Genius versus Expertise. Frank Lloyd Wright and The Architects Collaborative at the University of Baghdad

Authors

  • Michael Kubo University of Houston https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4597-3071

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.2611-0075/12154

Keywords:

Frank Lloyd Wright, The Architects Collaborative, Walter Gropius, Iraq, Baghdad

Abstract

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appeal to the Iraqi monarch, Faisal II, and the mythologization of his rule through a symbolic cultural landscape of historical references, TAC’s University project constituted a demonstration of expertise within the developmental framework of foreign technical assistance by U.S. firms.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.

References

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Published

2022-03-21

How to Cite

Kubo, M. (2021). Genius versus Expertise. Frank Lloyd Wright and The Architects Collaborative at the University of Baghdad. Histories of Postwar Architecture, 5(8), 14–42. https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.2611-0075/12154