Urban design and landscape

The corridors of Mosul

Maria Abi Raad
Holy spirit University of Kaslik
Lebanon

Project idea

The project is a proposal for a post-war reconstruction strategy that focuses on the people’s needs using a participatory approach, following sustainable principles and respecting the cultural heritage of the city.
Today, the cities of third world countries are victim of endless political conflict, corruption and war. With the lack of assistance from their fragile governments, millions of people, mostly living in extreme poverty, are forced to flee their home (if they still have one). Climate change and the alteration of the viable environment doesn’t help the IDP’s condition.
This is the case of the city of Mosul. After a devastating war from June 2014 until July 2017, the "pearl of Iraq", crossroads of civilizations and religions, lays in ruins with more than 1 million of IDPs, a cultural genocide, destruction in all sectors and 8 million tons of debris with no financial means to displace them.

Because the project will be done by the people and for the people, I met with some Iraqi refugees in Lebanon and we discussed their needs and vision for their city.

The tailored made proposal focuses on a Build Back Better strategy:
- Restore Mosul’s autonomy
- Manage major issues
- Work with the population
- Reuse-recycle materials
- (Symbolic victory against terrorism)

Project description

Chaos of this magnitude can only be reestablished by means of an urban element, generative of a certain area: the corridor. Used for different purposes, the Mosul pathways adjust themselves to their schizophrenic city. In the old town, they represent strategic corridors that respect the human scale, are set up for the domestic and commercial development and are located near important cultural structures. Counter to that, the “cultural corridors” remain vital for educational (library) and archaeological (museum) growths in the contemporary city.
In the same logic, the basic architectural element (common to all) and subject to a sequential evolution is evidently the tent, first identity of the region. The latter happens to be part of the first response to a post-disaster emergency phases.
From here begins the process to Build Back Better (BBB) Mosul: following a strategic corridor, a system of intervention is set up focusing on an architectural concept, based on the tent and gradually working in phases to achieve the final and integrative project. Whatever the path pursued, the architectural / urban outcome preserves the autochthonous identity: Courtyard buildings principles, the notion of private / public, architectural / urban flexibility, the work with recycled / traditional materials in a sequential way (hard for exterior to the ephemeral for interior).

Henceforth, three chapters adopt this movement of rehabilitation: The Archeological Museum, the Mosul library and the Old city of Mosul.

1. The Archaeological Museum:
The Archeological Museum has seen a massive destruction of its artifacts. Because this very important cultural component has no physical relation with the archeological site an alternative location has been proposed: in front of the destructed Adad Gate, over a potential non-excavated archeological site.

The project:
- revisits the tents principles (under a single cover)
- consists of a flexible museum area as well as a workshop, renovation and learning area.
• for on-site excavations (applying the principles learned)
- offers a flexible and diverse interior configuration
- allows the visitor to have access to the archeological site at the end of the museum path
- represents a major urban exchange platform, reviving the livelihood of the citizens.

2. The library:
The Library has always been an important cultural asset for Mosul. Not only was the very first one located in this city (VII century B. C.), but the latest one has also become renowned in the region prior to the war. Located in the Mosul University, the library has suffered from a great loss: the whole building was set on fire destroying more than 100 000 manuscripts and burning more than 300 000 books.

The project reuses with the remaining structure. It also
- works in short-mid and long-term recovery phases
- follows the principle of the tent (that persists in all stages)
- protects the collective memory
- offers the building’s remains a more integrative / interesting appeal to the city's urban fabric
- proposes the creation of a three-vocation wall: identity, protector, and messenger. The outer wall represents a large-scale tablet. A competition is opened for Mosul’s writers, poets… to write about their city. The winning stories, poems, quotes… are craved on the façade using the cuneiform alphabet.
- creates a public, 24/7, open space on the GF (able to work independently from the rest of the library). However, metal bars located in the basement could be elevated to close the building if needed.
In order to promote education in the whole city, book tents are spread across Mosul (old and new city).

3. The Old city of Mosul:
Located on the West Bank of the river, the medieval city remains heavily destroyed.
The project:
The interventions take place on 3 generative corridors near important cultural constructions: the Nineveh corridor (important market street that includes the clock tower), the 3 churches neighborhood (from 3 different christian confessions) and the Al-Nouri Mosque surroundings (with the introduction of an experimental area).

The short-term recovery intervention consists of the tent made of muslin, recycled fabrics and metal. Landmarks (from reused elements) are also introduced in the city’s public spaces and have a hygienic, sanitary and messaging role (for future projections...). These landmarks are also scattered throughout the city, where jugged necessary. In order to preserve the people’s collective memory, the hosh’s imprints (public spaces) are maintained.
The beneficial courtyard buildings are reintroduced for the house-market complex. The final result includes different typologies obtained using a participative approach, teaching the people the importance of recycling the materials available. The shop-dwellings consist of: organized debris / stone, wooden moucharabiyah, iron / muslin curtains, wooden doors and metal wind towers for natural ventilation.
Also, to promote hygiene in the city, a capsule containing basic services is added to the complex and is adapted for a better urban integration of the Cartesian architecture. This capsule also becomes the basis of the sustainable development of Mosul using passive energy goals (reuse of rain water, conversion of waste to fertilizers and reusable energy). In order to soften the rigidity of the old city, urban spaces are introduced between dwellings: garden, urban furniture, fountains and even the renowned traditional vaulted pathways.

Following short-mid and long-term recovery phases, the tent evolves to become the housing/shops. That way, the old city of Mosul can reach its much-needed urban resilience.

The result:
- Al Nouri Mosque surrounding: experimental area of the integration of the middle class in the old city in order to irradiate the social tensions. (Near a school, larger roads, capsule integrating a parking space).
- 3 churches neighborhood: Use of the same typology with more openings on larger roads.
- Nineveh boulevard: Dwellings with shops that have access to workshop, office of storage area. Mosul’s renown textile / painters / metal and ceramic workers can revive their activities.
Finally, it is not only the final design that teaches the importance of the sustainable development but it is the whole architectural process that achieves it: Participating in the construction allows a first experimentation with these new principles. Living in tents and homes/markets designed from reused materials demonstrates the benefits of recycling. The architectural flexibility allows the user to become the designer going beyond the dialogue between these two.

Technical information

MATERIAL:
Even if each project goes through post-war phasing and ongoing flexibility in long-term recovery phase, the materials used are all recycled or reused. During phase 1, the tents are made from reused Muslin and metal bars. As each project evolve to reach its final phase, the metal bars persist and are reused (to create a gallery, determine a space, gardening structures…) while the tent cloth covers the street, the entrances and terraces. The outer walls of each intervention are then built from stone, the autochthonous material of Mosul, and debris. Sequentially, from the outer and rigid façade to the inner courtyards (ephemeral), the materials progress: stone, wood, metal, glass/muslin and “air”.
FLEXIBILITY:
Each project is flexible with its spatial distribution depending on the people’s needs: The old city houses can at any time add / remove rooms, windows, wind towers and even levels. The library’s floors are open spaces while the ground floor remain open to the public 24/7. The archeological museum offers different spatial configurations as well for maintenance and alteration in the museum pathway.

SUSTAINABILIY:
Natural ventilation is guaranteed from wind towers, courtyards, and little openings (roof of the museum in some places and small windows between the roof and the book wall in the library). Rainwater is reused and recollected in all projects under the courtyard (and in water tanks in the technical area of the archeological museum). In the old city, the capsules could also be equipped with special units for waste treatment and reuse of gaz emission for electricity. (A waste network could also be put in place using the tunnels dug and that would lead to composting stations near the agricultural lands).

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