Contemporary architecture in Egypt : reflections on architecture and urbanism of the nineties

Salama, Ashraf M; Abed, Jamal, ed. (2004) Contemporary architecture in Egypt : reflections on architecture and urbanism of the nineties. In: Architecture Re-introduced. Aga Khan Award for Architecture, LBN, pp. 80-101.

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At the end of the 20th century, and as we approach the beginning of the third millennium, a moment of reflection and contemplation is really needed. In the past decade there have been radical changes in architectural practices in Egypt. It has become common to observe that major shifts are occurring in the realms of architecture and urbanization. These shifts are dramatically changing the public face of Egyptian architecture. On the one hand, there have been changes that will definitely alter the role architects and planners can play. These are due to the emanation of new architectural services, complex building types and activities, and bilateral and multinational projects. It is evident that the profession in Egypt is being diffused into several new activities and roles. There emerge specialists in architectural programming, cost analysis/control, office and construction management, landscape architecture, client relations, research, real estate development and architectural marketing. On the other hand, we have witnessed more involvement of local architects and urban planners, together with international agencies, government, NGOs, and the private sector in urban development, historic preservation, and sustainable urban conservation projects. A wide range of innovative designs representing disparate trends can also be observed. Among these trends, movements toward green design and a more culturally and environmentally responsive architecture are implicitly and slowly dawning. Despite these honest attempts to tame architectural and urban development processes and the capacity of Egyptian architects to manage individual buildings, the overall built environment is increasingly mismanaged, and the process of architectural education has been slow to respond to these shifts. This chapter investigates the current status of architecture and urbanism in Egypt. It bases its argument on a survey of the recent developments in the field, linking these developments to socioeconomic contexts and the architectural trends in the nineties, and examining the role of different actors in these processes. The chapter relies heavily on presenting examples of projects that exemplify various architectural and design positions. Results of interviews with renowned Egyptian architects, and conclusions drawn from questioning architectural advertising in major newspapers are discussed and associated with the overall argument. The chapter ends with a conceptual vision for the future of architectural profession and the blinkered new paradigm. (This book is based on Regional seminar organized by the Aga Khan Award for Architecture held in the Department of Architecture and Design at the American University of Beirut in November 1999).