Overview – Doxiadis in Iraq: a Scientific Imposition

Overview – Doxiadis in Iraq: a Scientific Imposition

In 1950s, the Middle East was one of the ideological battlefields between the capitalists, led by the US, and the socialist, led by the USSR. In order to prevent Iraq from falling into the hands of the socialist, the pro-US monarch King Faisal II has hired multiple western architects and planners to build in and re-plan the city, as an attempt to prevent revolutions through improving livelihoods. Among the architects were the likes of Gropius, Corbusier, and Doxiadis, among others. This international activity was short lived, however, as a socialist-leaning revolution in 1958, inspired by the Egypt uprising by Nessar, has brought down the western-leaning monarchy and was replaced by a republic. (0.1: political context)

The objective of this blog is to examine the works of Doxiadis in Iraq in this period, specifically, how his use of ekistics, his theory of scientific planning, clashes with the local traditions and cultures of Iraq.

We started with examining what dioxides planned for Iraq and what he intended to achieve through his ekistics approach. (1.0 Ekistics and Dynapolis)The plan was however awkward in many sense as it refrenced many muslim elements but these elements lost their purpose after the adaptation into the plan itself. We researched into the traditional houses in Baghdad(1.1 Traditional houses in Baghdad) and compared it to Doxiadis Associates’ hosuing prototype(1.2 From housing to city), through man-made condition (1.3 Privacy and separation between men and women) and natural world condition(1.4 Local climate and construction). Afterwards, we compared it to the plans of Doxiadis (1.5 Imposition of Doxiadis Plan in Baghdad), and came up with the conclusion that there were a deliberate ignorance about the traditional dwellings and context of the city, despite having carried out extensive research on the area.

In order to find out why an insensitive project were proposed even after field research, we zoomed into the practice of Doxiadis himself at that time. During his time in Iraq, Doxiadis was collaborating with another well-known Arab architect Hassan Fathy on the project, who is famous for his regional modernism (2.1 Ideology of Hassan Fathy) and specialized in housing design (2.4 Iraq Housing Programme Design Drawing). The clashes between these two architects in their collaborations (2.2 The Clash of Doxiadis and Fathy) gave us insights on the decision making of Doxiadis and how he turned his Ekistics theory into a physical plan (1.5 Imposition of Doxiadis Plan in Baghdad) , showing that Doxiadis’s scientific planning proved to be too scientific and overlooked ideological and cultural differences between the west and the Middle East (2.3 Doxiadis commentary on Fathy’s housing plan).

We went on researching about what is the underlying planning principles of the middle east that made these foreign impositions often awkward and unsuitable. We realized that the urban planning in Muslim world is largely affected by their interpretations on the Quran (3.1 Islamic Cultural Norms and Their Effects on the Urban Fabric ). Doxiadis overlooked the cultural and social aspects of Baghdad, and therefore proposed a way of living that is stereotypical Muslim instead of producing a plan that suits the needs of the city. (3.2 Clash of ideologies)

We then started rethinking about Doxiadis’s plan in retrospective. We argue that the fundamental flaw about the plan is that Doxiadis assumed history as a linear progress and his plan would take over all the previous histories of Iraq as the new city. This would also mean Doxiadis’s plan, same as the other modernist plans in the period, assumed the western modernity as the sole outcome of development, and all other cities that are different are simply under developed. (4.1 liberating the other, and towards modernity ) As a result, his plan was often stereotypical view on “the other” and shared the same technocratic optimism as the modernists.

1 Comment on “Overview – Doxiadis in Iraq: a Scientific Imposition

  1. This is a great attempt to interlace the multi-prong arguments in the many entries over the week. The link to Fathy and his debate with Doxiadis, especially given their expertise in housing, is especially interesting. As the group grapples with the theme of housing and the city, perhaps you can consider adding more urban plans of housing and architectural plans would reveal more visual clues to your analyses, and lend great support to the arguments at hand. Speculative as it may sound, perhaps a closer study of Fathy’s own housing plans and typologies (even outside of the period or location) would also shed new light on Baghdad and Doxiadis’s plans.

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