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Building the Non-Aligned Babel: Babylon Hotel in Baghdad and Mobile Design in the Global Cold War

Vladimir Kulić

Résumés

S'élevant telle une ziggourat moderne sur les rives du Tigre, l'hôtel Babylon à Bagdad crée un lien transhistorique direct entre le passé antique de l’Irak et son identité moderne. Son histoire a cependant connu une évolution moins linéaire, révélatrice de l'étrange mobilité de la conception architecturale et de son cheminement à travers les réseaux du mouvement des pays non-alignés. L'hôtel a été initialement conçu au début des années 1970 par l'architecte slovène Edvard Ravnikar pour l'industrie touristique florissante sur la côte adriatique de la Yougoslavie socialiste. Après avoir échoué, le projet a été vendu au gouvernement irakien, qui souhaitait l'inaugurer à l'occasion du 7e sommet du mouvement des pays non-alignés, prévu en 1982. Une fois terminé, l'hôtel fut exploité par la chaîne de luxe indienne Oberoi. Cet article étudie le cas de l'hôtel Babylon comme exemple de l'internationalisation de la culture du bâti pendant la guerre froide et révèle une convergence récurrente de l'industrie du tourisme et de la représentation politique. En outre, il remet en question l'hypothèse selon laquelle la modernité architecturale « coule » en sens unique de l'ouest à l'est et du nord au sud.

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Notes de l’auteur

The research for this article was conducted thanks to the ACLS/NEH International and Area Studies Fellowship. The author also wishes to thank Łukasz Stanek and Max Hirsh for the invitation to present an early version of this paper at the conference “Mobilities of Design: Transnational Transfers in Asian Architecture and Urban Planning, 1960–Present” in Singapore in 2013; Matevž Čelik, Director of the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) in Ljubljana, for access to Edvard Ravnikar papers; Majda Kregar and Miha Kerin for sharing their memories, as well as for permission to consult the extant projects; Maja Vardjan for sharing her office at MAO; the staff of the Archive of Yugoslavia in Belgrade for their assistance; Amit Srivastava and Peter Scriver for sharing their research on the Oberoi chain; Amin Alsaden for sharing his personal insights from Baghdad; Mohammed Ghani and William C. Spiller for sharing their photos; and Annabel Wharton and another blind reviewer, as well as Maroje Mrduljaš and Luka Skansi, for their helpful comments.

Texte intégral

1Like a modern-day version of an ancient ziggurat, Babylon Hotel rises from the low-slung neighborhood of Jadriyah on the left bank of the river Tigris to dominate much of the surrounding cityscape of Baghdad (fig. 1). Its cascading sculptural form in intricately woven yellow brickwork leaves little doubt about the appropriateness of its name. And if someone still misses the message, a massive street-side portal seals it off: clad in glazed blue tiles with golden dragon motifs, it is a stylized reconstruction of ancient Babylon’s Ishtar Gate (fig. 2). The building’s current owner, the Warwick International Hotels chain, transforms these references into a proud advertizing pitch: “The design of the hotel was inspired by the hanging gardens of Babylon, an ancient structure found in Iraq which was one of the seven wonders of the world… Overall, the hotel design embodies the richness [sic] history of the ancient Iraq and the advancement of modern architecture which makes this structure worthy of the name BABYLON.”1 Like many other buildings constructed in Iraq after World War II, the hotel thus appears as an excellent example of “Mesopotamianism,” a cultural movement that aimed at the construction of a modern Iraqi identity by appealing to the nation’s ancient heritage of Sumer, Assyria, Akkad and Babylon.

Figure 1: Babylon Hotel in 2009, Baghdad (Iraq).

Figure 1: Babylon Hotel in 2009, Baghdad (Iraq).

Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin architects, 1969–82.

Source: wcspiller.

Figure 2: The “Babylon Gate” in front of Babylon Hotel in 2014, Baghdad (Iraq).

Figure 2: The “Babylon Gate” in front of Babylon Hotel in 2014, Baghdad (Iraq).

Source: Mohammed Ghani.

2Or is that how it appears?

3On closer scrutiny, Babylon Hotel reveals a much more complex history, one deeply entangled in the multiplying networks of transnational cultural, economic and technological exchange of the late twentieth century. In short, it belongs to the history of globalization as much as it does to the history of Iraqi nationalism. As it turns out, the hotel’s cascading forms originally were not inspired by ancient ziggurats, but were intended to echo the mountains overlooking the Yugoslav coast of the Adriatic. Its brickwork did not refer to the ubiquitous material of Mesopotamia, but resulted from the tradition of Central European tectonic culture stretching back to Gottfried Semper. And if the “Ishtar Gate” at its entrance did make a literal appeal to Mesopotamianism, it was an after-the-fact addition, a Disneyfying detail aimed at stabilizing a wavering interpretation that did not derive from the immediate cultural context. Instead, it resulted from an unusually fortunate coincidence that allowed the transfer of design from the Adriatic to the Tigris to happen through the agency of the Non-Aligned Movement, an international political alliance of developing countries seeking to assert their independence from both Cold War superpowers. From its inception at a conference in Belgrade in 1961, the alliance included not only Yugoslavia and Iraq, but also India, the home country of Babylon Hotel’s first managing company, the Oberoi chain. Like a Cubist painting, the apparently solid object of inquiry—a building known as Babylon Hotel—disaggregates into multiple images, interrelated yet distinct, each requiring its own interpretative framework.

  • 2 Here I refer to the concept of the histoire croisée; Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmerman, “Beyon (...)
  • 3 Annabel Wharton, Building the Cold War: Hilton International Hotels and Modern Architecture, Chicag (...)

4This paper presents the entangled history of Babylon Hotel, which finds itself at the intersection of multiple story lines, contexts, agents and scales.2 As a result, the story moves between an unusually large number of themes: the histories of foreign policy and tourism industry in socialist Yugoslavia; the architectural aesthetic of the hotel’s designer, Edvard Ravnikar; the political and economic networks of the Non-Aligned Movement; the cultural landscape of postwar Iraq; and Indian postcolonial entrepreneurship. Only by juxtaposing these multiple facets can the fragmented object of Babylon Hotel be meaningfully reassembled. Although the story opens in Yugoslavia, it could easily have other points of entry, for example the Iraqi project of nation-building or the remarkable history of international involvement in the rebuilding of Baghdad after World War II. But this particular start highlights the collusion of two otherwise distinct vehicles of the internationalization of building culture after World War II, tourism industry and international political organizations, each with its own logic, motivations and representational needs. In socialist Yugoslavia these two vehicles had their own history of frequent entanglements, thus setting up the context and the precedents for the seemingly smooth transfer of design from socialist Eastern Europe to the Middle East. That entanglement, however, was also a global phenomenon that deserves closer scrutiny. Following Annabel Wharton’s pathbreaking study of the Hilton International Hotels as an American “weapon in the Cold War, this paper contributes another piece to the story of the postwar conflation of hospitality and political representation by shifting the attention to the non-aligned world.3

The Politics of Hospitality

  • 4 For a biography of Ravnikar, see Aleš Vodopivec and Rok Žnidaršič (eds.), Edvard Ravnikar, Architec (...)
  • 5 He collaborated on the project with two young architects, Majda Kregar and his own son, Edo Ravnika (...)

