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I’ve recently published a paper in the Journal of Architecture entitled, ‘The architecture of the British Mandate in Iraq: nation-building and state creation’. You can read the full article here [http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13602365.2016.1179662 ], and the abstract is below…

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Watercolour perspective of King Feisal’s Palace, Baghdad, designed by J. M. Wilson, courtesy of Wilson Mason LLP.

This paper seeks to examine and contextualise the architecture and infrastructure projects developed by the British during the occupation of Iraq in the First World War and the Mandate period that immediately followed. Relying heavily on military-political events for its structure and underlying narrative, the paper demonstrates how architecture, planning and ‘development’ were integral to the act of creating the new state and were very much part of the colonisers’ vision to create a nation in their own image. Works were deployed to imbue a sense of collective belonging and national identity through the creation of new town plans, as well as through institutions such as museums and universities. A certain dissonance emerges between the infrastructure and prestige projects, with the latter presenting an imagined and fabricated notion of Iraqi history, blended with a grandiose colonial style imported from India, and designed predominantly by James M. Wilson. The infrastructure projects began with sanitation improvements, road and rail installation, and expansion of the Basra docklands to attract international shipping and for the export of oil. Further building projects undertaken by the Public Works Department included a large number of administrative buildings called serais.

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Watercolour perspective of Basra Airport, designed by J. M. Wilson, courtesy of Wilson Mason LLP.

Built at strategic locations, they were deployed as multi-functional centres for justice, taxation and land registration as well as places where local devolved empowerment was instigated. Iraqi architecture from this period has been largely overlooked in the emerging global histories of architecture, yet it offers an important view of the quandaries that faced late British colonial architecture in its attempts to respond to, and reflect changing and hostile political conditions.
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