Genius versus Expertise. Frank Lloyd Wright and The Architects Collaborative at the University of Baghdad
Keywords:Frank Lloyd Wright, The Architects Collaborative, Walter Gropius, Iraq, Baghdad
The growing involvement of U.S. architects in the post-oil expansion of Gulf cities after World War II corresponded to an expanding terrain of geopolitical and economic exchanges through which these firms competed for commissions. A revealing comparison of these dynamics of professional and cultural exchange can be found in the conjunction of parallel projects by U.S. architects for an Iraqi national university in Baghdad: the University of Baghdad, designed by The Architects Collaborative (TAC) and associated in particular with Walter Gropius as the firm’s senior partner, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Plan for Greater Baghdad (1957), a larger cultural complex for the city, which included a university on the same peninsula where TAC received its commission in the same year. The presence of two university projects on the same site pitted two paradigmatic examples of U.S. postwar practice against each other: the self-styled genius persona of Wright against the collective body represented by TAC. While Wright’s scheme offered a personal appeal to the Iraqi monarch, Faisal II, and the mythologization of his rule through a symbolic cultural landscape of historical references, TAC’s University project constituted a demonstration of expertise within the developmental framework of foreign technical assistance by U.S. firms. The historiographic emphasis on singular authorship and the interpretation of each project only relative to their respective authors’ creative œuvres has reinforced the lack of a direct comparison of the two schemes. Understood within a framework of competition between two modes of U.S. architectural practice in Iraq, however, a comparison of TAC and Wright’s competing engagements in Baghdad reveals their architects’ differing political and social affiliations, as well as their opposing interpretations of Iraq’s cultural heritage and postwar modernization, and of the concepts of internationalism, technical assistance, and expert practice in relation to national development.
Letter from Walter Gropius to Nizar A. Jawdat, 1 December 1948. Harvard University, Houghton f 2013M-29.
Letter from Walter Gropius to Ellen and Nizar Ali Jawdat, 13 April 1954. Harvard University, Houghton f 2013M-29.
Letter from Ise Gropius to Nizar Ali Jawdat, 26 May 1954. Harvard University, Houghton f 2013M-29.
Letter from David D. Newsom to Walter Gropius, 18 June 1954. Bauhaus Archiv, GN Kiste Nr. 3, Mappe 123.
Letter from Ise Gropius to Ellen Jawdat, 29 July 1954. Harvard University, Houghton f 2013M-29.
Guest list for lunch at U.S. Embassy, Baghdad, n.d. [c. August 1954] Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Ger 208, folder 956.
Letter from Walter Gropius to Nizar and Ellen Jawdat, 9 September 1954. Harvard University, Houghton f 2013M-29.
Letter from Ellen Jawdat to Walter Gropius, 3 October 1954. Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Ger 208, folder 956.
Letter from Ellen Jawdat to Walter and Ise Gropius, n.d. [c. 1955]. Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Ger 208, folder 956.
Letter from Walter Gropius to Nizar and Ellen Jawdat, 20 September 1957. Harvard University, Houghton f 2013M-29.
Letter from Kahtan Hassan Fahmi Al-Madfai to Ellen Jawdat, 29 September, 1957. Private collection of Ellen Jawdat, Washington, D.C.
Letter from Ise Gropius to Ellen Jawdat, 27 October 1957. Harvard University, Houghton f 2013M-29.
Letter from Walter Gropius to Nizar and Ellen Jawdat. 21 November 1957. Harvard University, Houghton f 2013M-29.
Letter from Robert S. McMillan to Nizar Ali Jawdat, 12 December 1957. Harvard University, Houghton f 2013M-29.
Letter from Walter Gropius to Nizar and Ellen Jawdat, 3 April 1958. Harvard University, Houghton f 2013M-29.
Letter from Nizar Ali Jawdat to Walter and Ise Gropius, 4 October 1958. Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Ger 208, folder 956.
Nizar Ali Jawdat and Ellen Jawdat, Curriculum vitae, after 1986. Private collection of Ellen Jawdat, Washington, D.C.
Typescript of essay and information sheet written by Ellen Jawdat, n.d. Private collection of Ellen Jawdat, Washington, D.C.
An Introduction to the Past and Present of the Kingdom of Iraq. Baltimore, MD: Lord of Baltimore Press, 1946.