5Babylon Hotel was designed in the early 1970s by one of Yugoslavia’s most celebrated architects, the Slovenian Edvard Ravnikar, a disciple of Jože Plečnik and a one-time collaborator of Le Corbusier.4 But in order to fully understand the building’s history, it is necessary to go further back in time, to Ravnikar’s first ventures into the field of tourism facilities a decade earlier. In 1964, he won an architectural and urban planning competition for the environs of the Montenegrin town of Miločer on the Southern Adriatic.5 By that time, the area was already a highly publicized destination because of Sveti Stefan, a picturesque fifteenth-century fishermen’s village set on a tiny islet, which had been converted into a luxury resort in the late 1950s (fig. 3). Sveti Stefan quickly emerged as a favorite spot for the international jet-set crowd, including the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Sofia Loren, Kirk Douglas, and the British Princess Margaret, who vacationed there with much attention from the Yugoslav media. Ravnikar’s project at Miločer was supposed to further improve the facilities at Sveti Stefan, as well as to develop new luxury facilities on the mainland.

Figure 3: Sveti Stefan in 2010, Miločer (Montenegro).

Figure 3: Sveti Stefan in 2010, Miločer (Montenegro).

Source: Wikimedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/​wikipedia/​commons/​5/​5b/​Sveti_Stefan_2010_-_2.jpg.

  • 6 Originally a luxury resort for the Habsburg aristocracy, the Brijuni Islands quickly became a mythi (...)
  • 7 For the propagandistic effects of early mass tourism in Yugoslavia, see Igor Tchoukarine, “The Yugo (...)
  • 8 Westerners, however, outnumbered the tourists from the socialist countries almost tenfold; see Igor (...)

6The arrival of Western celebrities was not only an excellent advertizing pitch for the local tourism industry, but also a powerful political message, considering that Yugoslavia was a socialist state with a peculiar international position. After its sudden expulsion from the Soviet bloc in 1948, the country radically reoriented its foreign policy, at first toward the West and then toward the policy of equidistance from the two superpowers, which became institutionalized through the Non-Aligned Movement. The Adriatic coast became an important site in the global imaginary of non-alignment in 1956, when the Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito hosted the Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser at his summer residence at the Brijuni Archipelago, thus paving the way for non-alignment.6 For the following 25 years, the Brijuni hosted close to a hundred heads of state from around the world, as well as numerous international celebrities (including, again, Taylor and Loren). At the same time, the coast was also the site of the population’s more immediate contacts with the outside world. When Yugoslavia opened its borders to Western tourists in the early 1950s, it was not only in order to acquire the much-needed hard currency, but also for representational reasons, inviting the international public to “come and see the truth” in the face of Stalin’s anti-Yugoslav propaganda.7 Over the following two decades, tourism on the Adriatic developed into a mass industry, especially after the relations with the Soviet bloc were reestablished in the second half of the 1950s. The coast thus became a rare place where the Iron Curtain parted, allowing tourists from both sides to vacation together in an “affordable Arcadia,” bolstering the country’s image of neutrality and openness and at the same time helping it balance the foreign trade deficits.8

  • 9 See Paul Underwood, “Credit Cards’ Gain,” The New York Times, February 28, 1960.
  • 10 In the early 1960s, an average foreign tourist in Yugoslavia spent daily only $8.90, which was abys (...)
  • 11 Ibid., p. 3–4.
  • 12 See Maroje Mrduljaš, Luciano Basauri, Dafne Berc, Dinko Peračić and Miranda Veljačić, “Constructing (...)

7The fact that the Adriatic coast was so affordable, however, was as much a problem as an asset. For a long time, Yugoslavia was known as “one of the cheapest countries in Europe to visit,” as The New York Times reported in 1960.9 Catering predominantly to West European working- and lower middle-class populace, the Yugoslav tourism industry generated considerably less hard currency in comparison with other popular Mediterranean destinations.10 The Miločer project was one of the first concerted efforts at raising the luxury level of Yugoslav tourism; the local municipality hoped to exploit the reputation of Sveti Stefan and to attract even more upscale guests to the area, which would thus be transformed into one of the “most exclusive destinations in Europe.”11 The efforts were bolstered by the contemporaneous economic reforms, which introduced strong market components into the economy, in turn provoking a boom in the construction of tourism infrastructure. The result was a culture of architectural experimentation, driven in part by the desire to preserve the natural and cultural character of the landscape.12

Figure 4: Hotel Complex Sveti Stefan, Miločer (Montenegro), competition entry.

Figure 4: Hotel Complex Sveti Stefan, Miločer (Montenegro), competition entry.

Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar and Edo Ravnikar Jr. architects, 1964.

Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).

Figure 5: Hotel Complex Sveti Stefan, Miločer (Montenegro).

Figure 5: Hotel Complex Sveti Stefan, Miločer (Montenegro).

One segment of the post-competition model, Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar and Edo Ravnikar Jr. architects, 1964 or later.

Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).

  • 13 See Edvard Ravnikar, “Hotelski kompleks Sveti Stefan-Miločer u crnogorskom primorju,” Arhitektur (Z (...)
  • 14 See Vladimir Mattioni, Jadranski projekti: Projekti južnog i gornjeg Jadrana, 1967–1972, Zagreb: Ur (...)
  • 15 For Ravnikar’s hybridization of the various creative influences, including Semper’s tectonics, see (...)

8Ravnikar’s project for Miločer participated in that emerging culture. His response to the need to preserve the landscape was to break up the volumes into many smaller pieces staggered over the hilly topography, and to use rough “brutalist” materials in correspondence with the Mediterranean environment13 (figs. 4-5). By the late 1960s, similar architectural strategies became common all over the coast, and the goal of preserving the natural landscape became enshrined in the regional plans developed under the auspices of the United Nations.14 But if the Miločer project was conceptually at the forefront of the development of the coast, in practice it had limited results because Ravnikar only got to build a small hotel in the nearby village of Pržno, in addition to some minor interventions at Sveti Stefan. By today’s criteria a modest building both in its appearance and in the standard it offered, Maestral Hotel was carefully integrated into the sloping terrain to avoid disturbing the landscape behind (fig. 6). The material palette was also modest—exposed concrete, brick and stone paving—but its austerity was tempered by ornamental brickwork, which took advantage of the still relatively low cost of labor. This was Ravnikar’s favorite building technique, which he used frequently in his many later projects, revealing the formative influence of Jože Plečnik and tying his oeuvre to the tectonic sensibilities of the Wagnerschule, developped from Gottfried Semper’s theories.15

Figure 6: Maestral Hotel, Miločer (Montenegro).

Figure 6: Maestral Hotel, Miločer (Montenegro).

Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar and Edo Ravnikar Jr. architects, 1964–71.

Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).

  • 16 Besides the original members, Majda Kregar and Edo Ravnikar, the design team now also included the (...)

