The Kurdish Globe
While Kurdistan has many modern tall buildings, their construction is not necessarily right for the Region, says German architect Jorgan Miller. Miller is sitting in a cafe at one of Erbil's new shopping malls. Driving through the maze-like route to the parking lot, Miller was surprised, saying it took him long time to find the mall's entrance.
He wanted to have a coffee before he went shopping, so he stopped at the cafe.
The waiter tells him in broken English "We have genuine cappuccino."
Miller might not be as concerned about the quality of the cappuccino as he is about the quality of the architecture of the mall.
Miller leans against the small table where the waiter has placed his cappuccino. But the table wobbles and he cannot put any weight on it. He shakes his head and asks who designed it. "Did he think before designing it?"
To Miller, the design of the table echoes Kurdistan Region's architecture. He believes architects did not fully consider the most suitable materials for the climate. Concrete block, which is the most common construction material in Kurdistan, is the worst, believes Miller, as it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
The German architect believes that what is currently done in Kurdistan is copying, rather than true architecture.
Miller came to Kurdistan nine months ago with a German company, which provides consulting services for Kurdistan Region's Board of Investment.
Of the architecture he has seen in Kurdistan, Miller only appreciates the architecture of the Erbil Citadel and says the brick used for the Citadel is the best material for construction in the Region because, unlike concrete block, it is cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Miller told The Kurdish Globe that the majority of Kurdistan's buildings do not have insulation, which makes a difference of up to 10 degrees Celsius, both in summer and winter.
"Here, because there is a shortage of power, they should think about insulation, more than we do in Europe, to save energy," said Miller, who has experienced power cuts during his stay in Erbil.
Miller also explained that although adding insulation adds to construction costs, the energy it saves during the building's 70- to 100-year lifespan saves more than 100 times that initial cost in the long run.
"In Europe, they are doing more than this," Miller told the Globe. "They construct their walls with three layers: The inner layer is made of bricks, the middle layer is 10 to 12 centimeters of insulation, then 4 centimeters of air, and them the outer layer is either wood or aluminum. The windows are two layers, with insulation, and the roofs also have insulation. All of this saves energy equal to 10 times the cost of building the house."
Miller doesn't yet know the expected lifespan of buildings in the Region.
"Here, people like to build easily and quickly to make lot of profit in a short period of time."
According to the architect, changing this way of thinking should start at the university level. This is why he wants to introduce student architects to a different computer-aided design program.
Miller taught this program, called All Plan, to architects in Kazakhstan for 25 years.
"Kurdistan's architects design buildings using AutoCAD," Miller told the Globe. "But this program was originally developed to design mechanical equipment, while All Plan is specialized for architecture and assists architects to create 3-D architecture designs and at the same time consider energy consumption and costs."
The computer program costs $8,000 in Germany, but it is available to architecture students at Salahaddin University's College of Engineering.
Miller said he will be holding a six-week training program for students for All Plan in July.
"Twenty-five percent of the course is practical, and 75 percent is theoretical," says Miller. "We will open training course for architects as well, but this will not be free."
The German architect believes using a different design program will help students, but if architects don't understand the philosophy of the buildings they are designing, they cannot create a good building.