Al-Sha’ab Stadium: Finishing Corbusier’s Legacy

8 February, 2021

From 2013 to 2015, GEG participated in the remodulation and amplification of Al-Shaab gymnasium which was designed by the famous architect Corbusier.

The rehabilitation project was developed with a deep respect for the existing building.  Between the late 50’s and the early 70’s, the Portuguese Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian actively participated in the culture, education and science of contemporary Iraq, promoting and supporting the construction of universities, cultural and artistic Iraqi production.

The involvement of the Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian was a key in the development of the economic diplomacy and in the cultural cooperation between Iraqi and Portuguese. There were three key achievements that deserve to be highlighted when talking about this process: the Modern Arts Center, the People’s Stadium (Al-Shaab Stadium) and the 1966 Gulbenkian Cultural Week.

Le Corbusier Sports City 

In the second half of the twentieth century, Baghdad had settled different projects handled by important architects, which some have been executed, others not.  Le Corbusier was asked to design the Sports City, a huge complex that was supposed to receive stadiums and other infrastructures. 

This project benefited from previous experiences – the growing support for local initiatives since 1957 and, in particular, the completion of the Modern Arts Center in 1962. In the end, this project did not emerge in its entirety, but after the death of the architect, the Iraqi government wanted to achieve the project of the Al-Shaab Sports Hall, also known as a gymnasium.

Due to its visibility and novelty, the complex was the key element of the public relations component that accompanied the Gulbenkian operation” in the country. This project which survived regime and government changes was an important representation of a new national identity: physical activity and sport would play a fundamental role in the daily lives of the new Iraqi (Republican) citizen.

The People Stadium, Al-Shaab Stadium

The sports complex opened in Baghdad in 1966 and known as the Al-Sha’ab Stadium (“of the People”) was the “pièce de resistance” in the strategy set up by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to feed Iraq’s cultural, educational, assistance, and scientific development.

Le Corbusiers has abundantly documented work as an author and architect in the Western world, but the Gymnasium suffers from the plight of being a posthumous work. 

GEG’s role in reshaping the Gymnasium 

The new Iraqi government wishes to resume the development of the complex, now called Youth City, and decided to redevelop and refurbish the gymnasium.

Together with a team of French architects, specialists in restoration projects, GEG step up into the scene. The intervention was led by the two parts and was developed with a deep respect for the existing building.

The main features include a significant extension to cover the stands, previously outside, and integrating new surfaces to receive cultural and sporting events, as well as restaurants and contemporary public reception facilities.

The structural engineers worked closely with the architects in order to achieve the desired lightness and transparency harmonizing it with the need for large-span structures and solving some complex intricate structures inside.

To know more about this project you can visit our project’s page, here 

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