9If Ravnikar’s first chance at developing a luxury facility failed, a second one arrived in 1969, when he won another competition, this time for a 300-room “de luxe” hotel on the outskirts of the ancient fortified city of Budva, about three and a half miles north of Miločer.16 In contrast to the area around Sveti Stefan, where the mountains drop steeply toward the sea, here the topography was flatter, and integrating a large building into the slope was much more difficult. Ravnikar nevertheless resorted to the already-tested strategy of staggered terraces, which now resulted in an “artificial mountain.” Instead of disappearing into the landscape, the building expanded on it, as the resulting complex sculptural form, meandering in plan and cascading in section, echoed the taller real mountains in the background (fig. 7). The design relied on a geometry derived from the unusual L-shape of the typical unit (fig. 8). Rather than having a view toward the balcony straight from the entrance—the generic organizational principle for modern hotel rooms to this day—the guest would have to delay gratification until she reached the bottom of the unit, only then discovering a lateral view of the outside. The result was a more intimate room with a gradation in privacy and, more importantly, a characteristic staggered clustering, which determined the generative rule for the overall form. The particular configuration underwent several iterations, but the plan was ultimately fixed in a shape resembling an irregular letter W that opened towards the beach, allowing almost all of the rooms a view of the sea.

Figure 7: “De Luxe” Hotel in Budva (Montenegro), model.

Figure 7: “De Luxe” Hotel in Budva (Montenegro), model.

Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin architects, 1969–72.

Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).

Figure 8: “De Luxe” Hotel in Budva (Montenegro), plan of the typical hotel room.

Figure 8: “De Luxe” Hotel in Budva (Montenegro), plan of the typical hotel room.

Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin, 1969–72.

Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).

  • 17 For a typology of tourism facilities on the Croatian coast, see: Maroje Mrduljaš, Luciano Basauri, (...)
  • 18 Michael Zinganel and Elke Beyer, “‘Beside the Seaside…’ Architecture of a Modern Global Longing,” i (...)

10The proposal offered a new interpretation of common strategies used in the design of tourism facilities of the period. Megastructural agglomerations of individual unit cells, more or less formal in organization, were frequent both in Yugoslavia and in other Mediterranean countries, such as France, Portugal and Spain, in part drawing inspiration from the systemic thinking of Team 10.17 Ravnikar’s proposal, however, also offered something new. On the beach side, the hotel appeared as a series of parallel staggered walls, producing a strong pattern of light and shadow that gave the project a monumental vertical thrust. But, thanks to the irregularity of the plan, it was an “organic” monumentality that complemented the surroundings, rather than unambiguously standing out. This combination of organicism and monumental iconic form made the project different both from the irregular low-slung agglomerations common on the Adriatic coast and the more formal “ziggurats” popular in the period, most notably at La Grande Motte on the French coast.18

  • 19 In the archival material, the project is variously named “De Luxe,” “Avala” and “President.”
  • 20 Brusa Pasquè was indeed internationally well connected, as he served as an advisor to the Internati (...)
  • 21 The study in question is signed by “Dr. Giorgio Riccardi, Architecte,” but the interior cover also (...)

11The project went into development soon after the competition.19 The client, a local tourism enterprise called Avala, hired the prominent Italian civil engineer Sergio Brusa Pasquè as a consultant.20 It seems that it was through Brusa Pasquè that a Swiss architect was hired to revise the program, as well as the functional diagram of the original project.21 According to the revision, both proved to be significantly deficient in the original version, revealing the inexperience of Ravnikar—or, for that matter, anyone in Yugoslavia—in the design of luxury hotels. This intervention provided the architects with proper standards for that kind of building and corrected the most flagrant functional errors.

12By 1972, the construction drawings were complete, down to the selection of fixtures, furniture and decorative materials. And then the project came to a halt. Avala’s directors reached the conclusion that the whole endeavor surpassed their financial abilities and the project was abruptly shelved. Before we turn to its resurrection, it is first necessary to make a detour through global politics.

Building Non-Alignment

13Soon after its expulsion from the Soviet bloc in 1948, socialist Yugoslavia was forced to reconsider its geopolitical alliances. The first step was to repair relations with the West, from which it began receiving military and financial aid, but by the mid-1950s, building on the well-established sense of national independence, it also started reaching out to the recently decolonized countries in the developing world. The intention was to create a network that would oppose ideological divisions, as well as colonial and neocolonial policies. An important aspect of the emerging network was fostering economic cooperation between developing countries to reduce their economic dependence on the great powers. The cooperation was formalized in 1961, when Belgrade hosted the First Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries, thus setting the course for the Yugoslav foreign policy for the following 30 years. While maintaining more or less warm relations with both the USA and the USSR, Yugoslavia actively supported decolonization, as well as the modernization of the recently decolonized countries, providing them with various forms of aid. Non-alignment also encouraged direct trade between member countries, allowing Yugoslav companies to establish a broad network of partners in the developing world.

  • 22 Among several other bodies that facilitated contacts with the developing world, the federal governm (...)

14A significant portion of economic exchange took the form of large infrastructural projects.22 The momentum gradually built from the first projects of the late 1950s, culminating in the 1970s and 1980s in the involvement of Yugoslavia’s largest socially owned enterprises, including Energoprojekt, Rad, Mostogradnja and Komgrap from Belgrade, INGRA and Rade Končar from Zagreb, Energoinvest and Hidrogradnja from Sarajevo and so on. Some of these firms had their own in-house design studios, but a number of independent architectural and urban planning offices also acquired commissions in the developing world. Designs by Yugoslav architects and planners thus came to be scattered throughout Africa and Asia, from Libya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe to Kuwait, Iraq and Malesia.

  • 23 For a summary of the Iraqi history in the first decade of Ba’th Party rule, see Phebe Marr, The Mod (...)
  • 24 Danilo Purić, “Irak: Informacija o nekim pitanjima unutrašnje situacije, spoljne politike i bilater (...)
  • 25 The total value of contracted jobs by Yugoslav companies in Iraq at the time was almost $1.5 billio (...)

15Although Iraq participated at the first conference of non-aligned countries in Belgrade in 1961, for more than a decade its activity in the movement was modest due to frequent regime changes. Stability was finally reached after the coup that brought the Ba’th Party to power in 1968. By 1973, the Ba’th regime nationalized the foreign-operated oil fields and banks, which coincided with the onset of the global oil crisis and the subsequent persistent rise in oil prices.23 The result was an immense influx of wealth, which allowed the Ba’th regime to launch a massive modernization program. At the same time, Iraq started reducing its dependence on the Soviet Union by renewing economic collaboration with the West, but also through a concerted effort at raising its status in the non-aligned world. As a non-aligned country that struck a balance between the East and the West, Yugoslavia was one of the first stops in such efforts. In 1974, Saddam Hussein, then the second-in-command after President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, visited Belgrade.24 The outcome was a colossal increase in economic exchange between the two countries, securing the participation of Yugoslav companies in the realization of Iraq’s ambitious Five-Year Plan of 1975–80.25

  • 26 See “Radničke porodične kuće u Bagdadu – Irak,” Arhitektura Urbanizam, vol. 10, no. 58, 1969, p. 35
  • 27 Letter from Vidak Krivokapić, Chief of Staff of the Secretary of the Federal Executive Council of Y (...)

