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“LEARNING SUSTAINABILITY FROM TRADITION�

A study on how Hassan Fathy's ideology of vernacular architecture and use of traditional Arab climatic design techniques can be aided with modern green architecture technologies to help poor countries with hot arid climates conserve their energy and cut down their construction spending.

Ramez Khalil

A Dissertation in partial fulfilment of the degree of BA in Architecture Newcastle University


Learning Sustainability from Tradition

R. Khalil

Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Dr. Neveen Hamza for her guidance, my sister and mother for their constant support, and finally, May Seoud for her tireless help and proof reading.

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Learning Sustainability from Tradition

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Abstract: In this dissertation the work and ideals of renowned traditionalist Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy are examined for their sustainable performance. It begins by looking at a summarized account of Fathy’s life. Then, it delves deep into Fathy’s architectural principles, and the details of his vernacular ideas, by focusing on specific aspects and details of his career, and by using relevant case studies of his key projects. After examining Fathy’s style and beliefs throughout all their developmental stages up until maturity, the focus is shifted towards one of his most ambitious community projects, the village of ‘New Baris’ in Kharga, Egypt. Then, Fathy’s traditionalist vernacular ideas are compared with Le Corbusier’s modernist architecture, throughout principles and building performances in terms of sustainability. The compared buildings are: the Casaroni residence by Hassan Fathy, in Giza, Egypt, and villa Savoye by Le Corbusier, in Poissy, France. After that, comes the final chapter, in which the relevance of Fathy’s vernacular, principles in the contemporary world are examined. Also, this dissertation looks at how the sustainable performance of Fathy’s ideals could be enhanced with the technological advancements of today, in the fields of climactic design, construction, and alternative energy. Finally, the conclusion is that Fathy’s traditionalist vernacular architecture should be the reference and the launching pad used to reach current goals of creating a more sustainable architecture that would help in the quest for the conservation of the environment for future generations, and for providing better standards of living in the developing world.

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Index: Table of Content: Content

Page Number

Acknowledgements

2

Abstract

3

Index

4

Preface: “The Setting”

7

Introduction: “A Brief History on Hassan Fathy”

8

Chapter 1: “Fathy’s Ideology and Beliefs”

10

1.1 Background

…………..11

1.2 Inception

…………..13

1.3 Realization

…………..21

1.4 Refinement and Completion

…………..28

Chapter 2: “Traditional Ideals in a Modern World”

31

2.1 Fathy’s Desert Utopia, New Baris

…………..32

2.2 Traditionalism and Modernism, Ideals in Collision

…………..42

2.3 Comparative Case Studies

…………..46

Chapter 3: “Back to the Future”

57

3.1

The Relevance of Fathy’s Ideas in the World of Today

…………..58

3.2

Enhancing Fathy’s Ideology with Modern Technology

…………..61

Conclusion

62

Appendices

65

Bibliography

70

Figure Referencing

74 Word count: 8,574 words |4


Learning Sustainability from Tradition

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List of Figures: Image Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4 and 5 Figure 6 and 7 Figure 8 Figure 9 and 10 Figure 11 and 12 Figure 13 and 14 Figure 15 and 16 Figure 17 Figure 18, 19, and 20 Figure 21 Figure 22 and 23 Figure 24 Figure 25 and 26 Figure 27 Figure 28 Figure 29 Figure 30 Figure 31 Figure 32 Figure 33 and 34 Figure 35 and 36 Figure 37 and 38 Figure 39 Figure 40 Figure 41 Figure 42 Figure 43 Figure 44 Figure 45 Figure 46 Figure 47 Figure 48 Figure 49 Figure 50 Figure 51 Figure 52 Figure 53

Page Number 6 7 8 10 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 22 25 26 27 29 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 40 41 43 45 48 49 50 52 53 54 55 57 58 59 64 65 68

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Figure 1: A satellite map of Egypt with Hassan Fathy’s discussed project locations

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Preface: “The Setting�

Figure 2: An illustration showing the population densities in Egypt

Egypt, a country located in the heart of the Middle East, a bridge between Africa and Asia, the centre of the Old World. This 7000 year old nation has a hot arid climate, and like most other developing countries, faces various challenges. Among these challenges are energy deficiency, and the underdevelopment of the rural countryside, which constitutes about 90% of the habitable area and accommodates almost 57% of the population1. Using Egypt, as a platform for assessing the work of Hassan Fathy, an attempt will be made to find traditional solutions to certain developmental problems which affect vast areas of our world and sizeable portions of its citizens, namely sustainability and rural development. 1

Rural population (% of total population) in Egypt (2014) <http://www.tradingeconomics.com/egypt/rural-populationpercent-of-total-population-wb-data.html>

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Introduction: “A Brief History on Hassan Fathy”

Figure 3: An image of Fathy (c. 1982)

Hassan Fathy, known as “The Barefoot Architect”, is a world renowned 20th century Egyptian architect, artist, and poet. Fathy had a preoccupation with the living conditions in rural Egypt and throughout his life he tried to provide help and insight in addressing this issue. He is regarded as the father of Middle Eastern sustainable architecture, and the caretaker of Islamic heritage1. Born on March 23rd 1900 in Alexandria, Egypt, Hassan Fathy graduated from the faculty of engineering of the King Fuad University (now Cairo University) with a BSc in architectural engineering in 1926. In a rich career spanning for more than half a century, this trilingual Professor/Architect/Engineer, produced more than 160 separate projects2. His key project being the village of New Gourna in Luxor, Egypt, which was built between 1947 and 1952, is now under the protection of the UNESCO’s World Monuments Fund for being an “important architectural heritage site”3. The book which was written by Fathy about his 1

Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. pp 6-20. El-Shorbagy, Abdel-Moniem M. The Architecture of Hassan Fathy: Between Western and Non-western Perspectives. p 19. 3 Safeguarding project of Hassan Fathy’s New Gourna Village: A UNESCO Initiative. pp 4-5. 2

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concepts and experiences while designing the village of New Gourna, entitled ‘Architecture for the Poor’, was an outlet through which he was able to share his ideas and beliefs regarding architecture and rural urbanization with the world. Upon its release by the Chicago University Press, it was an international hit with architects worldwide due to its insightfulness on the issues of poverty, globalization, and industrialization in the developing world.

After that, this vernacular design virtuoso held several governmental and institutional posts both in Egypt and abroad, thus spreading his revolutionary ideology on environmental architecture, and garnering more worldwide fame and attention. He headed the Architecture department of the Faculty of Fine Arts for a few years, and then he travelled to Athens and helped evolving the principles of the theory of ekistics. He also worked in many major community projects advocating traditional sustainable design, including the “Cities of the Future” program in Africa, and was part of the first UN ‘Habitat’ conference held in Vancouver, Canada in 1976. His last major international position was at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, USA. Fathy was awarded several prizes including: • the Egyptian National Prize for Fine Arts and Republic Decoration in 19671 • the Aga Khan Chairman’s Award for Architecture in 19801 • the Balzan Prize for Architecture and Urban Planning in 19801 • the Right Livelihood Award in 19801 • the Union Internationale des Architectes Gold Medal in 19841

After a long prosperous career Fathy died on November 30th 1989, thus ending his marvellous contributions to Egyptian, Arab, Islamic, and sustainable architecture2. To this day, Fathy’s influence on modern Islamic architecture could be seen throughout the Middle East, whether through the work of his disciples or the work of international architects that use his principles for guidelines and his projects for inspiration3.

