Maryam Eskandari | March 3, 2011
In the past couple of years, Libya has been on the forefront on cutting edge architecture. Competing with other middle east countries, such as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, Libya has been able to keep up with the “architecture boom” that has been on the rise in that region. However, several days ago, when the Security Council of the United Nation slapped a 15-0 vote sanctions on Libya in hopes to send a strong message to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi; many of the architectural firms stepped up to support the United Nation decision. The western firms with on-going project have all vowed that they would never work in Libya, under Gaddafi’s regime and have suspended all projects.
The Stirling-prize winning architecture firm, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBS), currently has several projects in the country. Of which, two are of the first sustainable design guides for the Libyan government. FCBS’s managing principle Julian Gitsham stated that the firm has stopped all projects even the most highest commissioned one – the current 60 hectars masterplan of the capital, Tripoli and the new eco town in eastern Green Mountain region. “We had stopped work [on the Tripoli masterplan] because we hadn’t been paid – that was a couple of weeks ago,” Gitsham told BD. “We are now not intending to re-start work because of what’s been going on.”
Following FCBS’s lead on is Edward Cullinan Architects, who is working on several sustainable developments. The firm has decided to pull out, stating that they would rather work in other “democratic regimes” despite the fact that the Libyan government was very much in celebration of prominent sustainable architecture and very cautious in regards to the environment.
Other firms such as Aecom and Foster and Partners have yet to decide what actions they plan on taking to support the United Nations sanctions. On Wednesday Aecom, the word’s largest architecture firm has decided to withdraw all staff and family members and are monitoring the situation that is being on folded in the country, while Foster and Partners are still “monitoring” the events. Foster and Partners was part of the first British trade delegation to arrive in Tripoli days after Tony Blair, the prime minister of England then, ended the two countries diplomatic freeze.
Keppie, Feilden Clegg Bradley and Capita Symonds are all fleeing the country. Keppie announces that the company enjoyed doing significant work in Libya yet “Until the current conflict is resolved we are not in a position to make a final decision on future work in the country.” While Capita Symonds staff where all evacuated when it’s Benghazi airport in the east of the country was destroyed by bombing.
The only firm that has been successful in Libya has been RMJM architects, which received the Islamic architecture award for their work in 2009 on the Zilten Campus at Asmariya University for Islamic Sciences. The 1million sq.ft. campus is located 75 miles southeast of Tripoli on a 202-acre site. The core academic functions are organized in four quadrants which allows for facultiy office and academic support. The new campus houses 4,600 students with full amenities of a university: academic and support buildings, conference and student center, administration building, library, recreation center and residential halls.
Not all firms have been fortunate as RMJM, but have stated that they will continue to protest the embattled Gaddafi regime, particularly in regards to human rights after the current government killed 230 people last week.