16It was also around this time that the export of architecture to Iraq intensified. Energoprojekt had already designed some workers’ housing for Baghdad in the late 1960s, but architectural projects were otherwise sporadic.26 But that was about to change: as early as the occasion of Hussein’s visit to Belgrade, the Iraqis expressed interest in acquiring the plans of the building of the Federal Executive Council (federal government) in New Belgrade; they were so impressed by it that they wanted to build its replica in Baghdad.27 This particular instance of “mobile design,” however, did not occur: not only was it unacceptable for security reasons, but copying a building regardless of its context also seemed wrong for professional reasons. But it was precisely at this time that another building set off to migrate from the Balkans to the Middle East: Ravnikar’s hotel.

The Mobile Design

  • 28 Author’s interview with Kregar and Kerin, August 30, 2013.

17It was most likely on the occasion of Hussein’s visit to Belgrade that the Iraqis also revealed their plan to hire Yugoslav architects to design a new luxury hotel in Baghdad. The Yugoslav government directly assigned the project to the Montenegrin construction consortium Lovćeninženjering, probably in an attempt to level the local playing field because those from Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina took the lion’s share of foreign commissions. It remains uncertain who at Lovćeninženjering located and resurrected Avala’s abandoned hotel design for Budva; the consortium tried to adapt the project for the new location without even consulting the architects, but after Ravnikar threatened with a lawsuit, his whole team was promptly hired.28 After one of the design team members, Miha Kerin, traveled to Baghdad to survey the site, the redesign was finished by February 1976. The official client was the Iraqi Ministry of Information’s Tourism and Summer Resorts Administration.

Figure 9: Babylon Hotel, detail of the plan, Baghdad (Iraq).

Figure 9: Babylon Hotel, detail of the plan, Baghdad (Iraq).

Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin architects, 1974–76.

Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).

  • 29 Ibid. The coast of Montenegro is indeed seismically rather active; a strong earthquake struck the r (...)

18Considering the long transfer between Budva and Baghdad, it is quite surprising how little the design changed in the process. The new site resembled the old one only in that it also faced a body of water, the Tigris; otherwise, it was in an urban setting and in a completely flat landscape. The project’s main character also changed from a summer resort to a conference hotel, which is why some modifications had to be made in the organization of the lower levels: the basement, the ground floor and the mezzanine. Of course, adjustments to the local building code were made as well, and the structural design was somewhat relieved because of the much greater seismic stability in Baghdad than in Montenegro.29 But the backbone of the design—the staggered cascading volumes of the upper floors containing the rooms—remained almost untouched (fig. 9). The “artificial mountain” thus smoothly transitioned into a “ziggurat,” which is perhaps not surprising considering that in ancient symbology the two were directly related. Although now facing the Tigris instead of the Adriatic sea, even the outdoor spaces, with terraces, swimming-pools and tennis courts, remained organized in more or less the same way as before (fig. 10).

Figure 10: Comparison of the models of the “De Luxe” Hotel in Budva (Montenegro), 1969–72, and Babylon Hotel, Baghdad (Iraq), 1974–76.

Figure 10: Comparison of the models of the “De Luxe” Hotel in Budva (Montenegro), 1969–72, and Babylon Hotel, Baghdad (Iraq), 1974–76.

Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin architects.

Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).

  • 30 “Skychateau Luxury Hotel,” MAO, ER-II 37.
  • 31 Author’s interview with Kregar and Kerin, August 30, 2013.
  • 32 In another text, which has been preserved only as a hand-written manuscript, Ravnikar openly wrote (...)

19It is unclear exactly who first realized the symbolic potential of the original design, and when, but it seems that the realization took some time to mature. Ravnikar originally pitched the project as the “Skychateau Luxury Hotel,” after the name he invented for an intimate cocktail-lounge perched at the top of the building offering “an excellent view of the city.”30 In a description he wrote probably when first proposing the project to the Iraqis, he stressed the need for “new concepts and more imagination” in the overly standardized hotel industry; as he argued, “we need more than ever hotels that reinforce the character of the city in which they are built.”31 This may have been the first subtle hint that the hotel’s form could be reminiscent of an ancient ziggurat, a suggestion that, once proposed, seems difficult to ignore. In further iterations of the proposal, the references to the Iraqi past became increasingly explicit.32 The hotel was soon renamed Babylon and, in the final version of the project, the rooftop terraces became accessible to guests and connected by stairs, allowing unbroken circulation from level to level, similar to the way in which the ramps connect the steps of an actual ziggurat. At the same time, however, rooftop pools took on an octagonal shape, as did the originally circular detached stair towers, possibly as a hint at Islamic motifs. At the main street entrance, a “Babylon Gate” evoked the Ishtar Gate, one of the most recognizable elements of ancient Babylon (figs. 2 and 11). Finally, Ravnikar’s ornamental treatment of yellow brick on the facades added a final reference to the Mesopotamian past, even though he used this technique with completely different connotations back home in Slovenia.

Figure 11: Babylon Hotel, perspectives of the exterior with the “Babylon Gate” Baghdad (Iraq).

Figure 11: Babylon Hotel, perspectives of the exterior with the “Babylon Gate” Baghdad (Iraq).

Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin architects, 1974–76.

Source: courtesy of Edo Ravnikar Jr.

  • 33 See Magnus Bernhardsson, “Visions of Iraq: Modernizing the Past in 1950s Baghdad,” in Sandy Isensta (...)
  • 34 See Eric Davis, Memories of State: Politics, History, and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq, Berke (...)
  • 35 Tourism in Iraq, Bagdad: Tourism and Resorts Administration, n.d.; MAO, ER-II 39.

20The conflation of pre-Islamic and Islamic motifs resonated with the syncretic nature of Iraqi nationalism, which inclusively appealed to “a broad spectrum of images, memories, dynasties, and histories.”33 As the historian Eric Davis argued, the Ba’th Party’s appeal to ancient Mesopotamia was seen as a common ground for the mobilization of the religiously and ethnically diverse populations, thus balancing out the regime’s simultaneous pan-Arab ambitions, expressed through references to Arab Islamic legacies.34 “Mesopotamianism” thus revived ancient Mesopotamian themes for use in contemporary cultural production, as well as in the official state propaganda. Ancient Babylon was one of the key sites to be remembered in that respect, and at the height of Saddam’s rule in the 1980s the site would undergo an ambitious, but ultimately hasty, reconstruction in order to host a series of cultural festivals. The expansion of Iraqi tourism at the time followed similar lines of cultural syncretism, taking advantage of innumerable historical sites to brand the country as a major destination for cultural tourism. During his work on the redesign of the hotel, Ravnikar received a propaganda brochure from the Tourism and Summer Resorts Administration that cast Iraq as “one of the richest in the world in history,” highlighting the ancient sites, such as the Great Arch of Ctesiphon, Babylon and the Red Ziggurat of Ur, as well as some of the great Islamic monuments like the Great Mosque of Samarra.35 The “summer resorts of the North” were conspicuously pushed to the end of the publication, obviously in deference to the more important distant history. In that respect, the names of two of Baghdad’s top luxury hotels, Babylon and Al-Rasheed, tellingly reveal the key poles of Iraq’s syncretic national imaginary, the latter referring to the greatest caliph of the Abbasid dynasty.

