building babylon
babel, iraq

The project sits on a 46,000 m² flat plot of land in Babylon Iraq. It is located in a rich, mainly agricultural rural area, right on the main highway connecting Karbala (the famous Muslim pilgrimage destination) and Al Hillah. This new facility is expected to accompany the planned adjacent residential development. It will serve both the local community and the nearby cities.

The program consists of a four-star hotel component and a mall facility. A sizable parking and workers quarters are also provided.

Having the shorter side of the rectangular plot to the highway, the massing primarily addresses the need of both program (hotel & mall) to benefit from the best possible visibility and exposure. This became one of the main constraints in setting the functional and distributional logic of the project. The functions are gathered around courtyards of light, laid out in a network of carefully designed urban spaces. Different courtyards offer diverse experiences following the functions and the themes of the program. This creates both a sense of direction, and a particular identity for the project. Furthermore, the resulting fragmented massing also anchors the new development in the historical context of the Levantine and traditional local building fabric. 

With different layers of shading, water feature and greenery, these introverted open areas are also conceived as an optimal response to the local weather conditions.

The overall project follows a rigorous square grid based on the smallest retail/hotel-room dimensions. With this configuration, endless combinations can easily address the future needs to adapt to both the changing conditions of the market and the local requirements of this developing area. 

Finally, the interior and facade textures are inspired from the vernacular architecture of this specific Iraqi location. Local bricks, local crafts and workmanship, layout patterns and natural copper enameling are re-interpreted to dress the different volumes inside out. This anchors “Babel City” further in the historical and physical context of Babylon.


architecture: nabil gholam architects
3D images: nabil gholam architects