of the building and provide protection for the citizens. In this way, the Mayor's office building is a sculpture reminiscent of historic Baghdad's extended roofs and shanasheel, which have projected to create shade, shadows and terraces that enhance climatic and environmental controls.
The building, by virtue of its choice in material and attention to climactic and environmental controls, is a unique sculptural form in the Urban Cultural scene of Baghdad.
Construction of the building was implemented in stages. The period between design and the building's completion in 1983 was eight years. The contractor was a local government contractor. The entire built area totals to 29,000 square meters. Although the building has had no further maintenance, photos of the building taken in 2014 show the building in nearly perfect condition, due to our proper attention to detail and continuous supervision.