  • 36 See Rifat Chadirji, Concepts and Influences: Towards a Regionalized International Architecture, 195 (...)

21Ravnikar’s Babylon inserted itself into this mélange with uncanny smoothness, considering that it was transplanted from an entirely alien context after only some cosmetic adjustments. What is even more striking is that the project’s architectural language happened to resonate with the native attempts at forging a modern Iraqi regionalism by the country’s leading architects, such as Rifat Chadirji. Indeed, Chadirji’s own “regionalized international architecture” often employed systems of parallel brick masonry walls with attenuated proportions, pronounced verticality and staggered contours.36 The similarity should be less surprising considering that the language of Chadirji’s “regionalized international architecture” and Ravnikar’s own synthesis participated in the common pool of the internationally distributed models of the era: some of Louis Kahn’s projects, like Richards Medical Research Laboratories and the Yale University Art Gallery, come to mind as possible distant precedents for both. It is nevertheless remarkable that, despite their vastly different trajectories, Chadirji’s and Ravnikar’s projects could transform generic international sources into specific statements of identity with such similarity.

  • 37 Kenan Makiya was the son of another prominent Iraqi architect, Mohammed Makiya, and in 2003 he beca (...)
  • 38 Ibid., p. 76.
  • 39 The website states: “Design hotel from above gives Lion of Babylon” (sic); available at: http://tou (...)

22The addition of the “Babylon Gate” pushed the project into the territory of literal representation that in the 1980s became a fixation of the regime of Saddam Hussein, by that time the sole and uncontested ruler of Iraq. For example, the aforementioned reconstruction of Babylon in the 1980s included a particularly questionable replica of the famous Ishtar Gate, which was built only at half scale. In a book-length critique of the aesthetic practices under Hussein, the Iraqi exile writer Kanan Makiya condemned this and other replicas of the Ishtar Gate found throughout Baghdad as particularly troublesome examples of nationalist kitsch.37 He included the gate in front of Babylon Hotel in the critique, but he overlooked the specificities of the case: not only was it envisioned almost a decade before the infamous reconstruction of Babylon began, but it was also designed by foreign architects, motivated by commercial interests and most likely not cognizant of the minutiae of Iraqi nationalism.38 In any case, the “Babylon Gate” highlighted the renewed conflation of hospitality and political representation, albeit in an entirely new context, which paved the way for other populist interpretations, originally unintended by the architects. For example, a current website about tourism in Iraq states that, when seen from the air, the hotel resembles the “Lion of Babylon,” probably in reference to the W-shape recognizable in the plan of the residential wings, which may look like the legs of a walking lion from Ishtar’s Gate.39 The staggered contour of the W, reminiscent of a brickwork pattern, perhaps only strengthens such a reading (fig. 10).

Building the Babylon

  • 40 For the work of foreign architects in Baghdad in the 1950s, see: Magnus Bernhardsson, “Visions of I (...)
  • 41 See Łukasz Stanek, “Miastoprojekt Goes Abroad: The Transfer of Architectural Labor from Socialist P (...)
  • 42 See Dubravka Sekulić, Katarina Krstić and Andrej Dolinka (eds.), Tri tačke oslonca: Zoran Bojović / (...)
  • 43 The Vice President of Yugoslav Presidency Petar Stambolić visited the construction sites of the “co (...)

23By the second half of the 1970s, Baghdad was shaping into a massive construction site fueled by incoming oil revenues. It was, at that time, a highly internationalized construction site that brought together architects, engineers and contractors from all over the world. That was Baghdad’s third wave of internationalization in three decades. The first came under the British-installed Hashemite dynasty in the 1950s, which invited prominent architects and planners from the West, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, Alvar Aalto and Konstantinos Doxiadis.40 The second came with Iraq’s reorientation to the socialist bloc during the turbulent 1960s, when, most notably, Polish architects designed the master plan for the city, which set the direction for further urbanization.41 With Iraq’s new emphasis on non-alignment in the 1970s and 1980s, the city became truly global, as world-renowned American firms like Venturi, Rauch, & Scott-Brown, or The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC), worked alongside architects from Finland, Italy, Poland, Yugoslavia and other countries on the most important state commissions. Many of these projects were in themselves transnational collaborations. For example, Belgrade’s Energoprojekt participated in the design and construction of the redevelopment of Al-Khulafa Street in the city’s historic center, together with TAC from Cambridge, Mass., and other international firms.42 Several other Yugoslav companies worked on the construction of the Convention Center and the accompanying hotel, which were designed by the Finnish architects Kaija and Heikki Siren.43 New construction especially intensified after the Sixth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana in 1979, at which Iraq was confirmed to host the following meeting scheduled for 1982. In anticipation of the meeting, the city underwent a major facelift, which included the expedited construction of new high-end hotels, including the Babylon. The conflation of luxury tourism and non-aligned representation thus arrived in Baghdad, too.

  • 44 See Danilo Purić, “Irak: Informacija o nekim pitanjima unutrašnje situacije, spoljne politike i bil (...)

24Despite enjoying preferential treatment, Yugoslav construction companies still had to be competitive on the highly internationalized Iraqi market. Lovćeninženjering discovered that the hard way. Upon the completion of the design for Babylon Hotel, the consortium also bid for the construction. The Yugoslav ambassador in Baghdad expressed high hopes that, if properly organized, the bid would stand a good chance of success.44 Lovćeninženjering’s managers, however, were apparently too lenient and, relying on the perceived friendship with the Iraqis, they overestimated the offer and lost the contract to a Greek competitor. Preparing for the bidding was the design team’s last contact with the project, as the Greeks took over the construction drawings. Without any direct consultations with the architects, the contractors nevertheless realized the project rather faithfully, with only a few modifications and reductions; even the ornamental brickwork on the exterior walls appears to follow the original design and certainly resembles Ravnikar’s similar realizations in his native Slovenia. But in the end, neither he nor any of his collaborators ever saw the completed hotel in person, which is probably why one of Ravnikar’s largest realizations amounts to little more than a footnote in his published biographies.

  • 45 For a brief account of Oberoi’s involvement in Baghdad, see Bachi J. Karkaria, Dare to Dream: A Lif (...)
  • 46 In addition, the Indian government pushed the Oberoi Group to open a hotel in Zanzibar, part of non (...)

25But the international saga of Babylon Hotel does not end there. Although the project’s client was the Tourism and Summer Resorts Administration under the Iraqi Ministry of Information, some time during the development the government passed the management of the hotel on to the Indian luxury chain Oberoi, then in the process of international expansion.45 The chain had been founded by Mohan Singh Oberoi, a poor hotel clerk in a British colonial hotel whose entrepreneurial skills allowed him to build a hospitality empire after decolonization. Politically active himself, M.S. Oberoi was closely connected to the Indian political class, including Jawaharlal Nehru and especially his daughter, Indira Gandhi. This connection helped not only his business inside India, but also its expansion to other non-aligned countries like Nepal, Egypt and Sri Lanka. All three had been the founding members of the movement present at its first meeting in Belgrade, and the Indian government directly facilitated Oberoi’s business connections there.46 Oberoi Group opened its first foreign establishment in Kathmandu in 1969 and then another one in Cairo in 1971, where it first acquired the historic Mena House in the immediate vicinity of the pyramids. The latter would become another of the sites that conflated hospitality and politics when the Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat staged the peace negotiations between Egypt and Israel there in 1977.

