Plan for Greater Baghdad - Frank Lloyd Wright
“A great culture deserves not only architecture of its time, but of its own”
Wright’s 1957 plan distilled an imagined memory of the ancient Abbasid city and went back even further to one of the oldest myths of mankind, the story of Adam and Eve. Quite apart from the political events that scuppered it, it was dismissed by modernist commentators at the time as an anachronistic phantasmagoria. But Mina Marefat persuasively argues that Wright’s work stands as a valuable symbol today, by showing profound respect for the very cultural heritage to which the west can be hostile. ‘The functions of an opera house, a civic centre and a university were clearly modern ones,’ she says, ‘but Wright gave them forms that linked them to the past and imbued them with didactic cultural messages, collective images shared by both east and west.’ Though the realization of Wright’s project would now be less imaginable than ever, it’s worth pausing to remember than when America’s greatest architect drew up a blueprint for Baghdad it was not chauvinistically western, nor an American attempt to destroy Iraqi culture. It was made in a spirit that future architects for the city might do well to study.