1

Serageldin, Ismail. Hassan Fathy. pp 9-10. Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. pp 6-20. 3 Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. pp 180-187. 2

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Learning Sustainability from Tradition

Chapter 1: “Fathy’s Ideology and Beliefs”

Figure 4: Beit Al-Suheimy, a traditional Cairian Islamic House

Figure 5: a traditional Nubian house in Nubia, Aswan

Unlike most architects of his generation, Hassan Fathy was never a supporter of the modern movement, but was rather a strong critic of the so called ‘International Style’ that was being developed at the time by the likes of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe1. Rather than looking at North America or Europe for inspiration and stylistic development, Fathy looked at the Egyptian past with its rich heritage of monuments, from the grand temples of the ancient Pharaohs to the magnificent mosques of Islamic Cairo. However the two systems that clinched to his thoughts the most were:

1. The climatically efficient houses of Medieval Cairo with their ingeniously designed shading and ventilation systems2. 2. The indigenous ancient mud brick construction techniques that were still to be found in rural areas of Upper Egypt, especially Nubia3.

All throughout his life-long career, Fathy strived to perfect a style that would combine both aforementioned systems to provide for low cost, sustainable housing that would fit perfectly with the needs of the peasants of rural Egypt. But there is more to Fathy’s design ideology than meets the eye. 1

Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. pp 6-20. Fathy, Hassan, Walter Shearer, and ʻAbd Al Rahman Sultan. Natural Energy and Vernacular Architecture: Principles and Examples with Reference to List Arid Climates. pp 37. 3 Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. pp 36-40. 2

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Background

Figure 6: Figure 7: Figures 5 & 6 are random images of villages in rural Upper Egypt

According to Fathy’s ‘Architecture for the Poor’, the Egyptian countryside is what pushed Fathy to study architecture, especially after being denied chance to study at the faculty of agriculture due to his lack of prior knowledge of the subject. Having been brought up by an upper middle class family in the busy metropolitan city of Alexandria, Fathy always had this notion that the countryside was a lost paradise on earth. However, Fathy’s fantasies of a scenic countryside, where people lived simpler and happier lives, were very far from the truth. His initial shock came with his first project after graduation, which was a school located in the small town of Talkha, Mansoura. To Fathy’s horror, he found disgusting smelly narrow streets, “deep in mud and every kind of filth”1. What added to his horror was noticing the even more dismal buildings overlooking these streets. This horrid experience awakened Fathy’s empathy for this town and its people left a mark on his consciousness. Here is what he wrote about the experience:

1

Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. pp 25-31.

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“This town haunted me; I could think of nothing but the hopeless resignation of these peasants to their condition, their cramped and stunted view of life, their abject acceptance of the whole horrible situation in which they were forced to put up with a lifetime’s scrabbling for money amid the wretched buildings of Talkha. The revelation of their apathy seized me by the throat; my own helplessness before such a spectacle tormented me. Surely something could be done? Yet what? The peasants were too sunk in their misery to initiate a change. They needed decent houses, but houses are expensive”1

And thus, Fathy made a pledge that he will try to ease the suffering of his fellow countrymen by helping them create his childhood’s imaginary paradise. And soon he began this journey by providing better living conditions to the farmers living in his family owned farms, which were coincidentally, near Talkha.

Delving deeper into the architectural brain of Hassan Fathy, this experience should be kept in mind, since it was the spark that ignited Fathy’s passion for helping the less fortunate, wherever they are.

1

Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. p 29.

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Inception

Figure 8: A Nubian builder pictured working on site

All the problems that Fathy observed in Upper Egypt led him to believe that the ancient practice of adobe mud-brick building was the means for developing Upper Egypt. Mud is found in abundance on the banks of the Nile, and costs virtually nothing. It is also more suitable climactically with the harsh climate of Upper Egypt. But still, timber or steel, which were among the scarcest and most expensive materials in Egypt, were needed for the roofs. But a random trip to Nubia, Aswan, provided Fathy with his solution; he could still use mud for the roofing by the means of the Nubian vaulting system. After failing to replicate this system on his own, Fathy had to head on another trip to the south of Egypt to find the practitioners of this ancient vaulting technique1. With that taken care of, Fathy then studied the climate of Egypt as a whole, but was more focused on that of Upper Egypt.

1

Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. Pp 32-35.

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The challenges presented by the climate were:

1. The large difference in temperatures between day and night and how to stabilize the interior temperature by creating a microclimate that is independent yet not entirely separate from its exterior counterpart1. 2. The complete Absence of cloud screening for large portions of the annum, and thus the presence of bright direct sunlight for most of the year1. 3. The huge amounts of direct heat gain to exposed surfaces of the building, due to the unsheltered presence of the sun for most of the year. This problem could simply be addressed by adjusting the orientation of the building so that its long axis lies on the eastwest, and also by locating the communal areas and bedrooms to the north, away from the sun and its glaring heat1. 4. The huge amounts of indirect heat gain due to the radiation of the ground and surrounding exposed surfaces, due to, again, the unsheltered presence of the sun for most of the year1.

As for the prospects, they were:

1. The cool north-westerly prevailing wind that provides a passive cooling opportunity if provided the means to go through the building1. 2. The easy evaporation provided by the very dry air, which proofs to be a very effective opportunity of cooling with the combination of an air current and a water fixture1. 3. Large constant amounts of direct sunlight, a great opportunity for providing steady natural lighting for interior spaces1.

With these aspects in mind, Fathy worked on tailoring his designs for the needs of his users by studying both, the ancient Islamic building technologies, and the vernacular architecture of Upper Egypt. This exercise led him into compiling his architectural vocabulary, which consists of the following:

1

Fathy, Hassan, Walter Shearer, and ĘťAbd Al Rahman Sultan. Natural Energy and Vernacular Architecture: Principles and Examples with Reference to List Arid Climates. pp 37-67.

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Figure 9: Air Flow through a traditional Malqaf as used by Fathy

1. The Malqaf, which is the traditional Arabian wind catcher that is found in many variations, but usually looks like a tower located on the roof to be used as an air inlet. A malqaf might have a water fixture to humidify and cool the incoming air current1.

Figure 10: An Arabian style mid-house courtyard.

2. The Courtyard, which is usually located in the middle of the dwelling and could either be open or covered by a dome, and usually has either greenery or a fountain for cooling. It is usually used as an outlet in the passive cooling system used in the design2.

1

Fathy, Hassan, Walter Shearer, and ĘťAbd Al Rahman Sultan. Natural Energy and Vernacular Architecture: Principles and Examples with Reference to List Arid Climates. pp 56-59. 2 Ragette, Friedrich. Traditional domestic architecture of the Arab Region .pp 54-64.