  • 47 Ibid., p. 165.
  • 48 I tried to inquire about the interior design directly with Sunita Kohli several times, but I never (...)
  • 49 See Amit Srivastava and Peter Scriver, “Australians and Africans in a Post-Colonial Asian Empire: T (...)

26Following further through the non-aligned networks, Oberoi Group also made a stop in Baghdad, where it began operating the city’s flagship Al-Rasheed Hotel in 1970, but after five years the Iraqi government took the property back, presumably because it was considered inconvenient that the highest state guests should reside in a hotel managed by foreigners.47 In exchange for Al-Rasheed, Oberoi was offered to take over the management of the Babylon. For the redesign of the interior, the company hired Sunita Kohli, a rising interior designer who had previously worked for Oberoi on the renovation of Mena House. The details of Kohli’s engagement in Baghdad remain unknown, but considering that her reputation rested on the restoration of historic furniture and buildings, and that at Mena House Oberoi’s management made great efforts to restore its authentic shape, it is reasonable to presume that the Babylon’s interior bore at least some connection to Iraqi traditions.48 Indeed, as the architectural historians Amit Srivastava and Peter Scriver have argued, Oberoi “assisted in cultivating the recognized shift in consumer taste and values … from the universalist aesthetics of international modernism to a more particularist, culturally embedded approach to architecture and interior design.”49 It would be unlikely that the group would abandon that approach in a building that found itself, however circumstantially, closely related to local cultural representation.

  • 50 Bachi J. Karkaria, Dare to Dream: A Life of Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, op. cit. (note 45).

27The finished hotel, now renamed Babylon–Oberoi, was ready to host the attendants of the Seventh Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, originally scheduled for June 1982, but the outbreak of the war between Iraq and Iran—by now both non-aligned countries—cast doubt on the safety of Baghdad’s guests. Trying to maintain Iraq’s international prestige, Saddam Hussein long resisted giving up the Summit, but after an Iranian fighter-jet crashed into the Al-Rasheed Hotel in July 1982, the meeting was moved to New Delhi and rescheduled for the following spring. Nevertheless, Babylon–Oberoi Hotel opened and successfully operated for years as one of Baghdad’s top hotels, and in 1991 it was one of the focal points for the international coverage of the First Gulf War.50 Hospitality and political representation thus reunited once again.

Conclusion

28From today’s perspective, the story of Babylon Hotel appears to be a tale with ponderous biblical overtones, not least because of the hotel’s name: as in the legend of the Tower of Babel, it is a story of idealistic attempts to unite nations and humanity on a more just basis that failed in face of superior powers, ending in wars and destruction. Indeed, following the US-led invasion of Iraq, Babylon Hotel withstood numerous car-bomb explosions at its door, which resulted in the prolonged periods of closure (fig. 12). Since I finished the first draft of this article, however, the hotel has reopened in an updated guise, with a brand new interior, but still surrounded by blast walls. It is no longer “non-aligned”: it now belongs to US-based Warwick International Hotels, just as Iraq is now a non-aligned state only on paper (fig. 13). At the same time, it is hardly a functioning symbol of Iraqi unity any more, as renewed sectarian violence threatens to destabilize the fragile country once again. For its own part, the hotel’s original homeland, Yugoslavia, disappeared from the map a long time ago and its successor states have renounced both the political alliances and the economic networks of non-alignment, often to their own detriment.

Figure 12: Babylon Hotel surrounded by blast walls in June 2013, Baghdad (Iraq).

Figure 12: Babylon Hotel surrounded by blast walls in June 2013, Baghdad (Iraq).

Source: Amin Alsaden.

Figure 13: Babylon Warwick Hotel in August 2014, Baghdad (Iraq).

Figure 13: Babylon Warwick Hotel in August 2014, Baghdad (Iraq).

Source: Mohammed Ghani.

  • 51 For the “global Cold War,” see Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and (...)

29On second glance, however, the story of Babylon Hotel opens the view on a whole range of global processes that were set in motion after the spectacular surge in decolonization in 1960. The very structure of this paper, fragmented between different locales, storylines and scales, points to the complexity and entanglement of these processes, connecting otherwise unrelated phenomena: the tradition of Central European modernism; the socialist modernization of Yugoslavia; the emergence of mass tourism; Italian engineering; non-alignment; the construction of modern Iraqi identity; and Indian postcolonial entrepreneurship. In the early 1960s, the Cold War—until then circumscribed largely to the divided Europe—suddenly became global and non-alignment promptly inserted itself into it as an alternative, third, project of global ambitions.51 As the case of Ravnikar’s mobile design demonstrates, non-alignment opened up new routes for the circulation of modern architecture, showing that modernity no longer had to “flow” unidirectionally from the West to the East and from the North to the South. Instead, it could also take alternative, more convoluted paths, which circumvented the hierarchical structures of colonialism or superpower hegemonies, thus connecting the developing world laterally.

  • 52 A rare exception is Annabel Wharton, Building the Cold War: Hilton International Hotels and Modern (...)

30At the same time, the vehicles of that “flow” multiplied and became increasingly intertwined and complex. The entanglement of politics and the tourism industry decisively facilitated the international circulation of architecture, but so far it has received little systematic attention.52 In that respect, Babylon Hotel is especially worth attention. On the one hand, it engaged with that entanglement over and over again, in vastly different contexts: on the Adriatic coast as the infrastructure of Yugoslavia’s mediation of the divided Europe; within the non-aligned networks as an object of the exchange of expertise and economy, both between Yugoslavia and Iraq and between Iraq and India; and in Iraq as a bearer of the symbolic syncretism of modern national identity. The question of identity is of particular significance here, because both politics and tourism are critically concerned with it, albeit each in its own way. In that respect, Babylon Hotel paradoxically challenges both the claim that globalization necessarily results in the loss of local identity, and the possibility of authentically local architecture in the age of global mobility and media. Instead, a dialectical relationship between cultural homogenization and the production of difference emerges as the crucial object of analysis.

31Finally, the case of Babylon Hotel defies the historiographic fixation on the Cold War as a period of absolute geopolitical division. Each in its own way, the coast of the Adriatic and the urban space of Baghdad functioned as sites of encounter in both symbolic and practical terms. They connected divergent groups of people from around the world, either as the producers or as the users of space: politicians, tourists, business people, architects, engineers, builders and many others. At the same time, they represented a particular kind of geopolitical positioning aimed at mediating division, in direct contrast to the reification of geopolitical borders, most famously exemplified by the Berlin Wall. Architectural history still has much work to do to map and interpret such sites of encounter. That the Adriatic and the Tigris also encountered each other through Ravnikar’s hotel testifies to a much stronger interconnectedness of the Cold War world than has been acknowledged so far.

