Saleh Makiya (1914-2015) was born in Baghdad and educated in England, receiving his
BArch at Liverpool School of Architecture and a diploma in civic planning from
Liverpool University in 1941 and 1942, respectively. He completed his studies at Kings College,
Cambridge, earning his PhD in 1946. He
returned to Baghdad that same year and established Makiya Associates, an
architectural and planning consultancy practice. During the 1950s he designed houses and
commercial buildings and became increasingly aware of the heritage of Iraqi
architecture. Dr. Makiya was one of the
original founders of the Department of Architecture at the College of
Engineering, Baghdad University, in 1959.
He remained head of the department until 1968. During subsequent years, Makiya Associates
offices were established in Bahrain, Oman, London, Kuwait, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and
The works and ideas of Mohamed Makiya and his firm
have been investigated in numerous books and articles, and examined and explored
in conferences and exhibitions, including an international conference on
Baghdad architectural heritage held in early 2013 at the University of
Baghdad. The conference was part of the
events of “Baghdad, Arab Capital of Culture for the Year 2013”, sponsored
through a partnership between the University of Baghdad, Ifpo (the French
Institute of the Near East), and the UNESCO Office for Iraq.
Makiya’s contributions to the fields of
architecture and urbanism and, in particular, his sophisticated incorporation
of traditional forms into modern architecture, cannot be overstated. His work embodies ideas of urban conservation,
regionalism in form, and continuity of architectural heritage; ideas which continue
to younger generations of architects throughout the Middle East.
In the summer of 1982, the Chairman of the Council of the Presidency of the Republic of Iraq issued a decree to establish a State Grand Mosque Committee under the chairmanship of Rifat Chadirji. Twenty-two firms were invited to submit pre-qualification documents to the Directorate of Design at the Municipality of the Capital by September 1982. Seven firms, including Makiya Associates, were selected from that initial pool to participate in the competition, submitting their design plans by January 1983.
The mosque was "intended to symbolize the religious, state, and national beliefs of the people of Iraq."1The requirements included a prayer hall for 30,000 people, a prayer space for 3,000 women, prayer yards, a large library, conference facilities, dining rooms, parking facilities, a teaching institute and classrooms, and accommodations for 40 visiting imams.2The site for the mosque was to be located along Al-Rabia Street, in an area linking the Khadamiyah neighborhood to the north and the airport road to the south. A public park was located to the north of the site; an existing canal to the south; low-density residential neighborhoods to the west; and a railway line buffering an industrial area to the east.
In their philosophy of design approach to the competition, Makiya Associates declared that "a State Mosque must reflect the dignity of Islam and the status of Iraq as a modern nation."2 Although the chosen site was far from the modern center of Baghdad, Makiya believed that the site offered an opportunity to create a new civic center "for the new urban expansion to the west of Baghdad,"3 and with its proximity to the western gate of the round city of Al-Mansour and the existing canal, the opportunity to achieve a "communion of past and future" with the mosque as a focal point of development in the area.4
In the Makiya Associates proposal, the site would be surrounded by a "monumental" boundary wall with recessed towers and entrance gateways. The mosque itself would be built of reinforced concrete, with precast elements for riwaqs, beams, and finishing panels, and aggregates assembled from all of Iraq to use in reconstructed stone and precast finish panels. A main dome 93 m in diameter would cover the mosque, with 20 subsidiary domes 24 m in diameter and 22 smaller domes 7 m in diameter. Makiya envisioned these domes becoming a landmark in the Baghdad skyline and creating an unmistakable silhouette at dusk. An inner sahn would accommodate 4,000 for outdoor prayer, while an outer sahn would have ablution fountains and be surrounded by riwaqs. There would be cultural pavilions devoted to the arts and culture of various Islamic countries, and a "wall of cultures" that would express the heritage of Iraqi and Islamic civilization with abstract mural paintings by Iraqi artists. The mosque would be surrounded by landscaped gardens inspired by those from around the Islamic world, in oasis, Andalusian, and Mughal styles.5, 6
Additionally, the proposal suggested a series of public facilities in the immediate surroundings of the mosque that would "eventually reflect the status of the mosque as a true centre of the renaissance of Baghdad," including an orphanage, handicapped institute, and courts of justice. Public parks in the surrounding area would also be created or expanded.7 The existing canal would be widened and revived to create a "Buhtury Lake" to the south of the mosque that would reflect the main dome and the mihrab, and revive the characteristics of Abbassid Baghdad as a city of rivers and domes.8
The competition jury met in February 1983 and recommended the project submitted by Rasem Badran as First Place, with Ricardo Bofill and Maath Alousi invited to give support to the winner. The projects and recommendations were presented to President Saddam Hussein during an international symposium in October 1983.9 Neither Makiya's design or any of the other designs were ultimately ever built.
1. Kanan Makiya, The monument: art, vulgarity, and responsibility in Iraq (London: Andre Deutsch, 1991), 60.