Our competition entry for the Al Nouri Mosque Complex in Mosul, destroyed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2017, is meant to be an oasis of culture and vitality set to become the driver and symbol of the post-conflict renaissance.
The redevelopment project of the complex has as its main objective the creation of a contemporary and modern space that integrates seamlessly with the historical and religious context. The design approach was firmly guided by the research of symbolic themes and values of Moslawi and Iraqui cultural identity.
Location Mosul, Iraq
Category Culture & Religion
The physical reconstruction of the Al Nouri Mosque Complex is rooted in the power of the immaterial, vital feature of Mosul’s ancient culture. A voice that no conflict can silence, that speaks from the ruins and triggers the catalytic process of reconstruction. A voice arising from the heart and the Prayer Hall.
Making the fallen columns stand once again is the first physical gesture that finds its foundation in the past. The columns are then multiplied and brought beyond the Prayer Hall, replicating the same geometrical pattern inherited from history. The pattern turns into the new fabric that holds together interior and exterior, buildings and gardens, extending until the fence that marks the given area boundaries.
The fence is a transparent architectural element evoking Mosul’s typical muslin fabric, an element that fosters the coexistence between old and new, traditional materials and technological innovation.
An ancient fabric, light and thin, permeable to air and light, which protects from heat and fits the figure. Weaving means to connect, to bond, to create a fabric that wraps elements and, in doing so, reveals their shape and protects them from the exterior. We thus created a vest that eases down on the pre-existing elements and becomes the new space’s skin. It delineates the voids and solids, it tangles the purity of the volumes underneath and above the school.
The skin’s fabric consists of a repeating primary element, monads of recomposed earth, shaped, moulded and assembled on site. A lightweight metallic structure holds vertically the elements while allowing their rotational movement. The monads are then freely oriented in relation to daylight, generating facades that alternate between transparency and opacity. Essentially creating a screening system that while respecting the interior’s functional requirements draws at a giant scale the soft wrinkles of the Muslin fabric.
In line with the univocal character of our proposal, this stern approach is, at the same time, deeply respectful of the local culture, people, memory and, somewhat dramatic, history of the place. It is a way of re-sawing the urban fabric by dialoguing with the volumes, the scars, the colours, the air and light of Mosul.
The brick is the generating element of the project, being the key repeating instance of the facade system. It wraps around the new volumes and delimits the site boundary in a movement that takes the inspiration from the muslin fabric. The facade’s parametric design allows it to adapt according to the solar exposure and the functions housed in the interior. Creating a play of transparency and opacity, the facade simulates the wrinkles of the fabric over the walls and roofs, like a veil that eases down on the building.
All the bricks that compose the facades, shaped as flat tiles, are obtained from the re-processing of the vast amount of debris present on the site. These are first grinded, then mixed with bonding agents, checked for health and safety, and finally shaped in the final form by high pressurised pressing. The mixture extracted from the debris is combined with limestone dust and local earth resulting in the creation of a material that aesthetically works in unison with the local materiality of the site’s landmarks: the Al Hadba Minaret and the Prayer Hall.
This system allows Km 0 production by exploiting the resources already present in the area, and will allow large savings in the CO2 emissions coming from construction, generating great economic savings for the procurement of materials and conceiving a remarkably sustainable construction chain.
We conceived a building that thanks to the use of a highly innovative system with a low environmental impact represents an important employment opportunity for the citizens of Mosul.
A place to restore unity
The complex is designed to provide the Moslawi with a place that can restore unity, culture and ferment to a city deeply affected by years of conflict. A liveable space at all hours of the day and in any climatic condition thanks to the numerous shaded spaces, gardens and fountains that contribute to making both external and internal spaces comfortable.
The external double-skin facade that covers the new buildings will allow citizens to interact with the functions inside. Open towards the city, it welcomes the view of passers-by, revealing suggestive and vibrant spaces, such as the common parts of the secondary school and the Prayer Hall, finely restored and made accessible once again. On the contrary, the historical part of the complex will be gathered in a closed enclosure, to allow those who use the Summer Prayer Hall to have a large shaded space surrounded by vegetation and mineral gardens where they can pray without being disturbed by the traffic and noise of the city.
Sustainability and Local Development
We conceived a building that thanks to the use of a highly innovative system with a low environmental impact represents an important employment opportunity for the citizens of Mosul. The high specialization acquired by the local workers in the production of construction materials obtained from the local rubble and the ground could generate an economic advantage and skilled labour force directed towards the construction industry, which would further help the country in its upcoming reconstruction and economic recovery.
The material restoration of the debris will be an opportunity to create a “school-site“, to train competent and qualified restorers. In addition, the ancient techniques of engraved stucco and calligraphic decoration will constitute further employment for artists and craftsmen in Al Nouri and throughout the region.
The complex is designed to provide the Moslawi with a place that can restore unity, culture and ferment to a city deeply affected by years of conflict.
The North and South building fronts are located far from each other on the ground floor, in order to ensure the influx of a large number of people to the Prayer Hall and the other main functions. The new buildings are designed on three levels. The first level is characterized by organic forms and a different treatment of the facades. This different treatment is inspired by the Minaret’s frieze characterized by horizontal bands treated with different decorations.
The School and Institute classrooms, as well as the Festive Hall, are the most vibrant and relate more directly to the external context through organic shapes and translucent double-skin facades. The cantilevered volumes of the classroom create roof gardens, which serve as bioclimatic devices to mitigate the solar radiation on the buildings’ roofs as well as green public spaces for the Institute. The second level links the two fronts with a bridge that, overlooking the outdoor space, provides unity to the complex and becomes the gateway to the space reserved to the Summer Prayer Hall faithful.
Studio Transit S.r.l. (team leader), Arch. Elisabetta Fabbri, PROAP Italia S.r.l., Ing. Francesco Squasi, Arch. Giovanni Di Vito, E.S.A. engineering S.r.l., Arch. Eleonora Strada, Studio Croci & Associati