Le Corbusier's Baghdad Sports Complex Revealed
"Although the scheme was in development for a whole eight years between 1957 and 1964, it found no place in the Complete Works. There were in fact two versions of the project as it was switched to a less congested site on the far side of the Tigris in 1961. The first version featured in Le Corbusier's book, Creation is a Patient Search, but the V&A show is the first time the definitive scheme has been properly available for scrutiny."
"The project belongs to a brief period when Iraq's King Faisal II was endeavouring to reinvent Baghdad with buildings by the pantheon of modern movement greats. Walter Gropius designed the university in a preposterously bombastic quasi-Islamic manner. More happily, Josep Lluís Sert built the US Embassy and Gio Ponti contributed the Ministry of Industrial Development - although both have been badly damaged in the recent conflicts. This period of adventurous patronage proved as short-lived as Faisal himself, who was assassinated in 1958. The monarchy overthrown, the regime that replaced it shelved a host of projects, among them schemes by Alvar Aalto and Frank Lloyd Wright."
"Le Corbusier's scheme was originally commissioned in support of Baghdad's bid to host the 1960 Olympics. It survived the failure of that initiative and Faisal's overthrow. In fact a full set of construction drawings was prepared, but the scheme ran into financial difficulties. It was postponed pending modification but Le Corbusier's death in 1965 effectively finished it off, save for the gymnasium, which was realised in 1981 in a somewhat bastardised form. It was named after Saddam Hussein, and remains so today."
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