Frank Lloyd Wright: Baghdad Through the Eyes of a Visionary

Iraq archaeology represented in a beautiful, modern city as imagined by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Now part of the modern history of Iraq, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Baghdad dream is represented in drawing and models, now on display at New York City’s Center for Architecture. Iraq archaeology and art would have been presented in a complex that included an opera house and a university.

Images of Baghdad in the modern western media feature depictions of partially destroyed buildings in shattered towns – a result of a decade of war and political upheaval. However, Baghdad wasn’t always so. When stateswoman, explorer and Iraq archaeology enthusiast Gertrude Bell established the Baghdad Museum in the years following World War I, it was her intention to depict the history of Iraq and Iraq archaeology in all its complexity, represented by thousands of artifacts and pieces of art. Decades later, another visionary would have a dream for Baghdad: Frank Lloyd Wright. Baghdad, as it was conceived in his drawings and plans, would feature an archaeological museum, a gallery for contemporary art, a bazaar, a post office and a university campus. For Frank Lloyd Wright, Baghdad was the city in which the millennia-long history of Iraq could be displayed side-by-side with the best of what was then a modern and promising culture.

While Wright’s vision for Baghdad was never realized, his drawings now represent part of the history of Iraq – or at least the history of “what could have been.” In Wright’s plans, Iraq archaeology, as well as art and popular culture, would have existed harmoniously within a modern urban center. For Frank Lloyd Wright, Baghdad had enormous potential. He made his plans at the age of 90 after a visit to Baghdad in 1957. His drawings are currently on display at New York City’s Center for Architecture exhibit City of Mirages: Baghdad, 1952–1982. See what could be viewed as an alternate history of Iraq in the drawings and models currently on display in the exhibit.

Read “Frank Lloyd Wright Designs Archaeological Museum for Baghdad” as it appeared in the Strata section of Biblical Archaeology Review, Jul/Aug 2012, 12.

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