Masterplan for Basra, Iraq, includes 3,000ft vertical city in the clouds

by Kim Megson | 18 Nov 2015

Basra, site of some of the most fierce fighting during the Iraq war, has revealed a redevelopment masterplan which will include the construction of a vast vertical city called The Bride.

The scheme is described by its designers – AMBS Architects – as “the tallest structure and first vertical city in the world and a groundbreaking project in all disciplines of engineering.”

The development will featuring entire neighbourhoods, commercial centres, leisure facilities, public parks and even its own vertical rail network. It’s the biggest component of a downtown masterplan commissioned by the Basra Government to hugely increase the city’s capacity by 2025.

As Basra is surrounded by natural oil reserves, planners have made the avoidance of urban sprawl a top priority, saying the need is to develop upwards rather than outwards.

To meet this criterion, AMBS have proposed a 1.5 million sq m (16m sq ft) development of four conjoined towers, the largest of which will be taller than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa at a record-breaking 964m (3,000ft).

The towers will be built using repetitions in the structure to control costs, and AMBS said no usable space will be wasted. Each tower will be connected at many levels to create sky gardens and plazas. For security reasons, multiple access and escape routes have been designed both horizontally and vertically.

In an exclusive interview with CLAD, AMBS director Marcos De Andres explained that despite its unorthodox layout, the city has been designed as a huge public space to improve the lives of residents and visitors, saying: “The Bride will be a place enjoyed by all in endless ways, from walking in the vast shaded parks and promenades at ground level, to having lunch or shopping in a sky lounge hundreds of metres above sea level.”

“Basra was once the most beautiful city on the Arabian gulf,” he continued, “Famous for its cosmopolitan flair, cuisine, arts, dance and music. This project will bring back that rich and varied culture. It will send a message to the international community that Iraq is back in business.”

Basra is believed by some religious scholars to be the location for the Garden of Eden, and the local government wanted the project to represent the giving and sustaining of life. This has influenced the architectural approach of the designers.

AMBS said: “We’ve taken on the challenge of building a city that produces as much energy as it consumes, making it independent to Basra’s electrical grid.

"To reduce carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, natural daylight must be optimised while minimising solar heat gain. The most logical intervention is to simply create shade.”

To achieve this, the designers have worked with engineering and development consultancy Mott MacDonald to create The Veil – a 600,000sq m (6.5m sq ft) canopy extending off the tallest tower and covering the low-rise buildings and public areas below in shade. Photovoltaic solar panels will generate power and also feed absorption chillers driving the city’s cooling cycle.

Basra is one of the hottest cities on earth, with temperatures regularly reaching 50ºC.

Planners are currently deciding how much of the development will be dedicated to leisure, residential and office space. A project budget has not been disclosed, but De Andres said "revenues generated by the city are likely to far exceed the costs”.

Basra contains the bulk of Iraq’s oil reserves and is Iraq’s main port, making it one of the fastest-growing business centres in the world and an in-demand location for property developers and investors.

Despite this, De Andres insisted to CLAD that The Bride will remain first and foremost a project for the people, saying: “This is an important social development, unlike any other project in the world. Despite being the world’s tallest structure, the design is not a gimmick or an architectural statement, like some super-tall towers. This is for the people of Basra.”

It seems that architects and masterplanners are increasingly opting for high rise, dense development. Architects OMA and Buro Ole Scheeren recently won the Building of the Year award at the World Architecture Festival for ‘Interlace’, a vertical village in Singapore.

Basra, site of some of the most fierce fighting during the Iraq war, has revealed a redevelopment masterplan which will include the construction of a vast vertical city called The Bride. The scheme is described by its designers – AMBS Architects – as “the tallest structure and first vertical city in the world and a groundbreaking project in all disciplines of engineering.” The development will featuring entire neighbourhoods, commercial centres,
A lead architect on the project said: 'The Bride will be a place enjoyed by all. It will be used by thousands of people in endless different way – in it, on it or under it' / AMBS Architects
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