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Notes

1 See the post of February 19, 2014 at URL: https://www.facebook.com/warwickbabylonhotel. Accessed 8 August 2014.

2 Here I refer to the concept of the histoire croisée; Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmerman, “Beyond Comparison: Histoire croisée and the Challenge of Reflexivity,” History and Theory, vol. 45, no. 1, February 2006, p. 30–50.

3 Annabel Wharton, Building the Cold War: Hilton International Hotels and Modern Architecture, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

4 For a biography of Ravnikar, see Aleš Vodopivec and Rok Žnidaršič (eds.), Edvard Ravnikar, Architect and Teacher, Vienna: Springer, 2010.

5 He collaborated on the project with two young architects, Majda Kregar and his own son, Edo Ravnikar.

6 Originally a luxury resort for the Habsburg aristocracy, the Brijuni Islands quickly became a mythical place of Yugoslav foreign policy. For more on the Brijuni Islands, see Vladimir Kulić, Land of the In-Between: Modern Architecture and the State in Socialist Yugoslavia, 1945–65, Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Texas, Austin, 2009, p. 102–9.

7 For the propagandistic effects of early mass tourism in Yugoslavia, see Igor Tchoukarine, “The Yugoslav Road to International Tourism: Opening, Decentralization, and Propaganda in the Early 1950s,” in Hannes Grandits and Karin Taylor (eds.), Yugoslavia’s Sunny Side: A History of Tourism in Socialism (1950s–1980s), Budapest; New York, NY: CEU Press, 2010, p. 107–38.

8 Westerners, however, outnumbered the tourists from the socialist countries almost tenfold; see Igor Tchoukarine, “The Yugoslav Road to International Tourism: Opening, Decentralization, and Propaganda in the Early 1950s,” op. cit. (note 7). The encounter and the “exposure” of East European tourists to the relatively more developed consumer society in Yugoslavia did cause anxiety for their officials back home; see Patrick Patterson, “Dangerous Liaisons: Soviet-Bloc Tourists and the Temptations of the Yugoslav Good Life in the 1960s and 1970s,” in Philip Scranton and Janet F. Davidson (eds.), The Business of Tourism: Place, Faith, and History, Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania press, 2007, p. 186–212.

9 See Paul Underwood, “Credit Cards’ Gain,” The New York Times, February 28, 1960.

10 In the early 1960s, an average foreign tourist in Yugoslavia spent daily only $8.90, which was abysmally low compared to the average of $21 in other Mediterranean countries: see “Konkursni zadatak za idejno arhitektonsko-urbanističko rješenje turističkog područja Miločer—Sv. Stefan—Pržno,” Muzej arhitekture in oblikovanja, Ljubljana (in further text: MAO), ER II-35, p. 2.

11 Ibid., p. 3–4.

12 See Maroje Mrduljaš, Luciano Basauri, Dafne Berc, Dinko Peračić and Miranda Veljačić, “Constructing Affordable Arcadia,” in Maroje Mrduljaš and Vladimir Kulić (eds.), Unfinished Modernisations: Between Utopia and Pragmatism, Zagreb: CCA, 2012, p. 348–69. See also Maroje Mrduljaš, “Building the Affordable Arcadia: Tourism Development on the Croatian Adriatic Coast under State Socialism,” in Elke Beyer, Anke Hagemann and Michael Zinganel (eds.), Holidays after the Fall: Seaside Architecture and Urbanism in Bulgaria and Croatia, Berlin: Jovis, 2013, p. 171–207.

13 See Edvard Ravnikar, “Hotelski kompleks Sveti Stefan-Miločer u crnogorskom primorju,” Arhitektur (Zagreb), vol. 26, no. 115, 1972, p. 59–63.

14 See Vladimir Mattioni, Jadranski projekti: Projekti južnog i gornjeg Jadrana, 1967–1972, Zagreb: Urbanistički institut Hrvatske, 2003.

15 For Ravnikar’s hybridization of the various creative influences, including Semper’s tectonics, see Vladimir Kulić, “Edvard Ravnikar’s Liquid Modernism: Architectural Identity in a Network of Shifting References,” in Ila Berman and Edward Mitchell (eds.), ACSA 101: New Constellations, New Ecologies, Proceedings of the conference (San Francisco, California College of the Arts, 21–24 March, 2013), Washington, DC: Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2013, p. 802–9.

16 Besides the original members, Majda Kregar and Edo Ravnikar, the design team now also included the architect Miha Kerin.

17 For a typology of tourism facilities on the Croatian coast, see: Maroje Mrduljaš, Luciano Basauri, Dafne Berc, Dinko Peračić and Miranda Veljačić, “Constructing Affordable Arcadia,” op. cit. (note 12), p. 356–67.

18 Michael Zinganel and Elke Beyer, “‘Beside the Seaside…’ Architecture of a Modern Global Longing,” in Elke Beyer, Anke Hagemann and Michael Zinganel (eds.), Holidays after the Fall: Seaside Architecture and Urbanism in Bulgaria and Croatia, op. cit. (note 12), p. 43–53.

19 In the archival material, the project is variously named “De Luxe,” “Avala” and “President.”

20 Brusa Pasquè was indeed internationally well connected, as he served as an advisor to the International Bank for the Reconstruction and Development, and at the time also worked on the Italian pavilion at EXPO 71 in Osaka.

21 The study in question is signed by “Dr. Giorgio Riccardi, Architecte,” but the interior cover also bears Brusa Pasquè’s stamp; see G. Riccardi, “Hotel President à Budva (Yougoslavie): Études preliminaires d’avant-projet / Studi preliminari d’avantprogetto,” October 19, 1970, MAO, ER II-35.

22 Among several other bodies that facilitated contacts with the developing world, the federal government had a special Committee for Economic Relations with Developing Countries started in 1974. See: Archive of Yugoslavia (AY), Fond 574 Savezna komisija za ekonomsku saradnju sa zemljama u razvoju.

23 For a summary of the Iraqi history in the first decade of Ba’th Party rule, see Phebe Marr, The Modern History of Iraq, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2004, p. 139–76.

24 Danilo Purić, “Irak: Informacija o nekim pitanjima unutrašnje situacije, spoljne politike i bilateralnih odnosa,” AY, Fond 507, A CK SKJ IX 44/IV-26.

25 The total value of contracted jobs by Yugoslav companies in Iraq at the time was almost $1.5 billion. Ibid., 8–10.

26 See “Radničke porodične kuće u Bagdadu – Irak,” Arhitektura Urbanizam, vol. 10, no. 58, 1969, p. 35.

27 Letter from Vidak Krivokapić, Chief of Staff of the Secretary of the Federal Executive Council of Yugoslavia, to Mihailo Janković of February 8, 1974, and “Notes from the meeting with the Secretary of the Federal Executive Council” of January 30, 1974; both in Aleksandar Janković Collection.

28 Author’s interview with Kregar and Kerin, August 30, 2013.

29 Ibid. The coast of Montenegro is indeed seismically rather active; a strong earthquake struck the region in 1979 and destroyed much of the old town in Budva.