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Figure 11: The use of the squinched dome with stalactite decoration in the mosque of New Gourna

3. The Squinched Dome, to help in easing the circulation and the distribution of the air current within the whole building1.

Figure 12: A section through one of Fathyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s buildings showing the different levelling of spaces

4. The use of different ceiling levels, also to help in the circulation of air and the shading of spaces.

1

Ragette, Friedrich. Traditional domestic architecture of the Arab Region .pp 54-64.

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Figure 13: The traditional Nubian vault

5. The Nubian Roof Vaulting System, to help with the air circulation within the building, and since it is the only way to roof the building using mud-brick, thus dramatically reducing cost1.

Figure 14: The use of the material properties and large wall thickness of mud brick walls for thermal mass

6. Thermal Mass, which is a by-product of using mud-brick for building, due to the natural quality of soil as an insulator, and since the walls need to be very thick due to the inherent weakness of the material2.

1

Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. pp 36-40. Fathy, Hassan, Walter Shearer, and ĘťAbd Al Rahman Sultan. Natural Energy and Vernacular Architecture: Principles and Examples with Reference to List Arid Climates. p 44. 2

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Figure 15: The traditional Arabian Mashrabeya

7. The Mashrabeya, which is a Middle Eastern traditional sun screen created from a geometric pattern (or lattice) of perforated wood that encages the windows, thus allowing for both privacy and indirect sunlight penetration1.

Figure 16: Clerestory windows usually located within the dome drums in Fathyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s designs

8. Clerestory Windows, usually located as small stained glass windows a in the drum of the dome.

1

Fathy, Hassan, Walter Shearer, and ĘťAbd Al Rahman Sultan. Natural Energy and Vernacular Architecture: Principles and Examples with Reference to List Arid Climates. pp 46-48.

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Figure 17: The wall perforations, regularly found in house design across all Upper Egypt

9. Wall grilles, to provide for indirect sunlight illumination, and for continuous ventilation.

Now that an environmental strategy was in place, the last thing Fathy needed to think about in order to make his designs as cost efficient as possible was the construction. Apart from the construction detailing and calculations, which he was naturally able to provide for since he was also an engineer, the construction process itself was proving to be pretty challenging. Where can he find a contractor and a work force to actually build his designs for free? But then he went back to the history books that he soaked himself in and decided that the users should do what theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been doing on the Nile valley for thousands of years, and build their own homes. The only outside help to be provided was with the building of the roof, which was to be done by the help of the Nubian builders1. With his ideology finally taking shape, and the methodology proving to be possible, Fathy set his mind to the prospects of developing Upper Egypt. Full of hope for a better future for the peasants of Upper Egypt, Fathy started pursuing his dream.

1

Simone Withers Swan, Hassan Fathy: The Prophet of Mud-brick. pp 3-8.

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After several meetings with government officials for gaining support and funding, Fathy was finally given the chance to put his theories to the test. In 1947 he was assigned the task of resettling a village located very close to the Valley of Kings in Aswan, Egypt. This decision was taken by the Ministry of Antiquities to save the surrounding monuments and prevent further grave robbery1. Thus, Fathy was given the chance of a lifetime to provide a real life model to demonstrate his vision for developing Upper Egypt. And so, Fathy began working on the most acclaimed project of his career, the village of New Gourna, Aswan.

1

Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. pp 54-58.

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Learning Sustainability from Tradition

1.3

Realization

Figure 18: A photo of New Gourna taken c. 1950

Figure 19: An Egyptian pigeoneer

Figure 20: A photo of Old Gourna c. 1960

With the task of building New Gourna at hand, Fathy had finally gotten the opportunity to put his ideology to work. This rare opportunity to materialize his design ideology and principles provided the breakthrough that Fathy needed. He began his affiliation with the project by visiting the old Gourna to study its setting, its architecture, and its planning, in order to present himself with an idea of how the people of Gourna, his new clients, are accustomed to live. Fathy was not just interested in the forms of the buildings, but also the context of culture and customs that surrounds them. Although the buildings of | 21


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old Gourna still had the simple vernacular shapes of Upper Egypt; they were nowhere near the beauty and elegance of the Nubian style that always intrigued Fathy. But among the bleak poverty stricken buildings Fathy was still able to find beautiful forms to incorporate in his designs. And although the buildings were mostly below Fathy’s expectations some, rays of simple peasant creativity, like the pigeoneers (Fig.19), provided him with the keynote for designing such a project.

Fathy always considered the user to be his ultimate reference and most feared critic. And so, after his visit, Fathy decided to host separate meetings with the 1000 or so families residing in Gourna to identify their needs and desires. Fathy believed that this was the most important stage of the design process, because: “A home owner should always have the final say on the design of his house and not the architect, since a person’s home is his outermost skin.”1 This was to be achieved by re-establishing what Fathy referred to as ‘The Trinity’ of the user, the architect, and the craftsman 2 . He believed that this would ensure the individuality and complete adaptability of the houses to their desired functions, for after all; Fathy was designing for unique individuals with varying needs, tastes, and socioeconomic stances. But to Fathy’s dismay these meetings were fruitless, whether due to a lack of interest, resentment at the fact that they had to leave their old homes, or their inability to put their thoughts into words, these families where unable to provide Fathy with the feedback he required. So as a result of the above, in addition to the peasants’ general inability to understand the drawings provided to them, Fathy was compelled to build 20 test houses for the families to interact with2. In that way, Fathy was be able to indirectly receive the input he needed from the peasants through observation. This experience further strengthened Fathy’s argument for self-help building, and this is what he wrote regarding the matter:

1 2

Elwany, Hossam. “It is About Time for the Building to be Completed”. Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. pp 103-106.

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“The Gournis could scarcely discuss the buildings with us. They were not able to put into words even their material requirements in housing; so they were quite incapable of talking about the style or beauty of a house…. A peasant never talks about art, he makes it.”1 Fathy believed that architecture was highly influential on people’s immediate lives, and that it both, defined and was defined by the cultural and socioeconomic status of the people. Thus, he was aware, and very weary, of the fact that his village will have a big psychological impact on its inhabitants2. Fathy recognized the complexity and sensitivity of such project. “I was moving a complex social organism formed of blood relations, dispute, and customs. Dismantling a whole society and reassembling it in a new place”3. In Fathy’s visit to old Gourna and in his meetings with its inhabitants, he could not help but feel the sheer aura of helplessness and despair that was expressed by these people and radiated by every aspect of their village. So as a result, Fathy did not just want to simply build a new and better settlement for these people, but he wanted to help them regain positivity and control over their lives by providing them with a village that radiated with the hopes and dreams of its people, through a clean, beautiful, and efficient built environment.

