Rifat Chadirji

Rifat Chadirji (Arabic: رفعت الجادرجيRifa’a al-Khādarjī, also Romanized Rifa'at Al Chaderchi; 6 December 1926 – 10 April 2020) was an Iraqi architect, photographer, author and activist. He was often referred to as the father of modern Iraqi architecture, having designed more than 100 buildings across the nation.[1]

Rifat Chadirji
Rifaat-jaderji.jpg
Born(1926-12-06)6 December 1926
Died10 April 2020(2020-04-10) (aged 93)
London, England
NationalityIraqi
OccupationArchitect
Parent(s)Kamil Chadirji (father)
AwardsAga Khan Award for Architecture Tamayouz Lifetime Achievement Award
WebsiteRifat Chidirji

Life and careerEdit

Chadirji was born in Baghdad in 1926 into an influential family.[2] His father, Kamil Chadirji, played a central role in Iraq's political life as the founder in 1946 and then president of the National Democratic Party.[3]

Chadirji trained as an architect. In 1952, after completing his graduate training, he returned to Baghdad and began working on what he called his "architectural experiments." [4] Rifat Chadirji's architecture is inspired by the characteristics of regional Iraqi architecture, and the time-tested intelligence inherent in it, but at the same time, he wanted to reconcile tradition with contemporary social needs.[5] In an interview, Chadirji explained his philosophy:

From the very outset of my practice, I thought it imperative that, sooner or later, Iraq create for itself an architecture regional in character yet simultaneously modern, part of the current international avant-garde style.[6]

In the context of architecture, Chadirji called this approach international regionalism.[7] Chadirji's approach was entirely consistent with the objectives of the Modern Baghdad Group, founded in 1951, of which he was an early member. This art group sought to combine ancient Iraqi heritage with modern art and architecture, in order to develop an Iraqi aesthetic, that was not only unique to Iraq, but also influence the development of a pan-Arab visual language.

Chadirji's early works were firmly grounded in the discourse being conducted by members of the Baghdad Modern Art Group,[8] including sculptors Jawad Saleem and Mohammed Ghani Hikmat, and artist-intellectual, Shakir Hassan Al Said. His designs relied on abstracting the concepts and elements of traditional buildings, and reconstructing them in contemporary forms.[9] However, Chadirji's critics have pointed out that although Chadirji was sympathetic to the group's aims, he was essentially a modernist at heart.[10]

Chadirji's early works were primarily reconstructions of old buildings. In 1959, he was commissioned to construct a major public monument, The Monument to the Unknown Soldier, which was later destroyed by Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist government, and replaced with a statue of Hussein himself. Chadirji's monument, centrally located in Baghdad's Ferdous Square, referenced Iraq's tradition, the monument evoked the parabolic arch from the Sassanid Palace, Ctesiphon. Described as a simple, symbolic, modernist structure,[11] sketches of the design concept found at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad, reveal the inspiration for the design which represents a mother bending over to pick up her martyred child.[12]

Chadirji would continue to use ancient Iraqi motifs in his building designs.[13] His works, such as the Hussain Jamil Residence (1953), Tobacco Warehouse (1965), the Rafiq Residence (1965) and the Central Post Office (1975), are informed by Iraqi practices of temperature control - natural ventilation, courtyards, screen walls and reflected light. He also employed the architectural language of arches and monolithic piers that remind visitors of ancient Iraqi architectural history. Although, his designs often used vernacular elements, he often abstracted them and incorporated them in new forms. At times, he relied on traditional exteriors, but designed European interiors.[14]

In 1978, Chadirji was jailed for life for unfounded charges during the Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr presidency.[15] However, after serving almost two years in the Abu Ghraib prison, he was released when Saddam Hussein assumed power. Saddam wanted Iraq's best architect to oversee the preparations for an international conference to be held in Baghdad in 1983 and to assist with general plans to give Baghdad a facelift.[16] He became Hussein's architectural consultant for Baghdad City Planning, for the period, 1982–1983.[17] While imprisoned, he wrote a book on architecture, Al Ukhaidir and the Crystal Palace, using materials that his wife had smuggled into Abu Ghraib.[18] The book has been described as a "seminal work" on the subject of Iraq's architecture.[19]

In the 1980s, Chadirji became Councillor to the Mayor, a role that found him overseeing all the reconstruction projects in Baghdad.[20] He left Iraq in 1983 in order to take up an academic position at Harvard University. Some years later, on his return to Baghdad, he was saddened by the deterioration in the city. He and his wife decided to leave Iraq permanently and they settled in London, where he continued to live.[16]

Along with his father, Chadirji photographically documented much of Baghdad and the larger region of Iraq and Syria They feared the regional architecture and monuments would be lost to new development associated with the oil boom.[20] In 1995, he published a book of his father's precious photographs.[21] His father's position as a politician gave him access to many people and places that may have been difficult for other photographers.