30 “Skychateau Luxury Hotel,” MAO, ER-II 37.

31 Author’s interview with Kregar and Kerin, August 30, 2013.

32 In another text, which has been preserved only as a hand-written manuscript, Ravnikar openly wrote about the building as a “modern ziggurat”; MAO, ER-II 39.

33 See Magnus Bernhardsson, “Visions of Iraq: Modernizing the Past in 1950s Baghdad,” in Sandy Isenstadt and Kishwar Risvi (eds.), Modernism and the Middle East: Architecture and Politics in the Twentieth Century, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2011, p. 82.

34 See Eric Davis, Memories of State: Politics, History, and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2005, especially Chapter 6, 148 ff.

35 Tourism in Iraq, Bagdad: Tourism and Resorts Administration, n.d.; MAO, ER-II 39.

36 See Rifat Chadirji, Concepts and Influences: Towards a Regionalized International Architecture, 1952–1978, London; New York, NY; Sydney: KPI, 1986.

37 Kenan Makiya was the son of another prominent Iraqi architect, Mohammed Makiya, and in 2003 he became one of the chief apologists of the US-led invasion of Iraq. For his critique of the kitsch constructed under Saddam Hussein, see Kenan Makiya, The Monument: Art and Vulgarity in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, second edition, London: I.B. Tauris and Co., 2004.

38 Ibid., p. 76.

39 The website states: “Design hotel from above gives Lion of Babylon” (sic); available at: http://tourisminiraq.weebly.com/hotels.html. Accessed 15 August 2014.

40 For the work of foreign architects in Baghdad in the 1950s, see: Magnus Bernhardsson, “Visions of Iraq: Modernizing the Past in 1950s Baghdad”, op. cit. (note 33). For Doxiadis’ plan for Baghdad, see Panayiota Pyla, “Baghdad’s Urban Restructuring, 1958: Aesthetics and Politics of Nation Building,” in Sandy Isenstadt and Kishwar Risvi (eds.), Modernism and the Middle East: Architecture and Politics in the Twentieth Century, op. cit. (note 33), p. 97–115.

41 See Łukasz Stanek, “Miastoprojekt Goes Abroad: The Transfer of Architectural Labor from Socialist Poland to Iraq (1958–1989),” The Journal of Architecture, vol. 17, no. 3, 2012, p. 361–8.

42 See Dubravka Sekulić, Katarina Krstić and Andrej Dolinka (eds.), Tri tačke oslonca: Zoran Bojović / Three Points of Support: Zoran Bojović, Belgrade: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2013, p. 96–9.

43 The Vice President of Yugoslav Presidency Petar Stambolić visited the construction sites of the “conference center and the hotel” in February 1982, promising to “urge the responsible officials in Yugoslav companies to finish the construction on time.” See Tvrtko Jakovina, Treća strana Hladnog rata, Zagreb: Fraktura, 2011, p. 466.

44 See Danilo Purić, “Irak: Informacija o nekim pitanjima unutrašnje situacije, spoljne politike i bilateralnih odnosa,” op. cit. (note 24), p. 9.

45 For a brief account of Oberoi’s involvement in Baghdad, see Bachi J. Karkaria, Dare to Dream: A Life of Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1992, p. 165.

46 In addition, the Indian government pushed the Oberoi Group to open a hotel in Zanzibar, part of non-aligned Tanzania, and to pursue further potential projects in Mozambique, Kenya and Nigeria; however, all these endeavors fell through; ibid., p. 147.

47 Ibid., p. 165.

48 I tried to inquire about the interior design directly with Sunita Kohli several times, but I never received a response from her.

49 See Amit Srivastava and Peter Scriver, “Australians and Africans in a Post-Colonial Asian Empire: Transnational operations of the Oberoi Hotel Group in the 1960s–70s,” unpublished paper presented at the conference “Mobilities of Design: Transnational Transfers in Asian Architecture and Urban Planning, 1960–Present” (Singapore, 21 November, 2013). I thank Amit Srivastava for sharing this paper with me.

50 Bachi J. Karkaria, Dare to Dream: A Life of Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, op. cit. (note 45).

51 For the “global Cold War,” see Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

52 A rare exception is Annabel Wharton, Building the Cold War: Hilton International Hotels and Modern Architecture, op. cit. (note 3).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Babylon Hotel in 2009, Baghdad (Iraq).
Légende Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin architects, 1969–82.
Crédits Source: wcspiller.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 124k
Titre Figure 2: The “Babylon Gate” in front of Babylon Hotel in 2014, Baghdad (Iraq).
Crédits Source: Mohammed Ghani.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre Figure 3: Sveti Stefan in 2010, Miločer (Montenegro).
Crédits Source: Wikimedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/​wikipedia/​commons/​5/​5b/​Sveti_Stefan_2010_-_2.jpg.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 172k
Titre Figure 4: Hotel Complex Sveti Stefan, Miločer (Montenegro), competition entry.
Légende Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar and Edo Ravnikar Jr. architects, 1964.
Crédits Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Titre Figure 5: Hotel Complex Sveti Stefan, Miločer (Montenegro).
Légende One segment of the post-competition model, Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar and Edo Ravnikar Jr. architects, 1964 or later.
Crédits Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 132k
Titre Figure 6: Maestral Hotel, Miločer (Montenegro).
Légende Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar and Edo Ravnikar Jr. architects, 1964–71.
Crédits Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 212k
Titre Figure 7: “De Luxe” Hotel in Budva (Montenegro), model.
Légende Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin architects, 1969–72.
Crédits Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Titre Figure 8: “De Luxe” Hotel in Budva (Montenegro), plan of the typical hotel room.
Légende Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin, 1969–72.
Crédits Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 104k
Titre Figure 9: Babylon Hotel, detail of the plan, Baghdad (Iraq).
Légende Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin architects, 1974–76.
Crédits Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Titre Figure 10: Comparison of the models of the “De Luxe” Hotel in Budva (Montenegro), 1969–72, and Babylon Hotel, Baghdad (Iraq), 1974–76.
Légende Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin architects.
Crédits Source: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO).
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 168k
Titre Figure 11: Babylon Hotel, perspectives of the exterior with the “Babylon Gate” Baghdad (Iraq).
Légende Edvard Ravnikar, Majda Kregar, Edo Ravnikar Jr. and Miha Kerin architects, 1974–76.
Crédits Source: courtesy of Edo Ravnikar Jr.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Figure 12: Babylon Hotel surrounded by blast walls in June 2013, Baghdad (Iraq).
Crédits Source: Amin Alsaden.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Figure 13: Babylon Warwick Hotel in August 2014, Baghdad (Iraq).
Crédits Source: Mohammed Ghani.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/924/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
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Vladimir Kulić, « Building the Non-Aligned Babel: Babylon Hotel in Baghdad and Mobile Design in the Global Cold War », ABE Journal [En ligne], 6 | 2014, mis en ligne le 30 janvier 2015, consulté le 21 octobre 2017. URL : http://abe.revues.org/924 ; DOI : 10.4000/abe.924

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Vladimir Kulić

Associate Professor, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, USA

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Licence Creative Commons
La revue ABE Journal est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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