Bomb trajectory becomes light source for architectural student’s underground city

Reem Al-Rawi is graduating with her master’s degree in architecture.(Susan Hickman Photo)

Reem Al-Rawi was just a child in Iraq when two American “smart bombs” cut through a suburban air-raid shelter in Baghdad, killing more than 400 civilians, during the Gulf War of 1991.

Today, Public Shelter No. 25 is a memorial to those who died but Al-Rawi, who leaves Carleton this spring with a master’s degree in architecture, has other plans for the space.

“Where the bomb came through the ceiling and two floors is a source of natural light,” says Al-Rawi, whose thesis, Architecture of War: Conflict-Generated Architecture, proposes alternate, safe underground structures in cities such as Baghdad or Beirut. “I would extend the path the bomb took another 10 or 20 metres so that it penetrates underground and becomes a light source for the beginning of a series of underground tunnels.”

After completing high school in Ottawa, Al-Rawi applied to Carleton’s architecture program. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism in 2004 and then travelled and worked for four years. Two years ago, she joined the master’s degree at Carleton and studied in Turkey for five months before initiating her thesis.

“With all the conflict in the Middle East,” says Al-Rawi, who came to Canada at the age of 16, “I wanted to apply architectural solutions. My thesis offers solutions to living in cities of constant conflict. I offered a proposal for ‘re-attachment structures,’ which would penetrate underground and provide an alternative public flow for the city.”

Five re-attachment structures would link the underground spaces to the surface of Bagdad, beginning at the Shelter No. 25 memorial.

While Al-Rawi looks now for international job opportunities, she credits Carleton’s architecture school and its professors for directing her designing and teaching her how to think outside the box.

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Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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