Emerging Iraqi architect Nizar Razak speaks on his award-winning urban development scheme for Baghdad district

Born and raised in Sadr City, a district of Baghdad first developed in 1959 by Prime Minister Abd Al-Karim Qasim, award-winning Iraqi architect Nizar Razak from Manhal Habbobi Consultants, has long been on track to resew the built fabric of his hometown.

His commitment to architecture and its social and cultural impacts culminated in 2017, when Razak won the Tamayouz Excellence Award for Iraqi architecture students in 2017. His commended design was an urban renewal project for his home town.

“Sadr City was built up in the 1960s to contain the immigrants coming in from the south of Iraq, but [the authorities] only provided the residences,” said Razak. “Today, there are many problems in the city, from density to the lack of open areas, the spread of slums and many others. I hope to contribute to solving Sadr City, Baghdad and Iraq’s problems.”

Razak’s proposal for Sadr City

Upon graduating from Baghdad University, Razak joined regional architecture firm Manhal Habbobi Consultants, which has branches across the Middle East and Turkey, from Istanbul to Baghdad to Dubai. And his office allows him to work on a number of projects across various sectors, from residential to commercial. In university, too, he developed a renewal project for Baghdad’s famous Al Rasheed Street, while designing cultural projects across the city.

His urban renewal project for Sadr City though is perhaps where he has shined the most. Having designed a multipurpose urban development in Sadr City, his project features a central space with a large number of secondary urban points that spread across the district to improve the reality of the population.

“During the design process, many asked me where the main building was located. All they could see was public space. And I would reply, ‘Of course. The main city leaks are public space – it would be sad if I didn’t keep that in mind.”

“Six years ago, when I was accepted into the architectural department at Baghdad University, I didn’t know anything about architecture, but I had the help of many great teachers, like Dr Ammar Salih Ashour. Now, not a second passes that I don’t think how architecture has changed my life.”

As the prize for his 2017 Tamayouz win, Razak will likely be attending Coventry University in the fall. According to the initiative’s founder, Ahmed Al-Mallak, the young architect isn’t only special, he’s also important.

“He was born and raised in Sadr City – one of Iraq’s most overpopulated and underdeveloped areas, [yet] his understanding of its problems and his love for the city makes him a ray of hope for its people,” Al-Mallak said. “Whatever skills or ideas he is going to acquire from Coventry can be directly experimented in his city upon his return.”

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