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Boston exhibit explores Middle Eastern architecture
Sep 19, 2012

Two exhibitions on architecture in the Middle East will open at the Boston Society of Architects' home BSA Space on October 2. "City of Mirages: Baghdad, 1952–1982" presents built and unbuilt work by 11 architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Josep Lluís Sert, Alvar and Aino Aalto, and Robert Venturi FAIA. Models of various scales of the built and unbuilt work by these and other architects are accompanied by a large-scale model of Baghdad. The second, "Critical Exchange: Boston Architects in the Middle East" presents the work of several contemporary Boston-based practices that have produced buildings and public environments in the Middle East. They will remain on view through December 2012.
"City of Mirages" describes an era in which Baghdad was a thriving, cosmopolitan city, and when an ambitious program of modernization led to proposals and built work by leading international architects. City of Mirages is a traveling exhibition previously featured at the Collegi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, and at the Center for Architecture in New York City.

Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates, Inc. Project for the Completions for a National Mosque of Baghdad, 1982.
Image courtesy of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Inc.
 “The ’50s were a crucial epoch for Iraq to do large public cultural and sports projects,” said City of Mirages curator Pedro Azara. “This exhibition aims to show an unknown (in the West) part of the history of modern architecture and to offer an image of Baghdad, which was not shattered in the difficult years after the war and the invasion of the country.” Azara is professor of aesthetics and theory of art at the School of Architecture in Barcelona and the author of La reconstrucción del Edén: Mito y arquitectura en Oriente.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Plan for a Greater Baghdad, 1957-1959. Image courtesy Collegi d'Arquitectes de Catalunya (COAC)
The projects featured in the concurrent exhibition, "Critical Exchange: Boston Architects in the Middle East", are shaped by the approaches and agendas of international practice inflecting to local conditions. Curated by Mark Pasnik AIA, Chris Grimley and Michael Kubo of the design firm over,under, Critical Exchange examines the political and economic complexities, material cultures, climactic realities, construction practices and social traditions that affect contemporary firms working in the Middle East. The featured firms are all closely connected to Boston’s academic institutions, and their work in the Middle East is an extension of research interests at home. The projects share an emphasis on design strategies that are both global and local.

Walter Gropius, TAC (The Architects' Collaborative) and Hisham A. Munir, University of Baghdad campus, 1957. Image courtesy of Collegi d'Arquitectes de Catalunya (COAC)
“Our goal in presenting these concurrent exhibitions at BSA Space is to highlight the transformations that architecture makes around the globe,” said BSA president Laura Wernick AIA. “Bringing this exhibition to Boston after its U.S. debut at the Center for Architecture in New York is exciting, as many of the works exhibited included come in large part are connected with Harvard University.”



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