Karen Dabrowska

The Guardian

Originally published: 27th August 2015

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Mohamed Makiya obituary


Mohamed Makiya

Mohamed Makiya’s most important work was an extension to the Khulafa Mosque in Baghdad, completed in 1963. (Photograph: Hussein al-Sikafi)

The Iraqi architect Mohamed Makiya, who has died aged 101, was a master of incorporating traditional styles into modern architecture. His most important work was an extension to the Khulafa Mosque in Baghdad, completed in 1963, in which the old and new mosque were integrated in a harmonious design featuring a minaret from the ninth century.

He was born in Baghdad, son of Bahiya and Saleh Abd al-Aziz Makiya. He never knew his father, a clothing merchant, who died before he was born. Mohamed was brought up by his uncle and left Iraq in 1935 to study for A-levels in Britain. I remember him comparing his experiences with those of a forlorn camel in London Zoo: they had both been separated from their homes.

He studied architecture and civic design at Liverpool University, and completed his studies at King’s College, Cambridge, with a PhD in 1946. In the same year he married Margaret Crawford, whom he had met when they were both students at Liverpool. They were keen cyclists and travelled all over Britain together, staying in student hostels.

Back in Baghdad in the late 1940s, Mohamed started working as a contractor and set up a consultancy, Makiya Associates, initially focusing on religious buildings, then educational, commercial and residential premises. His office was relocated to Bahrain in 1971 after the Iraqi government forced Mohamed to sell his house to Saddam Hussein’s brother-in-law Adnan Khairallah. Other offices were subsequently established in Oman, London, Kuwait, Doha, the capital of Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

In Bahrain he worked on the Sheikh Mubarak building (1973), the Entrance Arch and a centre for disabled people. In Dubai his projects included the International Hilton hotel (1974) and the Al-Andalus housing complex in Doha (1983). He also designed the headquarters of the Arab League in Tunis (1983). In 1984 he designed ceremonial grounds in Tikrit and one of his most ambitious projects was the Baghdad State Mosque (1983) for 30,000 worshippers.

In the late 1980s Mohamed moved to London, where he set up the Kufa Gallery to promote Iraqi and Arab culture through exhibitions and discussions at which intellectuals of all political persuasions were welcome. I met him there, and remember his welcoming smile and animated conversations with all who attended.

In 2014, Khalid al-Sultani published Mohammad Makiya: A Century of Architecture and Life and Mohamed’s son, Kanan, has published the only book in English about his work, Post-Islamic Classicism: A Visual Essay on the Architecture of Mohamed Makiya (1991). His archive of drawings, photographs and correspondence have been donated to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Margaret died in 2012. Mohamed is survived by his two children, Kanan and Hind.