1.3 Comparison between traditional Baghdad houses and housing prototype by Doxiadis Associates – Privacy and separation between men and women
The design principles of traditional houses in Baghdad related closely to the living habit of dwellers, which was largely shaped by ethnic tradition.
The physical and moral movement of city dwellers in Baghdad were predominantly constrained by “Turf”, which is a moral code derived from the Hadith, a saying in the Prophet. (Abu-Lughod, 1987) There were clear separation between male and female both physically and visually. Therefore, traditional houses in Baghdad were internally organized so that women could see men but not the other way round. This was done by separating the public ground floor and private first floor. A screening was even added to hide the stairs that lead from the public space on ground floor to the private space on first floor, where female were refrain from appearing in public space within the house. (Warren and Fethi, 1982) The housing type proposed by Doxiadis Associates although provided a section on for women and children that was partly screened, there was no clear distinction between ground floor and first floor in terms of openness of rooms which is critical as defining spaces where women could move through. (Development in Iraq: Special Survey, 1957)
Another feature that drove traditional houses Baghdad into introvert form was the demand for privacy. Getting from the street into a house would pass through a bent corridor, intentionally to keep public glance from the house. Besides, from elevation it could be seen clearly that there was no opening on ground floor and screened openings on first floor. Apart from that, houses had high roof walls that separated them. (Warren and Fethi, 1982) However, in Doxiadis models there were the repetitive façade strategy for both floors with large openings, which lose the previous functional cantilevered window and the pedestrains could easily glance through the opening on first floor. Although having high roof walls, the entrance corridor became directive to internal area. Loose privacy would be troublesome for women to live in. (Doxiadis, 1958)
The lack of focus on detail was not criticized by other architects but admitted by Doxiadis himself also as a sacrifice for efficient housing planning. (Doxiadis, 1958) The shallow understanding of local lives can be extended to street design and neighborhood planning.1
1 Please refer to “3.2 Clash of ideologies: a comparative analysis of ekistics in Baghdad and islamic principles”
Abu-Lughod, J. (1987). The Islamic City–Historic Myth, Islamic Essence, and Contemporary Relevance. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 19(2), p.164.
Warren, J. and Fethi, I. (1982). Traditional house in Baghdad. England: Coach Publishing House Ltd.
Development in Iraq: Special Survey. (1957). The Economist.
Doxiadis, C. (1958). A Regional Development Program for Greoter Mussayib, Iraq, 1958. Ekistic, 6(36), pp.149-186.