In 1957, Wright received a commission from King Faisal II of Iraq to design and plan a cultural center on a Tigris River island in Bagdad. He first went to Baghdad to design an opera house. After returning, he designed the opera house, and several other buildings for the "Isle of Edena" and downtown Baghdad. The Baghdad designs Wright produced in that year do not look out of place in a Middle-Eastern setting, with the curves, domes, spires, and use of the ancient ziggurat idea as a parking solution.
He called the commission a wonderful present." In a talk given at the San Rafael High School during July, 1957, Wright said of Iraq and his project there:
"Now, at present, I happen to be doing a cultural center for the place where civilization was invented-that is Iraq. Before Iraq was destroyed it was a beautiful circular city built by Harun al Rashid but the Mongols came from the north and practically destroyed it. Now what is left of the city has struck oil and they have immense sums of money. They can bring back the city of Harun al Rashid today. They are not likely to do it because a lot of western architects are in there already building skyscrapers all over the place and they are going to meet the destruction that is barging in on all big western cities. So it seems to me vital over there to try and make them see how foolish it is to join that western procession."
However, even before the project begun, King Faisal II of Iraq was murdered along with his family in a military revolution led by Brig. Abdul Karim Kassem in 1958, which put an end to this project. None of the buildings were ever constructed, although echoes of the project's curvilinear designs showed up in such later buildings as the Gammage Auditorium.. Designed two years before the architect's death, these drawings are perhaps second only in scope to "Broadacre City" among his designs.
[Image: Plans for the Crescent Opera Civic Auditorium in Greater Baghdad, one of the buildings Frank Lloyd Wright designed for the commission. © 1998 the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ.]