In an interview with Ricardo Karam, Chadirji talked about his atheism; after studying philosophy with his wife, he came to the understanding that religions originated from magic. He also said that he respected all religions, and asked after his death that prayers not be offered for him, and that his body be cremated.[22]

DeathEdit

Chadirji died from COVID-19 in London on 10 April 2020, at the age of 93.[23][24] The Iraqi prime minister designate Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and the Iraqi president Barham Salih both paid their tributes.[1]

WorkEdit

Although Chadirji designed many residences, he is most noted for his public works, including both buildings and monuments. His Monument to the Unknown Soldier (1959), described as a simple, symbolic, modernist structure, was removed from al-Fardous Square to make way for a statue of Sadam Hussein in the early 1980s. The replacement statue was infamously toppled on 9 April 2003 in full view of the world, as global media filmed and photographed the destruction.[11]

Site Location Country
Central Post Office (1975)[25] Baghdad Iraq
Hamood Villa (1972)[26] Baghdad Iraq
National Insurance Company[27] Mosul Iraq
Offices and Tobacco Warehouses (1965)[25] Baghdad Iraq
The Monument to the Unknown Soldier (erected 1959: replaced 1983)[13] Baghdad Iraq
Rafiq Residence (1965)[28] Baghdad Iraq

Associated publicationsEdit

Chadirji's publications are primarily in Arabic and include:

  • al-Ukhaidir and the Crystal Palace (1991)
  • A Dialogue on the Structure of Art and Architecture (1995).[29]
  • Regenerative approaches to mosque design-competition to State Mosque, Baghdad. In Mimar 1984,11 page 44-63 ISSN 0129-8372.
  • Concepts & Influences: Towards a Regionalized International Architecture, 1987.ISBN no. 0-7103-0180-4.
  • Internationalised Tradition in Architecture, 1988. ISBN no. 1-85035-146-5.[30]
Author Title Year
Chadirji, Rifat Introduction to Urban Design and Architecture in Lebanon 2004
Chadirji, Rifat Medina Interviews Architect 1999
Chadirji, Rifat The Photographs of Kamil Chadirji 1995
Khan, Hasan-Uddin Regional Modernism: Rifat Chadirji's Portfolio of Etchings 1984
Chadirji, Rifat Concepts and Influences:Towards a Regional International Architecture, 1952-1978 1986[31]

[27]

AwardsEdit

  • 1964: Bronze Medal, Barcelona Furniture Design[32]
  • 1986: Chairman's Award of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture[30][33]
  • 2008: Sheikh Zayed’ Book Award, 2008[34]
  • 2015: Honorary PhD from Coventry University[35]
  • 2015: Lifetime Achievement Award from Tamayouz Excellence Award [36]

LegacyEdit

In 2017, the Rifat Chadirji Prize was created to recognise local architects who are involved in rebuilding parts of Iraq that had been destroyed. The prize is awarded under the umbrella of the Tamayouz Award for Excellence.[37][38]