In order to accommodate for his ambitions and the need to keep the project as cost effective as possible, Fathy decided that most of the work power needed would be provided by the inhabitants themselves, with the aid of a few other specialist workers, such as the Nubian vault builders. This decision was taken in order to respect the meagre means of his clients, and prove that his ideas were truly suitable for the under privileged. At that time, the idea of self-building was very revolutionary, but in reality Fathy was making the people do what they’ve always done in these rural areas, which is build their own homes. The main difference this time is that the people would receive aid and professional guidance from a qualified architect. In this way, Fathy was able to teach the people and learn from their

1

Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. p 106. Swan, Simone Withers, Hassan Fathy: The Prophet of Mud-brick .pp 14-16. 3 Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. pp 59-60. 2

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experiences, in addition to achieving his goal of lifting the people socially and economically by teaching them a new skill1.

Figure 21: Site plans showing the scope of the project and what was actually built

1

Fathy, Hassan. 'Rural Self-Help Housing', pp 1-17.

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Figure 22: Plans, section and elevation of a typical New Gourna dwelling

Figure 23: A section through the cultural centre, showing the stage

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Figure 24: A current picture of the well preserved Mosque of New Gourna

In Fathy’s urban scheme there was a mosque, a suq (or market), and a khan (an inn for travellers) with a permanent display area for the promotion of traditional crafts to the crowds of tourists visiting the Valley of the Kings. And in addition to the housing provided for the residents Fathy also designed a school, and a cultural centre1 (Fig.21). Thus, in his urban plan of the village Fathy addressed the social and cultural needs he identified by providing better communal areas and public buildings suited for the inhabitants’ needs2. Through his designs, Fathy was also trying to restructure the village’s economy so that it would rely on the inherent arts and crafts, agriculture, and hospitality rather than the illegal sale of excavated antiquities obtained from grave robbing. And so, for two years, Fathy lived in a home he had designed himself on the site, so he could overlook the construction of New Gourna.

1 2

Steele, James, An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy, pp 67-71. Swan, Simone Withers, Hassan Fathy: The Prophet of Mud-brick. pp 3-5.

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But sadly, things did not go smoothly, due to several disputes and incidents of sabotage that were incited by some of the families that still didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to leave their old homes1. Although the project never reached 100% completion, and was even considered by some as a failure, due to the lack of enthusiasm of its inhabitants, no one can deny its architectural, urban, cultural, and socioeconomic importance.

The main design flaws in New Gourna were: 1. The extreme optimism of the urban plan in terms of the number of visiting tourists. 2. The constant maintenance needed to uphold mud-brick buildings. 3. The predominant use of domed spaces that could not be enlarged to fit the familiesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; increasing spatial needs.

Now that Fathy could see the flaws of his ideas, he was able to refine them and move forward with his career.

1

Fathy, Hassan, Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt, pp 403-413.

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Refinement and Completion

Figure 25: A picture of Mr. Doxiades c. 1965

Figure 26: Mr. Doxiades (far right) meeting with his associates, with Fathy present (far left)

After New Gourna, Fathy continued developing his ideology further, and although the momentum of his idealism was halted due to the fact that New Gourna was never finished, he persisted in his belief that vernacular architecture could be Egypt’s national style. Due to his revolutionary ideas, which were becoming very popular at the time, and the fact that Fathy’s brand of architecture aimed at both climactic and economic sustainability in order to provide buildings for the poor, he was lobbied against ruthlessly by large contractors and construction companies. These companies believed that in abandoning steel and concrete for natural materials, construction costs would decrease and their profits would plummet. So with the withdrawal of government commissions and the lack of teaching posts, Fathy was left with private projects which didn’t allow him the chance to work with his more ambitious community ideas1. As a result, Fathy left Egypt in 1956 in order to take up a position with Doxiades Associates in Athens, Greece.

1

Elwany, Hossam. “It is About Time for the Building to be Completed”.

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Fathy was drawn to this company due to C. A. Doxiades’ unique architectural theories1. In 1942, a time when world war II was ravaging Europe, Doxiades was able to come up with a theory on human settlements and urbanization that he labelled ‘Ekistics’2, a term which was derived from the Greek word oikistikos, meaning: relating to settlement. ‘Ekistics’ is described by its originator as: “The science of human settlements as conditioned by human parameters and influenced by economic, social, political, administrative and technical sciences, as well as the disciplines related to the arts”1.

In other words, it is the study of all kinds of human settlements, with regard to geography, ecology, the physical environment, human psychology, and anthropology, in addition to the cultural, political, and aesthetic aspects of the urban sphere. It also involves regional, city, and community planning, and even dwelling design3. So it was only natural for Fathy to be attracted to ‘Ekistics’, since it was in perfect harmony, and in fact, a huge influence on his own brand of architectural theory. As a result, it was regarded as a huge opportunity for Fathy to grow his own ideas by exchanging thoughts with its originator Mr. Doxiades. In his 5 years of affiliation with Doxiades Associates, Fathy was assigned two projects: the ‘New Cities’ project in Iraq, between 1956 and 1958, and the ‘City of the Future’ project, between 1959 and 19624. During his time at Athens, Fathy’s influence by the principles of ‘Ekistics’ increased. He was especially fond of the concepts of universality, sectoring, and module standardization, which were among the theory’s integral pillars1. Also, being with Doxiades allowed Fathy to examine his ideas on a more international scale, to see if they would be adaptable in unfamiliar settings where there was no mud to create adobe bricks, like the gulf, or there was different climactic conditions, like rainy Central Africa. Fathy was also able to work with Doxiades on developing, what is known as, the ‘Self-Help Building System’, which is hinged on the notion that “one man can’t build a house, but 10 men can build 10 houses”5. Basically this social building system relies on the inhabitants, rather than professional workers, to build their own community. A romantic, but effective notion, this system was devised from 1

Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. pp 111-119. The C.A. Doxiades Biographical Note (2003) <http://www.doxiadis.org/ViewStaticPage.aspx?ValueId=4276>. 3 Doxiadēs, Kōnstantinos Apostolou. Ekistics: an introduction to the science of human settlements. 4 Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. pp 111-119. 5 Fathy, Hassan. 'Rural Self-Help Housing'. 2

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Fathy's and Doxiadesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; previous experiences with rural communities, namely the New Gourna project in Egypt and the post-war reconstruction project of rural Greece1. After 5 years, Fathy was now ready to return to Egypt with his now matured ideology, to start the last stage of his career, which was preaching the gospel of his brand of sustainable architecture to the masses.

1

The C.A. Doxiades Biographical Note (2003) <http://www.doxiadis.org/ViewStaticPage.aspx?ValueId=4276>

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Chapter 2: “Traditional Ideals in a Modern World”

Figure 27: The shadow of a traditional Upper Egyptian wall perforation

This chapter will shed the light on Fathy’s penultimate community project the village of ‘New Baris', Kharga Oasis, Egypt. The main aim of this exercise is to garner enough understanding of the final phase of Fathy’s architecture in order to continue with presenting the argument. After that, Hassan Fathy’s Ideology will be compared with Le Corbusier’s ‘Modern Architecture’, which was probably the architectural zeitgeist of the 20th century. Then, finally, a comparative case study will be conducted with two of Fathy’s and Le Corbusier’s most famous works, namely the Casaroni Residence and the Villa Savoye. | 31


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Fathy’s Desert Utopia, ‘New Baris’

Figure 28: A picture showing the wind catchers found in the market of New Baris

According to James Steele, a scholar and an author of many books on the life and works of Hassan Fathy: “No other project dominates the mature phase of [Fathy’s] work [and ideology] as much as the village of New Baris, in a way that is comparable to the notoriety of New Gourna twenty years before.” 1

1

Steele, James. The Hassan Fathy Collection: A Catalogue of Visual Documents at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. p 84.

