Press release

UNESCO’s socio-architectural reconstruction project for Mosul (Iraq) at 17th International Architecture Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia

17/05/2021

UNESCO, the Government of Iraq and the Ministry of Culture and Youth of United Arab Emirates, will present an exhibition on the ongoing project, Revive the Spirit of Mosul, to restore the ancient Iraqi city’s multicultural landmarks and way of life as a collateral event (side event) at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, the Venice Biennale, which will be open to the public from 22 May to 21 November.

Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth of the United Arab Emirates, and Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, together with Dr. Saad Kambash, the President of Sunni Endowment of Iraq will open the exhibition on 21 May.

Revive the spirit of Mosul exhibition presents the ancient city’s millennial tradition of peaceful co-existence and casts light on the resilience of diverse communities in the face of traumatic events. In doing so the exhibition reflects on the question posed by the 17th Biennial of Architecture, curated by Hashim Sarkis: How Will We Live Together? It showcases, chronologically, the narratives of the city’s recent history and projections for the future in four rooms dedicated to the themes of destruction, liberation, action and future, which features actions taken by UNESCO, notably the reconstruction of the Al-Nouri Mosque complex. The exhibition is curated and designed by 2050+ and produced and installed by ALTOFRAGILE.

The reconstruction of the Al-Nouri Complex, an emblematic component of the Revive the Spirit of Mosul initiative, was the object of an architectural competition whose winning design and runner-ups were announced on 15 April at the National Museum in Baghdad. 

The reconstruction of Al-Nouri Mosque complex, a historical site that is part of Mosul’s fabric and history, marks a milestone in advancing the war-torn city’s reconciliation and social cohesion.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General

Over thousands of years, Mosul was a commercial, intellectual and cultural crossroads. Its very name, al mawsil, which in Arabic means link, junction, connector, encapsulates the idea of dialogue and diversity. 

Unity in diversity is central to the identity and spirit of Mosul.  It is woven into the fabric of the city and is visible in its built heritage of shrines, churches, mosques, madrassas and cemeteries. 

When Mosul was occupied by extremists in July 2014, this fabric was ripped apart. Over 36 months, violent extremists destroyed around 80% of the urban landscape, including historic buildings like Al-Nouri Mosque, Al-Hadba Minaret and the churches of Al-Tahera and Al-Saa’a. Music was forbidden, bookshops and libraries were closed. 

In February 2018, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, launched “Revive the Spirit of Mosul,” one of the Organization’s largest operations in recent years.  Central to this initiative is the project to rebuild Mosul’s historical landmarks. Funded by the United Arab Emirates, the $50 million project also aims to help revive the city’ cultural life and diversity. In synergy with this large-scale project, UNESCO is also rehabilitating a number of historic houses in the Old City of Mosul with the support of the European Union.