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By Ruairi Casey
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Self-designed homes based on traditional Iraqi architecture could be the solution to the drastic housing crisis facing Mosul, where hundreds of thousands are expected to return following the end of three years of Islamic State occupation.
An award-winning design would see returning residents create their own neighbourhoods in modules that can grow and evolve to suit their needs.
"The shape of the housing is completely up to the inhabitants," said Ania Otlik, the winner of inaugural Rifat Chadirji Prize, which challenged architects to find a practical and sustainable solution to the Iraqi city's housing needs.
"Having one measure that fits all is almost impossible, especially when it comes to such a diverse society ... which varies in religion, culture, background (and) family size."
Nearly 1 million civilians fled in the three years since Islamic State militants took the city, which Iraq declared liberated in July, according to the United Nations.
Iraqi government officials have estimated it will take at least five years and billions of dollars to rebuild Mosul.
Otlik, a graduate of Wroclaw University of Science and Technology in Poland, researched traditional Iraqi architectural designs, poring over sketches and schemes to create her housing plan.
Each dwelling is constructed around a central patio, providing outside space around which rooms and spaces can be arranged.
"The plan of the house can be a little more open when the family decides it this way, or maybe another family is strictly Islamic so they will build it in their own traditional way," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Building materials that are easy to source in the battle-scarred city - such as rubble and mud - could be used for construction until more permanent replacements become available, she said.
Otlik drew inspiration from her native Poland, whose capital Warsaw was entirely rebuilt after it was razed by Nazi troops during the Second World War.
Other finalist designs featured garden bridges over the Tigris river to provide housing and urban farms, and homes connected via a metro repurposed from a system of subterranean tunnels constructed by Islamic State to aid its fighters.
"It was not a problem finding a winner," said Ahmed Al-Mallak, founding director of the independent Tamayouz Excellence Award, which oversaw the competition.
Mallak hopes the winning designs will influence Iraq's construction and housing minister Anne Nafi Aussi and a number of planning officials who are scheduled to attend the formal prize-giving ceremony in Jordan's capital Amman in December.
(Reporting by Ruairi Casey @Ruairi_Casey, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)