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Figure 29: Pictures showing the ancient architecture found in the Kharga Oasis

The construction of New Baris started in early 1967, but was stopped later that year due to the disruption caused by the war with Israel. The site, located near Kharga Oasis in the centre of the Western Egyptian desert, was chosen due to the discovery of a huge water source in 1963, which was then estimated to be sufficient for irrigating 1000 acres1. As a result, the Egyptian Desert Development Organization was commissioned, by the government, to build an agricultural community to house 250 families2. Due to Fathy’s undeniable experience with building low cost rural communities he was the logical choice as the chief architect for this new project. This time, however, Fathy could not use mudbrick, due to the fact that the newly built Aswan High Dam prevented the annual flooding of the Nile that brought along the coating of rich black silt that was deposited on both banks of the river. So, to adapt with the new agricultural challenges provided by the dam, the Egyptian Government outlawed the stripping of topsoil for the making of mud-brick, in order to conserve the present agricultural land which can no longer increase substantially3 . Another difference from New Gourna was that Fathy had no clients to convene with, nor had he any precedents to take note of, thus the potential occupants of New Baris were a complete mystery to him.

Faced with a set of new challenges Fathy had to modify his approach. He decided to try developing a new technique for making sand-brick, now that mud-brick was out of the question4. He also decided that 1

Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. p 131. Steele, James. The Hassan Fathy Collection: A Catalogue of Visual Documents at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. p 84. 3 Biswas, Asit K. 'Aswan Dam Revisited', UNESCO Courier. 4 Elwany, Hossam. “It is About Time for the Building to be Completed”. 2

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his designs, being a model of his more mature and universal ideology, would take their style from the climate and traditional architecture of the surrounding, namely the village of Old Kharga and the nearby necropolis of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Bagawatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; (Fig.29)1.

Figure 30: Site plans of the full project and what was actually built

1

Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. pp 131-142.

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Figure 31: What remains today from New Baris

Bearing in mind the harsh desert climate, and the excessively high temperatures, that could reach up to 50oC by day, Fathy set out designing his master plan. The master plan was similar to that of New Gourna regarding the distributions of buildings, with the main focal communal areas and services being in the centre and surrounded by residential buildings. The heart of the community of New Baris was the suq (market place), in addition to public communal and services buildings, such as the mosque, the hospital, the administrative offices, and the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Moorishâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; cafe1 (Fig.30). However, unlike New Gourna, there are no vast public squares in the scorching sun, but rather a more realistic approach was taken in regards to circulation and public access. Fathy laid the streets in a way that ensured that most of them were either shaded by the surrounding buildings, or completely covered by some sort of a roofing system2.

As for the housing aspect of the project, Fathy laid the residential buildings in the form of sectors and districts. In each sector, the separate dwellings were grouped in clusters that lay on the North-South Axis, to provide shade for the streets. Each cluster of dwellings opened to a common planted courtyard. Thus, Fathy was able to create a system of courtyards and shaded streets, similar to what is found in Ottoman Cairo. He also used standardized housing units which could be easily grouped to provide adequate space to cope efficiently with the varying sizes and spatial needs of the prospective families. 1

Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. p 131-142. Steele, James. The Hassan Fathy Collection: A Catalogue of Visual Documents at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. p 84. 2

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This system, which runs all throughout the project, provided the efficient circulation of breeze through the whole complex1.

After Fathy addressed the environmental constraints presented by the site in his urban scheme, he began working on the forms of his buildings. As aforementioned, the project’s lack of clientele pushed Fathy to look for inspiration from the surrounding villages. And so, Fathy took note of “the introverted bulky forms, and winding passages of shaded corridors” that were present, in different forms, within these desert settlements1. The lack of air conditioning units led Fathy to consider the use of ancient ventilation systems in his designs. To note Fathy’s passive cooling approach, we will have a closer look at two of his buildings:

Figure 32: A plan of the market or suq

1

Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. pp 131-142.

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Figure 33: Sections and an elevation of the market of suq

Figure 34: Section (top left), plan (bottom left), and elevation (right) of a yakhchal in Tabriz, Iran

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I. The Market Place (or Suq): Fathyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s greatest challenge and arguably his strongest design, the market place, was the centre of his master plan, the main place of business and shopping. As a result, it needed to have a thermal environment suitable for both, the users and the perishable goods (crops) being sold1. In order to achieve this goal without the use of highly expensive mechanical ventilation systems, Fathy resorted back to ancient architecture. The more elusive of the presented challenges was storing the perishable crops without the use of refrigerators, which he addressed by studying the ancient Persian â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Yakhchalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; (Fig.34). The yakhchal employed the use of the earth from an underground space to provide insulation, in order to keep the cool from the evaporative cooling provided by the humidified natural ventilation, in order to store ice in the middle of the desert2. With this in mind Fathy set out to design the storage areas, with the addition of wind-catchers (Fig.33) and green courtyards to provide for a 15-20oC difference from the outside temperature3.

1

Steele, James. The Hassan Fathy Collection: A Catalogue of Visual Documents at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. p54. 2 Mahdavinejad, M, Kavan Javanrudi. 'Assessment of Ancient Fridges: A Sustainable Method to Storage Ice in Hot-Arid Climates'. Asian Culture and History. pp 133-134. 3 Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. pp 131-142.

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Figure 35: Sketches of a neighbourhood cluster

Figure 36: Plans and sketches showing the interrelation of dwellings and the shared shaded courtyards

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Figure 37: Final Sections and Elevations of a dwelling cluster

Figure 38: A sketch of a section showing the air flow through one of the dwelling units

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The Dwellings: When it came to the dwelling design Fathy used wind catchers, and courtyards, created from the clustering of dwellings to create a passive similar to the one in the market place (Fig.36 and 37). However in this design he used the double courtyard system found in medieval Cairian housing. This system “links a hard paved court, which heats up during the day, with a planted adjacent courtyard; the hot air rises by convection and cooler air ‘stored’ by the vegetation of the planted courtyard is drawn in through the takhtabush (or screen) between the courtyards, creating breeze”1 (Fig.38).

1

Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. pp 131-142.

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Traditionalism and Modernism, Ideals in Collision

Figure 39: A picture of Le Corbusier (on the left), his modulor (top right) and the concrete frame structures he used (bottom right)

Now that a clear understanding of Fathy’s matured ideas has been established in the previous part, a comparison will then be conducted with Le Corbusier’s ‘Modern’ ideology. Le Corbusier was chosen to be the subject of our comparison since this Swiss architect is considered to be the father of the ‘Modern’ theory of architecture, which, itself, was the strongest architectural ideology of the 20th century1.

