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Thursday31 July 2014

Zaha Hadid designs first project for her native Iraq

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Central Bank headquarters in Baghdad will be a symbol of the new nation, says practice

Zaha Hadid has won her first deal in the country of her birth with a commission to design a new headquarters building for the Central Bank of Iraq.

Travelled to Istanbul this month for early talks with the bank’s governor Zaha Hadid

Travelled to Istanbul this month for early talks with the bank’s governor

Zaha Hadid

She and the team picked to work on the project travelled to Istanbul earlier this month to discuss initial details with the bank’s governor, Sinan al-Shabibi.

The Iraqi government appointed Zaha Hadid Architects in late July to come up with a design concept, prepare a feasibility study and develop a brief for the Central Bank’s new headquarters in the capital, Baghdad.

A spokesman for the practice said of the Istanbul meeting: “This preliminary workshop concentrated on the vision of the project’s objectives, success criteria and the operational functions that will be performed by the bank through the coming decades as a national institution that represents the symbol of sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq.”

Details of the bank’s security features are unlikely ever to be made public but a key requirement for the Baghdad-born architect, who came to London in 1972 to study at the Architectural Association, is that the design is able to withstand terrorist attacks.

The existing modernist headquarters – which was designed by Danish practice Dissing & Weitling in 1985 and built from marble-clad reinforced concrete with few exterior openings – was stormed by insurgents in June in an attack that killed 18 people and injured 50.

The bank’s generator was bombed and four suicide bombers blew themselves up at the main gate, sparking a three-hour stand-off between security forces and armed al-Qaida supporters.

Founded in 1947, the bank was one of the first central banks in the Arab world and has the sole right to issue the dinar, Iraq’s national currency.

The Hadid spokesman said the brief made it clear the new bank would act as a symbol of the new Iraq. “The new headquarters will enable the monetary authority of the CBI [Central Bank of Iraq] to perform its continued role serving stability, development and economic growth in Iraq,” he said.

Trade returns

UK Trade & Investment is planning its largest visit to Iraq since US and British forces invaded the country in 2003.
In October, chief executive Andrew Cahn will lead a delegation to the annual Erbil International Trade Fair in the country’s northern Kurdistan region.
Last year, more than 700 companies from 28 countries exhibited at the event.
UKTI reintroduced a full team to Baghdad a year ago.

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