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​Finding solutions for Mosul: 3D printers, homes built from rubble & farming bridges

, Art & Design

Mosul is facing a dire housing crisis as hundreds of thousands are expected to return to the war-ravaged city which was liberated in July.


An architectural competition to design prototypes for affordable housing for the Iraqi city of Mosul, which was liberated from the Islamic State terrorist group in July and where many neighborhoods still lie in ruins, offers a variety of original solutions for the war-ravaged city.

The winner of the inaugural Rifat Chadirji Prize, a project by Ania Otlik, is inspired by vernacular Iraqi architecture and allows refugees to settle on their own and design their houses according to their needs.

"The shape of the housing is completely up to the inhabitants," Otlik, a graduate of Wroclaw University of Science and Technology in Poland, told Reuters. "Having one measure that fits all is almost impossible, especially when it comes to such a diverse society ... which varies in religion, culture, background, [and] family size."

Anna Otlik, "Re-settlement"

The judging panel for the competition commented that the project complements the fabric and density of the city. “The whole housing structure extends spontaneously in a sustainable, slow way and remains under constant evolution to provide a better future for the city of Mosul.”

The main building material for the project may be rubble and mud.

Over a million people have fled Mosul in the three years since the militants took over Iraq’s second biggest city. Some 670,000 people from Mosul and nearby areas are still displaced despite the city’s liberation, the Norwegian Refugee Council said last month.

The Rifat Chadirji Prize received 223 entries submitted by architects, firms, and students from 42 countries.

“What we are looking at is some very good ideas, good projects. Some are a little wild; naturally you will always get some wild dreamers – and why not? We are looking for inspiration, after all. But we are also looking at some real practicality and something that relates to Mosul’s history, culture, and identity. And it’s so important that it has some relevance, some identity that people can relate to,” said architect Angela Brady, a member of the judging panel.

Perhaps the most captivating idea is The 5 Farming Bridges project, designed by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut, which received the third place prize. It suggest rebuilding Mosul’s five bridges across the Tigris River, which were destroyed during the anti-terrorist campaign, as inhabited structures. The bridges will be covered with with 3D-printed housing units and urban farms to guarantee food autonomy and thermal inertia.

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“Sometimes a design competition needs to recognise a more imaginative and distant possibility for the future than for the immediate present,” the judging panel said.

The independent Tamayouz Excellence Award, which oversaw the competition, will present the winning entries to Iraqi authorities.

The biggest city to fall under Islamic State control, Mosul was recaptured by the Iraqi Army in July. The nine-month offensive left many neighborhoods in ruins.

Iraqi officials have estimated it will take at least five years and billions of dollars to rebuild the city.

On October 31, the World Bank approved a US$400 million financial assistance package to support the reconstruction of Mosul and newly liberated areas of the country.