VENICE, Italy (AP) – The United Nations Culture Agency has opened an exhibition detailing plans to restore multicultural landmarks in the Iraqi city of Mosul. This underscores the role of architecture in wound healing.
The exhibition “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” is on the sidelines of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, which opened on Saturday after a year-long delay in the pandemic under the title “How will we live together?”
The central question of the Venice Biennale is particularly resonating in Iraq, which is experiencing turbulent change, and in the old town of Mosul, where 80% of the city’s monuments were destroyed during the 36-month occupation of the city by the Islamic state group.
Iraq is one of three countries taking part in the Biennale for the first time. An exhibition by Rashad Salim entitled “Ark Re-Imagined” is an artistic investigation into the effects of the great flood in ancient Mesopotamia.
The UNESCO exhibition in the Zorzi Palace, which is home to the agency’s regional offices, unveils the winning project to restore the Al-Nouri Mosque, built in the 12th century and once famous for its sliding minaret. IS leader Abut Bakr al-Baghdadi declared an Islamic caliphate out of the mosque in 2014, and IS extremists blew it up when the Iraqi forces shut down in 2017.
“Healing wounds means rebuilding the city and its historical structure. It also means reviving the spirit of Mosul through heritage, culture and education, ”said Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, in a speech opening the exhibition on Friday. “The spirit of Mosul is primarily reflected in the diversity of its communities, which have lived together peacefully for centuries.”
Last month, an international jury selected a project by Egyptian architects, led by Salah El Din Samir Hareedy, to rebuild the mosque. This is part of a UNESCO project that will also rebuild the Al-Habda minaret and the Al-Tahera and Al-Saa’a churches.
The new Al-Nouri Mosque will be almost identical to the old one to the casual eye, while the prayer hall will have more natural light and enlarged areas for women and VIPs. The winning project also aims to strengthen the role of the mosque’s central courtyard as the urban center of the old town.
Work to stabilize the sites began in 2020. The local communities have a preference for restoring the Al-Habda minaret as indicated before the IS occupation, UNESCO officials said, while the designs for the two churches have not yet been selected were.
UNESCO’s $ 50 million project to revitalize Mosul was announced in 2018 and is funded by the United Arab Emirates. It also aims to revive the cultural life and diversity of a city that has been a commercial, intellectual and cultural hub for millennia. With the support of the European Union, UNESCO is also renovating historic houses in the old town.
Sign up for our Kicks & Entertainment newsletter!
Get the latest local entertainment news, restaurant reviews and more straight to your inbox every Thursday.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in any way without permission.