In the same year, he also donated his architectural archive[39] and the photographic archives of his father, Kamil Chadirji, to the Aga Khan Documentation Center, MIT Libraries. Selections from both collections are being made available on Archnet.org.[40]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Prominent Iraqi architect Rifat Chadirji dies in London aged 94". The National. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  2. ^ Alsammarae, R., "MEA sits down with Rifat Chadirji, the father of Iraqi architecture," Design Mena, [Middle Eastern Architectural Website], 14 November 2017, Online:
  3. ^ "The Kamil and Rifat Chadirji Photographic Archive comes to the Aga Khan Documentation Center," MIT Library, Online:
  4. ^ Pieri, C., " Modernity and its Posts in constructing an Arab capital: Baghdad’s Urban Space and Architecture, Context and Questions," Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, The Middle East Studies Association, 2009, Vol. 42, No. 1-2, pp 32-39
  5. ^ Sennott, R.S. (ed), Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Architecture, Taylor & Francis, 2004, p. 435
  6. ^ Cited in Pieri, C., "Modernity and Its Posts in constructing an Arab capital: Baghdad's urban space and architecture, context and questions", Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, The Middle East Studies Association of North, 2009, Vol. 42, No. 1–2, pp. 32–39, <halshs-00941172>
  7. ^ Pieri, C., "Baghdad 1921–1958. Reflections on History as a ”strategy of vigilance”," Mona Deeb, World Congress for Middle-Eastern Studies, Jun 2005, Amman, Jordan, Al-Nashra, vol. 8, no 1-2, pp.69-93, 2006; Al-Khalil, S. and Makiya, K., The Monument: Art, Vulgarity, and Responsibility in Iraq, University of California Press, 1991, p. 80; Al-Khalil, S. and Makiya, K., The Monument: Art, Vulgarity, and Responsibility in Iraq, University of California Press, 1991, pp 80-81
  8. ^ Bernhardsson, M.T., "Visions of the Past: Modernizing the Past in 1950s Baghdad," in Sandy Isenstadt and Kishwar Rizvi, Modernism and the Middle East: Architecture and Politics in the Twentieth Century," University of Washington Press, 2008, pp 91-92
  9. ^ Elsheshtawy, T., Planning Middle Eastern Cities: An Urban Kaleidoscope,Routledge, 2004, p. 72
  10. ^ Al-Khalil, S. and Makiya, K., The Monument: Art, Vulgarity, and Responsibility in Iraq, University of California Press, 1991, p. 95; It may be worth noting that one of the authors of this work, K. Makiya was the son of prominent Iraqi architect, Mohammed Makiya, of whom Chadirji had been highly critical.
  11. ^ a b King, E.A. and Levin, G., Ethics and the Visual Arts, Skyhorse Publishing, 2010, p. 105
  12. ^ Younis, A., "Monuments (by) Architects (for) Governments," Di'van, December 2016, pp 78-87; "Before Monument to the Unknown Soldier (1980-) there was the Unknown Soldier Monument (1961-1982)," Isqeena Magazine, 25 August 2013, Online:
  13. ^ a b Bernhardsson, M.T., "Visions of the Past: Modernizing the Past in 1950s Baghdad," in Sandy Isenstadt and Kishwar Rizvi, Modernism and the Middle East: Architecture and Politics in the Twentieth Century," University of Washington Press, 2008, p.92
  14. ^ Elsheshtawy, Y., Planning Middle Eastern Cities: An Urban Kaleidoscope, Routledge, 2004, pp 72-74
  15. ^ Chadirji, Rifat; Sharara, Balkis (2004). Jidar Bayn Dhulmatain (A Wall Between Two Darknesses). Beirut and London: Dar al-Saqi. ISBN 1-85516-760-3.
  16. ^ a b Alsammarae, R., "MEA sits down with Rifat Chadirji, the father of Iraqi architecture," Design Mena, [Middle Eastern Architectural Website], 14 November 2017, Online:
  17. ^ Elsheshtawy, T., Planning Middle Eastern Cities: An Urban Kaleidoscope,Routledge, 2004, p. 72; Davis, E., Memories of State: Politics, History, and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq, p. 305
  18. ^ Younis, A., "Monuments (by) Architects (for) Governments," Di'van, December 2016, p. 86
  19. ^ Younis, A., "Unravelling Baghdad: Ala Younis’ new installation Plan (fem.) for a Greater Baghdad at the Delfina Foundation," Ruya Foundation, March 2018 Online:; Younis, A., "Monuments (by) Architects (for) Governments," Di'van, December 2016, p. 86; "The Arab Center for Architecture (ACA): Interview with George Arbid," Middle East Digest, 29 September 2015 Online:
  20. ^ a b Al-Khalil, S. and Makiya, K., The Monument: Art, Vulgarity, and Responsibility in Iraq, University of California Press, 1991, p. 95
  21. ^ Chadirji, R., The Photographs of Kamil Chadirji: Social Life in the Middle East, 1920-1940, London, I.B. Tauris, 1995
  22. ^ "Rifat Chadirgi | عراقيون - مقابلة مع رفعت الجادرجي". Retrieved 12 April 2020 – via www.youtube.com.
  23. ^ "Iraqi architect Rifat Chadirji dies of COVID-19". MEO. 11 April 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  24. ^ "وفاة المعماري العراقي رفعة الجادرجي". baghdadtoday.news. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  25. ^ a b Elsheshtawy, Y. (ed.), Planning Middle Eastern Cities: An Urban Kaleidoscope, Routledge, 2004, p. 72
  26. ^ Frampton, K. and Khan, H-U. (eds), World Architecture 1900-2000: The Middle East, Vol. 5, Armenian Research Center, 2000, [World Architecture Series], p. xxx
  27. ^ a b "Rifat Chadirji". Archnet. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  28. ^ Hagan, S., Taking Shape: A New Contract Between Architecture and Nature, Routledge, 2007, p. 124
  29. ^ http://www.csbe.org/avisors2.htm, The Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE)
  30. ^ a b Rifat Chadirji at archINFORM
  31. ^ "Rifat Chadirji Architect, Iraq". architectural-world. May 2005. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  32. ^ Sennott, R.S., Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Architecture, Taylor & Francis, 2004, p. 438
  33. ^ Sennott, R.S., Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Architecture, Taylor & Francis, 2004, p. 46
  34. ^ Zayed Award, List of Recipients Online:
  35. ^ Coventry University, List of Honorary Graduates, Online:
  36. ^ "Rifat Chadirji receives the 2015 Tamayouz Architectural Lifetime Achievement Award". Tamayouz Excellence Award. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  37. ^ Business Council of Iraq, "The Rifat Chadirji Prize, 2017: Rebuilding Iraq's Liberated Areas, Iraqi Business Council, 2017 Online:
  38. ^ "Rifat Chadirji Receives Tamayouz Lifetime Achievement Award in Architecture". TAMAYOUZ EXCELLENCE AWARD. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  39. ^ Smith, Sharon (7 January 2017). "Pioneering Iraqi architect Rifat Chadirji donates archive to AKDC". Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  40. ^ Smith, Sharon (11 December 2017). "The Kamil and Rifat Chadirji Photographic Archive comes to the Aga Khan Documentation Center". Aga Khan Documentation Center, MIT Libraries. Retrieved 11 April 2020.