Once known as the 'City of Peace' and the sparkling Jewel of World Civilization, Baghdad was by far one of the ancient Muslim world's most formidable and unique architectural achievements. Founded by the Abbasid Caliph Abu Ja'far al-Mansur in the year 760 CE, Baghdad was not only a testament of human achievement, but it was also an homage to Islamic ingenuity, technological advance and vast knowledge base (it was the home of the 'House of Wisdom' after all).
Historical narratives and chronological sources inform us that the City was designed and masterminded by the Caliph himself, who was inspired to design it in a perfect circular shape after having studied the geometric principles Euclid.
Caliph Abu-Ja'far Al-Mansur was heavily involved in the design and construction of the city, he was even reported to have inspected the ground-level plans, before giving feedback and orders for cotton balls to be soaked in liquid petroleum so that they could be set on fire and used to draw visible outlines to mark the exact circumference of where his fortified double outer walls were to be constructed.
Besides being an outstanding statesman and dynastic pioneer, he also clearly knew a thing or two about Geometry, Civil Engineering and Urban Design! When everything was approved and the project was ready to implement, Caliph al-Mansur offered prayers to Allah and then placed the first brick onto the ground in the innaugural ceremony.
Each course consisted of 162,000 bricks for the first third of the wall’s height, 150,000 for the second third and 140,000 for the final section
- Al-Khateed Al Baghdadi
I have seen the great cities, including those noted for their durable construction. I have seen such cities in the districts of Syria, in Byzantine territory, and in other provinces, but I have never seen a city of greater height, more perfect circularity, more endowed with superior merits or possessing more spacious gates or more perfect defences than Al Zawra, that is to say the city of Abu Jafar al-Mansur
Baghdad is situated near the Tigris and close to the Euphrates making the crossroads of the universe
- Al Ya'qubi
Baghdad was the home of many geniuses, inventors and polymaths. It's House of Wisdom also attracted talent and scholarship from all over the known world, serving as a literal technology center and knowledge hub in what came to be known as the 'Golden Age of Islamic Discovery'. Characterised by its unique labyrinthine design which was well encircled and tightly guarded by heavily fortified walls which concealed the Caliph's 'Golden Gate Palace' and the 'Grant Mosque', the only two buildings allowed to be built in the heart and epicenter of the City.
The Caliph did not allow anyone other than himself to ride in this area and there were no other buildings allowed other than his palace and the mosque. It was literally the most well guarded and exclusive part of the entire Abbasid empire and very few people were allowed there.
For an extra measure of safety, the Caliph surrounded it with an outer ring where homes and accommodations were built for his children and royal staff to occupy.
Although the ancient Abbasid city no longer exists, it has been a constant source of inspiration for latter generations, the most recent and formidable example being Apple Inc's headquarters Apple Park HQ' (aka Apple Campus 2) located in Cupertino, California.
The Headquarters was inspired by the Abbasid Caliph's ingenious design of Baghdad and a side by side comparison reveals just how closely Apple Inc followed the Abbasid Caliph's plans.
It is the closest thing we have to a modern version of al-Mansur's fantastic city. It is also symbolic of the Bayt Al-Hikmah which was the centre of learning, technology and the place where Algorithms and Algebra were literally invented by Al-Khawarizmi who was the chief Astronomer at the institution! It's not hard to see the parallels between Apple Inc and Baghdad's intellectual circuit at the time.
Yet another example of how history can be a tremendous source of inspiration and vision, for those who read and study it. Someone at Apple Inc was clearly a great fan of the Abbasids. After years of construction work, Apple Inc eventually opened the campus (Apple Campus 2) in 2017. It was designed by Foster + Partners.
The notion of the perfect round city that would transform society and express power and spirituality was first originated in the city of Baghdad, founded in the 8th century as the capital of the Islamic empire under the Abbasid Caliphate
However, this was not the only architectural project inspired by the Abbasids because during the French Enlightenment, an architect by the name of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux drew inspiration from Baghdad when he designed the city of Chaux, located in Eastern France. The city of was also round and followed the same geometry as Baghdad.
As we look into the future of AI and the Multiverse, there is yet a third project in the pipeline, it has been pending for the past 40 years. It's designer, Jacque Fresco is a social engineer and author who was inspired by al-Mansur and is currently looking to build his circular city 'Venus Project' in Florida, as he envisions a new era in which Hypertechnological advance, science and warfare will transform the way we live and survive, so he decided to build a fortified and self sustaining city in the same way Caliph al-Mansur built his.
Islamic History is truly fascinating, there are so many hidden treasures buried in plain sight.