This year, the Iraqi army defeated the Islamic State in Mosul. ISIS took over the city in June 2014 and held it for three years until the army pushed them out. It was a great day for the inhabitants of the city, but also a bittersweet one, as ISIS left a swath of devastation in their wake. About a month before the Iraqi army defeated them, ISIS destroyed Mosul’s cultural institutions, including Shiite mausoleums and the 12th-century Al-Nouri mosque and minaret. In addition, neighborhoods were wiped out, including hospitals, homes, schools, and more. Altogether, between 50% and 75% of the city was destroyed.

A massive rebuilding project would need to be undertaken, and creativity would be needed. To elicit ideas, the 2017 Rifat Chadirji Prize was themed “Rebuilding Iraq’s liberated areas: Mosul’s housing,” and asked entrants to create prototypes for affordable housing in Mosul. The third place winner was Vincent Callebaut Architectures, an architectural firm based in Paris, which wowed the judges with an ambitious and creative idea.

Called “The 5 Farming Bridges,” the proposal aims to rebuild the five bridges that connected the east and west districts of the city across the Tigris River, which were also destroyed during the battle. But the plan isn’t to reproduce the old bridges – it’s to build entirely new ones that are inhabited and farmed.

Houses built on the bridges would be stacked and made up of 2, 5 or 10 modules, forming structures that are respectively 25, 65 and 120 meters squared. The houses and the bridges would be 3D printed using building material made from the rubble that currently fills the city.

“Five 3D printers in the form of articulated spiders will allow the construction of 30 houses per day, or nearly 55,000 housing units in five years spread over the five bridges,” Vincent Callebaut Architectures explains.

The debris would be crushed and transformed into building material in recycling centers, and supplied to the 3D printers by drones, according to the company. That solves the problem of what to do with all the destroyed material filling the city, and allows construction to happen without the need for raw materials. That isn’t the only green aspect of the project, however.

The bridges would also be covered with urban farms and orchards, with an emphasis on permaculture, ensuring food autonomy and also facilitating temperature regulation. The farms would be irrigated with water from the Tigris, and gray water from the houses could be recycled and filtered by plants in lagoon waterfalls connected to the river. Orchards and gardens would be fed by biomass composters.

“The bridges will also incorporate wind chimneys for cool, natural air, cold ceilings using the thermal energy of the river, solar water heaters for hot water, and hundreds of photovoltaic pergolas producing the necessary kilowatts,” the company states. “Each bridge will resemble an artificial mountain generated by repetition in the space of one single basic module of 12.96m²: a 3,6m cube creating an edge vault using the intersection of two cradles, which intersect at right angles.  Inspired by the muqarnas – the famous, ornamental honeycomb pattern, used in Islamic architecture since medieval times – stacking these typical houses in a space creates a corbelled structure consisting of thousands of stalactites, which redescend the structural loads towards the bridge piers.”

Vincent Callebaut Architectures has a 10-year plan for carrying the idea out, and the Rifat Chadirji judges described the project as both imaginative yet realistic. It presents a picture of a very different Mosul, one that both looks back at ancient times and leans toward the future. It builds something new out of the old, both symbolically and literally. Most importantly, it creates housing for a large amount of people in a short amount of time and in limited space. You can learn more about the project here.

3D printing has been used to recreate art and artifacts destroyed by ISIS, and to preserve cultural heritage. Today’s technology is seeing increasing use in keeping history alive, and this latest proposal seeks to bring additive manufacturing into even wider application in rebuilding.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Images: Vincent Callebaut Architects]

 

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