His most famous quotes are: • “A house is a machine for living”2 • “To create architecture is to put in order. Put what in order? Function and objects”2 • “The styles are a lie”2

1

"Le Corbusier." <http://www.biography.com/people/le-corbusier-9376609#synopsis> 2 “Le Corbusier Quotes.” <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/le_corbusier.html>

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Thanks to his strong statements and his fascination with creating mass-produced living machines, e Corbusier was always a controversial figure. A firm believer in the veneration of function over form Le Corbusier believed that the form should be purely abstract, dictated only by the inherent qualities of the materials and structural system used. His ideology was based on the assumption that all human needs, at any point in history and in any place on earth, are uniform, thus a purely functional building, void of any decoration could fulfil the needs of its users anywhere and at any time1. With this notion in mind, Le Corbusier bore the idea of creating a style of style-less-ness, known as the ‘International Style’, adhering to the following points:

1.

The use of pillars, or pilotis.

2. A free facade, created from the use of a frame structure. 3. An open plan. 4. Large horizontal expanse of glazing. 5. Flat roofs with roof gardens. The ‘International Style’

also advocated the use of synthesized materials, such as reinforced

concrete, steel, and glazing, to further advance the idea of the globalized inhabitable machine1. It had no respect for different climates or cultures, but was rather created to be a standardized form of architecture made for mass production. As a result of its unsustainability modernism was discerned by architectural theorists and began fading away in Europe and North America in the 80s and the 90s to usher in the new era of ‘Post-modernism’.

1

Sbriglio, Jacques. Le Corbusier: The Villa Savoye. p 37-57.

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Figure 40: Fathy (on the right) instructing the villagers of New Gourna during construction

On the other hand, Fathy’s architecture was firmly rooted in the cultural identity of its location and well suited to the climate of its site1. Although Fathy, like Le Corbusier, was also a firm believer in functionality, he still believed in the importance of architectural forms and identity. To say that Fathy and Le Corbusier are polar opposites when it comes to cultural and climactic considerations, is just putting it mildly. In Fathy’s point of view, a building is not a machine for living, but rather a living piece of art that grows from the ground, like a tree, befitting and interacting with its natural surroundings2. He also believed that a region’s traditional architecture was developed as a human response to environmental adaptation. Therefore, for a certain region, there is not a more sustainable style of architecture than its traditional vernacular architecture. As Fathy puts it:

1

Abdelsalam, Tarek. "A Vision for Future: Analysis of the Prominent Synthesis of Culture and Sustainability in Hassan Fathy Architecture". p 8. 2 Elwany, Hossam. “It is About Time for the Building to be Completed”.

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;Every people that have produced architecture have evolved its own favourite forms, as peculiar to that people as its language, its dress, or its folklore. Until the collapse of cultural frontiers in the last century, there were, all over the world, distinctive local shapes and details in architecture, and the buildings of any locality were the beautiful children of a happy marriage between the imagination of the people and the demands of the countrysideâ&#x20AC;?1.

1

Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. p 61.

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Comparative Case Studies

Now, that an ideological comparison was made between Fathy and Le Corbusier, the next logical step is to compare project designs in regards to environmental sustainability performance. The chosen projects are key buildings in the careers of both prolific architects; they are Villa Savoye in Poissy, France and the Casaroni Residence in Giza, Egypt. Both projects were chosen because they deal with very similar contexts (rural setting), clients (wealthy families), and functions (a weekend retreat). These large similarities provide a suitable platform for comparing how each architect reacts to similar design requirements.

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Figure 41: Various pictures of the Villa Savoye

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Figure 42: The plans, sections, and elevations of Villa Savoye

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Learning Sustainability from Tradition

Villa Savoye, the definitive precedent of the ’International Style’, is located in the rural outskirts of Paris; this elegant building was built between 1928 and 19301. As seen in the plans and elevations provided (Fig.41 and 42), the building clearly manifests the 5 elements of the ‘International Style’ in an exemplary manner (Page 44). And although it sits well with its surrounding, the building does not provide any clue to the climate or location of the site, or the identity of its owners. In other words, the building is so generic and faceless that it can fit anywhere in the world. Although this might seem like a huge triumph from a modernist and globalist point of view, it is actually a huge disaster in terms of climactic design2. The absence of fireplaces required the users to install electric heaters. But that was still not sufficient because of the excessive heat loss from the large expanses of glazing and thin concrete walls that make up the building’s outer envelope. In addition to the problems of heat retention, the open plan provided a very large surface area to be heated, which proved to be a very difficult and costly affair, resulting in a building that falls short of thermal comfort for most of the year (Fig.43)3.

Figure 43: Showing the percentage of times the temperature is lower than 24oC in the summer and lower than 18oC in the winter

As a result of Le Corbusier’s neglect of climactic conditions in his design, his clients, the Savoye family, stumped him with numerous letters, complaining about their house feeling “constantly cold and damp”, and subject to “substantial heat loss due to the large [areas of] glazing”1. In addition to the “soaking of the house, whenever there is rain”, due to the use of flat roofs. With the passing years the falling out between the Savoyes and Le Corbusier deepened, culminating with the following correspondence from Mrs. Savoye:

1

Sbriglio, Jacques. Le Corbusier: The Villa Savoye. p 142. Hui, Cai. Vernacular Precedent Adaptation in Design in Terms of Sustainability: A Comparative Case Study on Le Corbusier and Hassan Fathy. pp 128-132. 3 Bobhate, Pranoti. Villa Savoye: An Architectural Wonder or a Thermal Disaster. pp 4-5. 2

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“After innumerable demands, you have finally accepted that this house which you built in 1929 is uninhabitable…. Please render it inhabitable immediately…. I sincerely hope that I will not have to take recourse to legal action”1.

These regular complaints provide us with a clear image of how unsatisfied the Savoyes were with their house, due to its unsuitability for the temperate climate of France. Villa Savoye requires less maintenance costs than Fathy’s mud-brick buildings, but due to its huge running costs, what is saved from maintenance is wasted on running.

1

Sbriglio, Jacques. Le Corbusier: The Villa Savoye. p 142.

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Figure 44: Various images of the exterior of the Casaroni House

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Figure 45: Images showing the roof, courtyard, and interior of the Casaroni House

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Figure 46: Detailed elevation, section, and plan of the Casaroni Residence

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Figure 47: Diagram showing the air flow (top) and shading (below) of the Casaroni Residence

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On the other hand, The Casaroni Residence by Hassan Fathy is a completely different story. It was built for the Casaroni family, in 1980, in the suburb of Shabramant, near Sakkara, Giza1. And like much of Fathy’s architecture, the connection between the building and its surrounding, is quite uncanny. With a design that is deeply rooted in the cultural traditions and climactic conditions of the site, Fathy’s building is quite at home with the simple vernacular villages and grand Ancient Egyptian monuments found nearby.

