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Media coverage and users' reactions : Al Azhar Park in the midst of criticism and post occupancy evaluation

Salama, Ashraf M. (2008) Media coverage and users' reactions : Al Azhar Park in the midst of criticism and post occupancy evaluation. METU Journal of the Faculty of Architecture, 25 (1). pp. 105-125. ISSN 0258-5316

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Contemporary Cairo encompasses fragments that represent a symbiosis of urban, natural, cultural and economic processes. Much of what manifests itself today as Egyptian politics, knowledge and culture was and is the product of the modern physical, socio-cultural and socio-economic realities of this city. History adds another dimension to Cairo’s architecture and urbanism. It reflects the intersection between place, society, culture and technology. This has made it a complex and diverse city with over 18 million inhabitants and a range of established traditions, where the symbols of religious, political, institutional and economic power are often competing (Salama, 2002). Accelerated population growth has had a severe impact on the city’s infrastructure and services where the capacity to cope with that growth is really limited. Immigrants from rural areas to the urban metropolis continue to live in squatters’ settlements on the urban peripheries of the city. This in turn has increased the pressure on the public services thereby attracting substantial political attention at the expense of other issues where the need for open green spaces has become an urgent necessity. Al Azhar Park is a new project that was inaugurated in Cairo in March 2005. The project is regarded by the local authorities, the developers, and the planning and design team as a catalyst for social, economic and cultural sustainability and is believed to have far reaching consequences for the 200,000 residents of the neighboring Darb al-Ahmar district. It was conceived in the mid-eighties as a metropolitan park that offers much needed greenery and open space to the residents of Cairo. Characterized by distinctive spatial qualities the planning of the park is conceptualized as a series of self contained zones along a central circulation spine and secondary axes (AKTC, 2004). The project was –and still is – celebrated in the media, and has received a considerable coverage in over 100 publications in different languages including local newspapers, tourist information packages, and specialized international and regional architectural trade magazines.