Dialogue Between Two Shores

Two sounds that speak the harmony of human art. The event was a live dialogue between two musicians from two sides of the Mediterranean Sea. It was celebrated in Casa Árabe of Madrid, an institution that seeks to spread knowledge of Arab and Muslim realities in the European and western context, and vice versa. It aims to create an arena of mutual knowledge and shared opinions, a meeting point. The concert was celebrated on the European day of music in June 21 2010, as part of the program of Casa Árabe of Madrid for the Week of Iraq.

The two artists participating in this event were the Iraqi renowned oud player Naseer Shamma and the Spanish guitar player Carlos Piñana.

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Aga Khan Architecture Award

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is given every three years to projects that set new standards of excellence in architecture, planning practices, historic preservation and landscape architecture. Through its efforts, the Award seeks to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of societies across the world, in which Muslims have a significant presence.

The selection process emphasizes architecture that not only provides for people’s physical, social and economic needs, but that also stimulates and responds to their cultural expectations. Particular attention is given to building schemes that use local resources and appropriate technology in innovative ways, and to projects likely to inspire similar efforts elsewhere.

The Award is governed by a steering committee chaired by His Highness the Aga Khan. A new committee is constituted each cycle to establish the eligibility criteria for project submissions, provide thematic direction in response to emerging priorities and issues, and to develop plans for the future of the Award. The steering committee is responsible for the selection and appointment of the master jury for each Award cycle, and for the Award’s programme of international seminars, lectures, exhibitions and publications.

The twelfth triennial cycle of the Award runs from 2011-2013. The current prize fund totals US$ 500,000 and is presented to projects selected by an independent master jury. The Award has completed eleven cycles of activity since 1977, and documentation has been compiled on over 8,000 building projects throughout the world. To date, the master juries have selected 105 projects to receive the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The award recipients for the 2010 cycle were the Bridge School in China, Ipekyol Textile Factory in Turkey, Madinat al Zahra Museum in Spain, Revitalisation of the Recent Heritage of Tunis , Tunisia and Wadi Hanifa Wetlands in Saudi Arabia.

The Madinat al Zahra Museum in Cordoba, Spain is one of these interesting projects that draws the attention to its design solutions. It sets an example of the integrations of a contemporary building in a historical site. Well integrated and inspired by the old city ruins, the project reinterprets the spatial feelings of the old city of Al-Zahra. The museum was designed by the Madrid based architecture firm Nieto Sobejano.

The tenth-century palace city of Madinat al-Zahra, a recipient of the 2010 Award for Architecture, is widely considered to be one of the most significant early Islamic archaeological sites in the world, and the most extensive in Western Europe. Excavations at the site are still ongoing. The museum was conceived as a place to interpret the site and display the archaeological findings, as well as to serve as a training and research centre and the headquarters of the archaeological team.

A refined and subtle design by the architectural firm Nieto Sobejano, the museum complex blends seamlessly into the site and the surrounding farmland – a series of rectangles composed of walls, patios and plantings which, taken together, seem more like a landscape than a building. The architects took the ground plans of three excavated buildings as a starting point, as though the museum had been waiting to be revealed from the ground. Visitors are guided through a sequence of covered spaces and voids. The main public functions are arranged in a cloister around a broad patio, a form found at the archaeological site and in the old town of Cordoba. Two more courtyards define the research centre and the external exhibition area respectively. A restricted pallet of materials and simple details, with walls of poured concrete, interior walls clad in iroko wood, and limestone paving for the courtyards, are intended to evoke the rough retaining walls and temporary structures of an archaeological site.


TEDxBaghdad 2011

“Good times for a change” said Mr. Morrissey, a sentence that perfectly fits what in these later times is happening within the Arab World. Some months ago, the Arab Spring, and now, after years of continuous disaster and more than four decades of brain-drain, Baghdad “makes the impossible, possible” and brings back its deeply rooted cultural talent thanks to TEDxBaghdad. This international conference aims to create an environment to nourishing ideas while providing a stage for focussing the attention they are worth of. Next November 12, Baghdad will be the international center for spreading ideas, promoting Iraqi talents, enhancing the image of Iraq. There will be the opportunity to get inspired by some stories of people overcoming adversity through their personal commitment with human beings and social development.

The Speakers program includes some of the best Iraqi talents, representatives of several disciplines such as: architecture, medicine, visual arts, civic rights, heritage, film, music, philanthropy or sustainability. Do not miss the opportunity of listening the Iraqi musicians Naseer Shamma and Kadim Al-Sahir, the architects Manhal Al-Habbobi and Ihsan Fethi, in additon to the activists Azzam Alwash for environment, Wisam Al-Tuwaijri for autism, and Suroor Yousif, who will speak about equal opportunities for blinded people. There will be also the opportunity to share experiences with people of the arts, such as Mohamed Al-Daradji, director of the acclaimed movie Son of Babylon; Maysa Ibrahim, founder of The Young  Mesopotamians providing gifted individuals in Iraq with unmatched educational opportunities; and the art educator Rawa Naimi, President of Enki Organization for Arts, which provides education and support to vulnerable groups including Iraq’s numerous orphans, widows and those with special needs.

Besides, there will be some presence for health care and philantropy with Inaam Jawad, founder of Dina Lodging Institute, an organization that houses over sixty physically or mentally disabled children and adults. Also, Dr. Ali Majid will share his experience as a plastic surgeon and finally, the philanthropist Jeremy Courtney who will share his experiences as founder of Preemptive Love Coalition, an organization training local heart surgeons and nurses until they can eradicate the 30,000+ backlog of children waiting in line for lifesaving surgery.

The lectures will be accompanied by some selected short speechs by applicants who wanted to share and promote an idea for Iraq’s development. You can find all the application videos available in this YouTube channel. Finally, our best wishes for احمد عبد الكريم, with his project “Lost&Found”, really what Baghdad needs: finding itself after the loss.

For those who will not be able to attend TEDxBaghdad onsite, you will be able to follow it live through streaming and participate in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.


Words of wisdom

It is said that a picture is worth one thousand words, but when the picture is made by words we find the excellent art of calligraphy, a millenary tradition in the Arab World. Here, we share a small taste of what could be seen at the exhitibion “Libertad e innovación. Caligrafía árabe contemporánea” (Freedom and innovation. Contemporary Arab Calligraphy), hosted in Casa Árabe (Arab House) Madrid in from November, 2010 to March 2011. The exhibition – curated by professor José Miguel Puerta Vílchez– presented the work of five modern Arab artists devoted to calligraphy and benefiting the international acknowledgement due to the artistic beauty and contents of their innovative creations: the Iraqi Hassan Massoudy, the Syrians Munir al-Shaarani and Jalid al-Saai, the Jordanian Rima Farah, and the Tunisian Nja Mahdaoui.

But no more words. Just enjoy!


Where the Hell Are the Arabs?

Yabani ©DW5 Bernard Khoury

Yabani ©DW5 Bernard Khoury

“Where the hell are the Arabs?” This is the title of Bernard Khoury‘s next lecture at The Architectural League of New York, that will be introduced and moderated by the architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff.

Where the hell are the Arabs, Mr. Khoury? Here we are! نحن هنا