London, Asharq Al-Awsat—A British–Iraqi architectural firm has unveiled designs for a new public library in Iraq, the first to be built in the country since the 1970s.
The avant-garde tear-drop design is the brainchild of the AMBS architectural firm and is set to be the jewel in the crown of Baghdad’s new Youth City project. The 480,000 square foot (45,000 square meter) building brings together form, function, and cultural significance and is designed to engage and empower visitors, and encourage open exchange. The new Baghdad library is also set to feature the world’s largest reading room. The library, along with the Youth City project that will see the establishment of a number of youth-oriented buildings and projects in Baghdad, aims to inspire the country’s youth.
AMBS director Amir Mousawi said, “This will be an accessible library for all ages. Our ambition is to create a space where people can run a serious and consolidated programme of public events, art exhibitions, book clubs, theatre events, educational conferences, film screenings and workshops.”
For the company’s staff, especially co-founder Ali Mousawi, his son Amir, and his daughter Aya, the library will seek to entrench a climate of culture and education for Iraq’s youth.
Aya told Asharq Al-Awsat, “The library will allow the Iraqi youths to benefit from contact with their peers abroad. If we look to see the changes that have taken place in the Middle East, for example, we will see that Gulf States are increasingly concerned with cultural projects in general, particularly those relating to the youth. Therefore, Baghdad, which has a special place in Islamic history, must also implement such cultural projects.”
The architectural ambition of the Baghdad library is clear to see, incorporating both a futuristic design design and historical characteristics.
AMBS director Marcos De Andres revealed: “As with every discussion session, the design was initiated by talking about exactly what we wanted from the building. In the beginning, we took the decision that we wanted to see large open spaces. Inside the building, we suggested the creation of an area that allows library users to communicate easily with one another. Therefore, the different levels of the building were integrated, so that you can see everything that is happening in the library wherever you are.”
“Then we started to draw up and prepare blueprints, and we also added complementary touches such as light sources. We also paid special attention to the ceiling, which will be decorated with Arabic calligraphy. The word ‘Iqra‘ [‘read’] will be written in Kufic script [on the roof] in a manner that allows the light to pass through the letters and into the library. In this manner, the building will be both functional and aesthetically pleasing,” he added.
Amir Mousavi revealed: “We intend to place solar panels on the roof, as an indication to the future. We want people thirty years from now to see how this building serves the purpose it was made for, and also see how it was designed to be environmentally friendly. The use of solar panels is meant to benefit from solar energy, and also because this is the energy of the future. Iraq today has vast oil reserves, but in the future there will be more concerns about natural resources.”
The architects from AMBS who have a contract with the Iraqi Ministry of Youth and Sports are hopeful that libraries across the world, not just in Iraq, will draw inspiration from the Baghdad library.
Saad Eskander, Director of the National Library of Iraq said, “It is imperative for the new Iraq to consolidate its young democracy and good governance through knowledge. New libraries have a notable role to play by promoting unconditional access to information, freedom of expression, cultural diversity and transparency. By responding to the needs of Iraq’s next generations, the new library, we hope, will play an important role in the future of our country.”
AMBS are partnering with the New York-based ACA Consultants firm—one of the world’s leading library consultants and planners—with the aim of building a collection of over three million books, including rare manuscripts and periodicals. The library will also house cutting-edge technology, performance and event spaces.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Sport and Youth said: “Our vision is to bring hope back to the young people, to build them a new cultural centre where they can express their talent and ideas. The whole library will be modern; it won’t simply be a place to find books, but a freely accessible place of knowledge.”
On the ground, Mousawi revealed that AMBS is undertaking a number of private projects in the city of Basra, including Basra Sports City, Al-Menaa Stadium, a number of hotels, hospitals, and even the Basra Governorate headquarters.
He added that construction projects are on the rise in Iraq, contrary to the images of destruction and security unrest that appear on television screens everyday. Mousawi said, “Most people here are striving for a new beginning for Iraq, and their main concern is rebuilding the country.”