The Master Plans of Baghdad: Notes on GIS-Based Spatial History

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In 1967 the state planning office Miastoprojekt Krakow from socialist Poland delivered the master plan of Baghdad which, together with its amendment that followed in 1973, provided the legal framework for the development of the Iraqi capital during the oil-boom era. With the 1973 plan about to be replaced by a new one, a graduate seminar Mapping Baghdad 1956-2016 at the Manchester School of Architecture looked back at the fifty years of history of Miastoprojekt’s plans for Baghdad, their guiding ideas, and their impact on the development of the city. In collaboration with scholars from Baghdad University and the Institut français du Proche-Orient, we have used Geographic Information System (GIS) with archival planning documents and maps collected during my long-term research project about the flows of architectural expertise between socialist countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and West Africa in the cold war. The following article documents this experience of working with GIS systems with heterogeneous and ambiguous data; and shares some findings of the seminar. In particular, GIS-based research allowed us to clarify the planning approach that informed the master plans; to identify the extent to which they guided the development of housing, green spaces, transportation systems, and heritage preservation in Baghdad from the 1960s to the 1980s; and to speculate about their effects on architectural culture in Iraq.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2017


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