Batatu, Hanna. The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq: A Study of Iraq’s Old Landed and Commercial Classes and of its Communists, Ba’thists, and Free Officers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978.
Erdim, Burak. Landed Internationals: Planning Cultures, the Academy, and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2020.
Fulton, Ruth Coan, ed. Coan Genealogy 1697–1982. Portsmouth, NH: Peter E. Randall, Publisher, 1983.
Gropius, Walter. “Gropius Appraises Today’s Architect.” Architectural Forum (May 1952): 111–182.
———. “Program of the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar” . Translated in Ulrich Conrads, Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-Century Architecture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1964: 49–53.
Jawdat, Ellen. “The New Architecture in Iraq.” Architectural Design (March 1957): 79–80.
Kubo, Michael. “‘Companies of Scholars’: The Architects Collaborative, Walter Gropius, and the Politics of Expertise at the University of Baghdad,” in Ines Weizman (ed.), Dust & Data: Traces of the Bauhaus Across 100 Years 1919-2019, (Leipzig: Spector Books, 2019): 496–515.
Levine, Neil. The Urbanism of Frank Lloyd Wright. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.
Marefat, Mina. “Le Corbusier in Baghdad.” Brownbook, No. 55 (January-February 2016). Accessed April 17, 2016. http://brownbook.me/le-corbusier-in-baghdad/.
———. “Mise au Point for Le Corbusier’s Baghdad Stadium.” Docomomo, No. 41 (September 2009): 30–40.
———, Caecilia Pieri and Gilles Ragot. Le Gymnase de Le Corbusier à Bagdad. Paris: Editions du Patrimoine, 2014.
Marr, Phebe. The Modern History of Iraq. 3rd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012.
Mather, Robert. “A New Program at Baghdad.” AIA Journal (December 1965): 57–60.
McMahon, Darrin. Divine Fury: A History of Genius. New York: Basic Books, 2013.
McMillan, Robert S. “Visual Problems in Town Planning: The ‘University Town’ at Baghdad.” The New Metropolis in the Arab World. Cairo: Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Egyptian Society of Engineers, December 17-22, 1960: CAI/15, 3.
Neumeyer, Fritz. The Artless Word: Mies van der Rohe on the Building Art. Translated by Mark Jarzombek. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991.
“New Lights for Aladdin.” Time Magazine, Vol. 71, No. 20 (19 May 1958): 82.
“Nizar Ali Jawdat.” Obituary. The Washington Post, 29 January 2017. Accessed June 11, 2017. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?pid=183773232.
“Out of the Heat.” Time Magazine, Vol. 70, No. 1 (1 July 1957): 26.
Pfeiffer, Brooks, ed. Frank Lloyd Wright: His Living Voice. Fresno: The Press at California State University, 1987.
Pieri, Caecilia. “The Le Corbusier Gymnasium in Baghdad: discovery of construction archives. 1974–1980.” Les Carnets de l’Ifpo. La recherche en train de se faire à l’Institut français du Proche-Orient (Hypotheses.org), (May 31, 2012). Accessed January 26, 2013. http://ifpo.hypotheses.org/3560.
Polk, William R. What the Arabs Think. New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1952.
Rugh, William A. Arab Mass Media: Newspapers, Radio, and Television in Arab Politics. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2004.
Salter, Lord [Arthur]. The Development of Iraq: A Plan of Action. Baghdad: Iraq Development Board, 1955.
Simon, Reeva S. Iraq Between the Two World Wars: The Creation and Implementation of a Nationalist Ideology. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986.
Squire, Raglan. “Architecture in the Middle East.” Architectural Design (March 1957): 72–108.
The Architects Collaborative. Report on the University of Baghdad Designed by The Architects Collaborative, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A, c. January 1959.
The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Iraq Country Reader, 2011. Accessed June 30, 2013. https://adst.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Iraq.pdf.
Uthman, Fuad A. “Exporting Architectural Education to the Arab World.” Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 31, No. 3 (February 1978): 26–30.
Wiens, Henry. “The United States Operations Mission in Iraq.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 323 (May 1959): 140–149.
Wright, Frank Lloyd. Genius and the Mobocracy. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1949.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Michael Kubo
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.