In celebration of our 25th anniversary, WiRED is pleased to bring you stories from our archives. These articles provide a glimpse of WiRED’s early work as they depict the places and the projects we have focused on over the years.
Few features defined the landscape of Iraq’s cities in the early 2000s like the 12- to 18-feet tall, three-feet wide, seven-ton blast barriers, sometimes called Texas-walls or T-walls, that stood shoulder to shoulder around key buildings and meeting places vulnerable to insurgents’ attacks. These interlocking structures could withstand or at least impede a truck crash and divert explosions upward, protecting structures and people on the other side.
In much of Iraq, these barriers were studies in pure function, dull gray, unappealing cement obstacles that blocked views, blocked access and stood as constant reminders of the war that lay heavy on the country. Only function matters where a well-planted bomb could take down a building or shut down an access road.
But, art joined function in much of the Kurdish north, where blast barriers often became cement canvases. The following photo story offers images of blast barriers, where artists had their say. Even in war, maybe especially in war, people search for ways to express themselves and to lift the spirit.
The photos in this piece are presented without captions or comment; all of them were taken in Erbil. Most murals are painted on blast barriers surrounding the Erbil International Hotel, sometimes called the Sheraton. The others are from barriers surrounding the Citadel, in the center of the city. The barriers have mostly been removed and the murals are long gone, but these images remind us of how people coped with the war they faced every day, nearly 20 years ago. We urge readers to examine these images for insights into the thoughts of local Iraqis during this dark period of their history.
Photos were taken by Gary Selnow, WiRED’s Executive Director.