Place-Identity in Historic Cities; The Case of Post-war Urban Reconstruction in Erbil, Iraq

  • Avar AlmukhtarEmail author
Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


Throughout history, war has caused fundamental political, economic and social transformations around the world, spatially impacting urban form. This is evident in cities undertaking post-war reconstruction where global influences on unique historical landscapes and the cities’ distinctive identities can be observed. Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq is such a city. The city hosts the Erbil Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which dates back to nearly 5000 B.C. After war ravaged the country in 2003, a decade of reconstruction ensued with a long period of political and economic stability resulting in rapid urbanisation. The post-war reconstruction process was a challenge between aspirations to promote the city globally (as the capital of an emerging nation) and a desire to represent Erbil’s historical roots in the Citadel and the old town. This has involved an array of urban actors including international investors and NGOs, who have influenced the transformation of Erbil’s place-identity. This chapter studies the transformation of Erbil and its historical identity during the post-war reconstruction period (2003–present). It employs a morphological analysis of the city’s historic core and contemporary areas combined with knowledgeable interviews with key policy makers, locals and stakeholders in order to explore the impact of the intensive post-war urban development process on the city’s place-identity. Key findings of Erbil’s morphological analysis indicate that the post-war reconstruction process has radically transformed the city’s urban fabric both in the old and the contemporary areas. Arguably, this has reflected globalised design patterns and ignored the historic morphological traces that the city has acquired throughout centuries. Consequently, post-war urban transformation has been negatively impacting Erbil’s unique place-identity. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive urban design approach that can guide future development in the contemporary historic city of Erbil to enhance the continuity of its urban cultural heritage. More importantly, an approach that allows for the evolution of place-identity needs to be rooted in its rich historical and cultural values while looking forward to future opportunities.


Place-identity Heritage Erbil Urban design Post-war Reconstruction process Urban transformation Recovery 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oxford Brookes UniversityOxfordUK

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