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Beliefs and ideologies

In 1952, while still a student and unhappy with the lack of appropriate models to inspire his designs, Chadirji started developing his own ideas and concepts that would characterise his later work. He firmly believed that his homeland, Iraq, should have its own authentic regional modern style to which future generations of architects would make their own contributions (Khan, 1984:17). He was quite selective; very few architectural styles impressed him enough to become inspirational elements for his work. Nevertheless, he still respected Bauhaus principles that his emerging architectural style sometimes combined with other types of art such as painting or sculpture. He also supported post-modernist architects who opposed the dominance of functional steel and glass structures (Chadirji, 1989). Indeed, he spent much of his entire career trying to merge and fuse the culture and traditions of extant Iraqi-Arab architecture with the functionality and requirements of modern technology (El-Shorbagy, 2011). He also applied elements of abstraction in traditional forms; this approach generated monumentality in his design ideas, rather than scale. Strictly rejecting copying the past, he instead opted to synthesise and translate traditional architectural languages into functional contemporary urban expressions. In his work, Chadirji managed to avoid an eclectic pastiche, instead, with clarity of vision, he aimed to create a technically progressive architecture that preserved local culture while at the same time recognised and responded to contemporary social needs.

Chadirji had a deep appreciation for the Islamic heritage of Iraq and as such he was both a proponent and agent of an architectural style that embraced authentic regionalism (Serageldin, 1989). For Chadirji ignoring modern technology was the equivalent of delaying progress; he advocated the use of the new building technology as key to improving and sustaining regional socio-economic development. However, this acceptance and promotion of new technologies led to the introduction of materials alien to the Iraqi cultural and traditional context. In order to remedy this, he recommended the creation and development of location-specific environmental and cultural architectural solutions. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, extensive research and conceptual designs coupled with nostalgia for traditional forms led Chadirji to develop his characteristic signature fusion of past and present: the principles of regional modernism or regionalised international style (Khan, 1984:18). Intent on reviving the past and incorporating the modern, Chadirji created his own design vocabulary and forms; this excluded excessive decorative elements. However, he was able to skilfully combine and reiterate these forms, creating playful, vibrant arrangements that differed according to the character, function, and monumentality of each building. From 1965 onwards the use of the semi-circular arch became a signature style in many of his designs (Chadirji, 1989). Another ubiquitous element was the use of curvature in walls that, despite their arbitrary appearance, were calculated according to strict geometric rules.

Despite the abstraction process, Chadirji, in his designs, used regionalised forms in the context of Arabo-Islamic countries and cultures. His designs and details are characterised by informality due to the juxtaposition of diverse forms in varying sizes and of different origins. This approach is evident in the use of different-sized arches or different thicknesses in columns, thus resulting in the creation of facades as regional novelty. According to Chadirji himself the fulfilment of social needs is not limited to function and materials, but also includes catering to the spiritual and emotional requirements of society (Chadirji, 1989). Thus, social technology involves making use of available materials, including their production process with all its implications.

The main focus of Chadirji’s work was to bring together the needs of modern technology and cultural aesthetics (Al-Faqih, 1989). This meant merging Islamic cultural heritage with the international architectural principles of the 20th century, in keeping with international avant-garde principles (Pieri, 2009). Chadirji strongly believed that one should turn to the past, not for mere replication, but for lessons that could be adapted and applied to contemporary and future architecture. He abhorred representations of indifferent international architecture; he wanted his designs to be meaningful, functional, and culturally relevant. By looking at the forms and icons of the past and finding renewed inspiration in tradition, Chadirji was able to move forward to create new architectural principles which surpassed modern architectural language. To this end, Chadirji’s designs reflected international contemporary concepts and technology combined with a regional and identifiable character that strongly resonated with the Iraqi people. Taking inspiration from young avant-garde Iraqi architects of the 1950s, known as the Modern Baghdad Group, his clever and pertinent fusion of architecture and technology was highly appreciated at city and national levels (Pieri, 2009).

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