Subhi Al-Azzawi – Climatically Responsive and Environmentally Friendly

Lecture date: 2011-03-15

Climatically Responsive and Environmentally Friendly: The Passive Solar Design of Indigenous Iraqi Courtyard Houses

Organised by Simos Yannas

Iraqi courtyard houses are an indigenous type dating back to the antiquities of Mesopotamia in the milieu of Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilisations. They underwent gradual developments during these periods as well as during the various Islamic dynasties. By about 1850, they had reached a level of general approval, if not that of near perfection within the limitations of building technology at the time. Sadly, since 1914, they have undergone systematic demolition; first by the Ottomans, then by the British occupying forces, and finally by successive Iraqi governments after independence, largely undocumented. All this was done in the name of modernity to provide roads and contemporary buildings.

During 1971–72, Al-Azzawi carried out systematic and scientific measurements, analyses and appraisals of their micro-climatic and thermal environmental characteristics. He also carried out surveys for measured drawings and documented them photographically to show their many advantageous qualities. He did the same for modern non-courtyard houses for comparative studies.

In this lecture, he aims to show the results of his fieldwork and effectson his architectural work both in the UK and abroad.

Subhi Al-Azzawi was born in Baghdad to a family of 12 master-builders over five generations (including his father and two grandparents). He was trained at the AA (1962–68), and in 1969 started his PhD research thesis at the Bartlett, UCL (while  working as an architect), receiving his Doctorate in 1984. In 1987–88, he was a Visiting Fellow of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and MIT, giving a short course on ‘Design with Climate and Culture’. In 1990–91, he extended it to 36-hour lecture course for MSc and PhD students at Reading University, where he also acted as an external examiner. He has given and published many position papers at international conferences and symposia on four continents, as well as giving lectures at their universities. He co-authored, edited and illustrated Climate and House Design (UN 1971). He has concurrently practised architecture, climatic and environmental design, as well as urban design for 40 years. He also acted as consultant to British and American architects and planners.


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