In this design, Fathy incorporates his usual thick load bearing walls to provide thermal mass for insulation, but this time he uses Fayum limestone instead of mud-brick. In plan, Fathy uses the usual ka’a and iwan configuration, which is comprised of a large domed multipurpose area (ka’a) that is flanked by two smaller spaces on each side (iwans) forming a semi-cruciform. These iwans then open up to the more private areas of the house. The ka’a, which directly overlooks the courtyard, is reached from a narrow domed corridor that links it with the bent main entrance (Fig.46). The used spatial configuration, along with the open courtyards, strategically placed windows, room heights, and the use of domed roofs, allow the architect to ingeniously direct the air flow. The breeze comes from the planted soft courtyard, through the perforated screen (takhtabush) to replace the heated air from the hard paved courtyard. Then it enters the ka’a through the open window overlooking the courtyard, replacing the hot air that rises and goes out through the clerestory windows present in the drum of the main dome. The dome’s hemispherical shape increases wind speeds around it, thus creating a negative air pressure zone, which invites breeze in, thus enhancing air circulation throughout the building, in addition to providing an alternative inlet for breeze2 (Fig.47). The mashrabeyas, installed on the windows provide indirect sunlight and air circulation, in addition to providing privacy to the indoor environment. This integrated system, though present in medieval Islamic architecture for centuries, is reimagined and used to perfection in Fathy’s designs to provide a magnificent final result of a 10-15oC temperature difference between the interior and the exterior3 (Fig.48).

1

Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. p 200. Steele, James. The Hassan Fathy Collection: A Catalogue of Visual Documents at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. p 84. 3 Elwany, Hossam. “It is About Time for the Building to be Completed”. 2

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Figure 48

Unlike, villa Savoye, the Casaroni residence was very well liked by its owners to the extent that they added a second floor and moved there permanently, after renaming it â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Mit Rehan' or the house of basils.

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Chapter 3: “Back to the Future”

Figure 49: The current skyline of Islamic Cairo

In the final chapter, the impact of modernism on Egypt (especially Aswan), and the reasons behind the unpopularity of Fathy’s traditional architecture will be examined. Also, the contemporary relevance of Fathy’s ideology will be considered in order to try and find a means of reconciliation between its advantages and the people’s needs.

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The Modern overtake of Aswan

Figure 50: What currently remains of Fathyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s New Gourna

Even though Fathyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s traditional design ideology might be more suitable for Egyptian culture, customs, and climate, it never really amounted to the popularity it deserved (except for maybe causing a stylistic stir in architecture schools and upper class villa designs)1. An undeniable fact was that concrete modernist buildings were spreading like wildfire throughout major Egyptian cities. What made corbusieran concrete modernism more desirable was the following: 1.

The relative ease of its construction process

2.

Its ability to produce high-rise buildings

3.

The speed of its construction process

4.

The ability to easily add extensions to existing buildings

As a result of the above, in addition to the Egyptian governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s endorsement to the rapid industrialization and modernization of Egypt (that took place in the 1950s), modernism was championed as the means by which the resulting rapid urbanization could be maintained. Thus, huge monolithic faceless soviet-looking apartment buildings started to take the place of European influenced neoclassical buildings and traditional Islamic houses. This extensive industrialization led to the migration of huge portions of the rural population to nearby cities (especially Cairo and Alexandria). The portrayal of the

1

El-Shorbagy, Abdel-moniem M. The Architecture of Hassan Fathy: Between Western and Non-western Perspectives. pp 180-205.

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metropolitan lifestyle of the city as a more desirable state of living was therefore imposed on the Egyptian consciousness for generations1. This distorted view led to the adaption of modern concrete apartment buildings to replace the traditional stone and mud brick housing found in the countryside, but nevertheless, not everyone could afford concrete buildings. This in turn created a semi-urbanized mesh in the countryside that can be clearly observed to this day2. Sadly, Fathy’s New Gourna did not survive this disastrous trend. Nowadays, concrete apartment buildings could be seen taking over Fathy’s grand master plan. Looking at figure 48, the scale of the concrete overtake to Fathy’s original design can be clearly noticed. Currently, all that remains is the mosque, the market place, the cultural centre, and a handful of houses3. For all of Fathy’s idealism he was never able to sway the poor, whom he was supposedly fighting for, to accept his ideology. He was only ever able to sway the intellectual elite of Egypt. Thus, even Aswan, Fathy’s working ground was not spared from the international trend that is modernist over-urbanism4. “Egypt’s rural housing problem starts with the assumption that a concrete house is better than a mud house”5 Adding municipal corruption and corporate greed to the already booming population of Egypt, lead to the over-urbanization of major cities and complete neglect of the countryside. The un-interest clearly displayed by town and city planners gave rise to slums appearing around all the major cities. In the countryside, peasants tore down their traditional family homes and levelled their plantations, to make way for rugged mal-designed concrete apartment buildings, trying to provide a better lifestyle and more space for their ever growing families2. Because, as seen in previous chapters, one of the most important customs found in Upper Egypt is the idea of the family home, now evolving to be the family apartment building. The complete adherence to customs and the unchecked mimicking of an already crumbling cityscape, however, created this eclectic mix of urban and rural that can be seen all over the Egyptian countryside. These ugly crumbling concrete buildings built hurriedly to provide for ever-growing

1

Salama, Ashraf M. A. Contemporary Architecture of Egypt Reflections on Architecture and Urbanism of the Nineties. p 4-6. 2 Abu-Lughod, Janet L. "Urbanization in Egypt: Present State and Future Prospects." Economic Development and Cultural Change. pp 313-340. 3 Safeguarding project of Hassan Fathy’s New Gourna Village: A UNESCO Initiative. p 4-5. 4 Sovani, N. V. 'The Analysis of "Over-urbanization". p 113-115. 5 Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. p 289.

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families, have very little adherence to the structural code let alone the sustainability code. Usually made up of 2 bedroom apartments, these buildings have no insulation, barely functional windows and balconies, and a complete disregard of interior climate control. So as a result, the lights are used all throughout the day, and the air conditioning for most of the year, thus contributing heavily to Egypt’s current energy overconsumption crisis, and further complicating these families’ already poor financial standing1. An example of this is found in Fathy’s “Architecture for the Poor”: “At Kom Ombo (located in Aswan), the concrete houses built by the sugar company for its employees proved too hot to live in during summer and too cold in winter, and the employees preferred to live in the mud houses of the peasants” In the event of their demolishing, which occurs readily since most of these are unlicensed buildings, almost nothing is recyclable due to the bad quality of concrete and re-bars used. A means of observing and quantifying this massive trend could be indirectly accomplished through monitoring the Egyptian cement industry, since cement is a main component in synthesis of concrete. The demand for cement has increased by more than a tenfold in the past 40 years, clearly showing a trend of steady increase in concrete construction in Egypt 2. The fact that the cement industry is one of two primary industrial producers of carbon dioxide, creating up to 5% of worldwide man-made emissions of this gas, (of which 50% is from the chemical process and 40% from burning fossil fuels) further supports Fathy’s conviction of its unsustainability3.

1

Salama, Ashraf M. A. Contemporary Architecture of Egypt Reflections on Architecture and Urbanism of the Nineties. pp 4-6 2 Askar, Yasser, Philip Jago, Mostafa M. Mourad, and Donald Huisingh. “The Cement Industry in Egypt: Challenges and innovative Cleaner Production solutions”. p 2. 3 The Cement Sustainability Initiative: Progress report, World Business Council for Sustainable Development. p 4.

