November 18, 2011
Beginning in February, the world watched as Libya under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi descended into chaos. News outlets worldwide were clogged with reports of escalating civilian uprisings and military retaliations, leading all the way up to that fateful October day when the Libyan ruler was captured and brutally killed by rebel forces.
As the capital of Libya and the main arena for civil war, Tripoli will long bear the scars of a bloody revolution. Yet signs of a new Libya are beginning to take shape: Bab al-Azizia, Gaddafi’s former military stronghold, bunker and palace in the heart of Tripoli, was transformed from a 2.3 square-mile symbol of fear and oppression into a place for public gatherings and weekly markets before it was finally demolished in late October. Of even greater interest to us, Bab al-Azizia is now the site for an open architecture competition.
Design Libya is calling upon architects, designers, planners, artists, students and the community to re-envision Bab al-Azizia as “an open space to be enjoyed by the public.” Though there are no secured government contracts, the competition will culminate in a major exhibition in Tripoli, along with a publication and a website. Though this may come as a disappointment to some, the competition format is perhaps indicative of a more democratic approach to distributing prestigious projects. While Libya awaits government elections, the competition will start to give some form to a “powerful symbol of a new, free Libya,” whether this will be realized or not. It is the starting shot for the circulation of ideas, the impetus for creative people around the world to contemplate the future of a country that faces a long process of rebuilding.