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The Relevance of Fathy’s Ideas in the World of Today

After taking the previous chapters into consideration, the relevance of Fathy’s ideology for the present can be fairly assessed. In today’s world, the danger looming from the effects of global warming has prompted change in every aspect of our lives, including architecture. With modernism’s impersonal utopian ideas failing to cope with the climactic and environmental demands of today, it has completely fallen out of favour in terms of architectural theory, but regrettably it is still widely practiced in underdeveloped countries. But where modernity has failed the most, traditionalism has found success. The styles are not a lie; they were in fact developed for a reason. To us humans, the intelligent beasts, architecture is our response to the surrounding environment, our way of adaptability1. Fathy was able to see this, and didn’t let globalized idealism cloud his vision with western trends, but he was rather drawn, even more, to the traditions of the past2. He did not find the historical vernacular forms of his forefathers constraining, but instead, he used them as the platform from which he can launch his own unique architectural language. In his stellar pursuit to provide better living conditions for the poor, Fathy came close to realizing the temporary aspirations of low cost environmentally friendly architecture. He provided the world with buildings that didn’t contribute to environmental pollution whether during construction (using hand labour), occupancy (low carbon footprint from the reliance on passive cooling/heating techniques), or even demolition (the ease of recycling of the natural materials used which are either easily reused or re-introduced back to nature e.g. mud-brick)3. But apart from all that, Fathy’s architecture allows underdeveloped societies with a means to sustainable architecture, in a time when it is considered as an expensive (but really needed) commodity. Thus, Fathy’s traditionalist values are perfectly suitable for the current environmental challenges that arise from pollution, including global warming and climate change.

1

Kultur, Sinem. Role of Culture in Sustainable Architecture. pp 263-265. El-Shorbagy, Abdel-moniem M. The Architecture of Hassan Fathy: Between Western and Non-western Perspectives. pp 180-205. 3 Abdelsalam, Tarek. "A Vision for Future: Analysis of the Prominent Synthesis of Culture and Sustainability in Hassan Fathy Architecture". pp 7-8. 2

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Conclusion: Now that it has all been said and done, it is clear to see that user-friendly architecture is that which respects and accounts for the social (cultural), climactic, and functional needs of its users in an economically and environmentally sustainable design 1 . Mindless adherence to stylistic trends before user preference and contextual adequacy leads to a detached and absurd design. In Fathy’s words: “You cannot have a Swiss chalet in the middle of the desert, next to a camel and a palm tree”2.

Traditionalism is not a form of a nostalgic look to the past, like historicism, it is however, an evolutionary process of learning from and advancing ancient knowledge. This notion is reflected in Fathy’s belief that cultural and climactic needs are non-transferable. This is why Fathy embraced contemporarism but strongly opposed modernism. The monotonous uniform architecture produced by modernism as a backlash to the overtly nostalgic historicism movements was meant to subjugate cultures as the architectural zeitgeist of over-industrialized age of globalization 3 . But as a result of modernism’s desire for anonymity it ended up creating climactically (and sometimes economically) unsustainable buildings all over the world. On the other hand, the form of critical regionalism that Fathy was preaching, much like Alvar Aalto’s ideals and what he has done with Finnish architecture, was based around the notion that traditional vernacular bodies of architecture could initiate an alternative form of modern architecture that would still reflect the diverse identities of different cultures. A modern architecture that is also based on abstraction, but its form of abstraction was a contemporary and progressive elaboration of essential cultural principles, and not a consumerist oversimplification of human needs like Le Corbusier’s modernism4. There is still much room for evolution and enhancement to Fathy’s ideology through its augmentation with current technological advancements. With today’s continuous breakthroughs in the advancement of sustainable design strategies, Fathy’s ideology would be a perfect grounding. Employing modern techniques of insulation through the use of new materials as well as air tight construction methods will 1

Fathy, Hassan. Architecture and Environment. Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt. p 53. 3 Hamid, Ahmad. Hassan Fathy and Continuity in Islamic Architecture: The Birth of a New Modern. pp 140-144. 4 Kenneth Frampton, 'Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six points for an architecture of resistance'. 2

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improve the thermal performance of Fathy’s ideology. Also, the use of energy efficient home appliances and the addition of green energy solutions (such as the use of solar panels in heating and electricity generation) will decrease the energy consumption of his buildings (if not taking them entirely off grid). Another way of honouring Fathy’s ideology is learning from the shortcomings of his projects. Although he might have put a lot of effort in trying to analyse the socio-economic narrative of Egypt’s built environment, he was still an outsider looking in on the issues of the poor. He never really grasped the aspirations and shifting customs of the people of Upper Egypt, which is evident in the concrete overtake of his New Gourna. His ambitious but under-performing community projects, that never saw completion, could also provide us with a firm grounding for future large scale social housing projects, especially in developing countries. His reinterpretation and revitalization of ancient design elements should be an inspiration to the architects, who tend to take the easy way out especially when it comes to climate control (such as mechanical ventilation)1. Also, Fathy’s ingenious methods of encompassing onsite natural materials in his designs should also be a point of admiration. According to Fathy: “If you want to find the most suitable material to build on a certain site, look nowhere but beneath your feet, because the most climactically efficient material for every environment is located somewhere within it.”2

1

El-Shorbagy, Abdel-moniem M. The Architecture of Hassan Fathy: Between Western and Non-western Perspectives. pp 180-205. 2 Elwany, Hossam. “It is About Time for the Building to be Completed”.

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In the end, the key to building a better future for the next generation is learning from the successes and failures of the past and building on past bodies of knowledge. Finally, I leave you with an excerpt from Fathy’s ‘Natural Energy and Vernacular Architecture’. “There is much more to be acquired than scientific understanding and aesthetic appreciation of the vernacular architecture of a people. A topic such as this can open the door to recognition of the contribution traditional knowledge can make to the solution of many contemporary problems”1

Figure 51: A photo of children in Fathy’s primary school in New Gourna taken c.1951

Fathy, Hassan, Walter Shearer, and ʻAbd Al Rahman Sultan. Natural Energy and Vernacular Architecture: Principles and Examples with Reference to List Arid Climates. p xix. 1

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Appendices: Appendix A: “The Rise of Egyptian Slums”

Figure 52: The contrast between downtown Cairo (right) and the slums in its outskirts (left)

The rapid modernization and industrialization of Egypt, in addition to the population boom that followed the second world war lead to a trend of immigration from the rural countryside to the large metropolitan cities. But the problem actually started to take root in the mid 1960s, with the illegal construction on agricultural land in the outskirts of big cities, such as Cairo1. This worsened due to:

1.

The breakthrough that modernist architecture produced in the speed and

ease of construction with the use of concrete skeleton structures. 1

Sims, Davis, 'Urban Slums Reports: The case of Cairo, Egypt’, Understanding Slums: Case Studies for the Global Report on Human Settlements. Pp 1-5.

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The Egyptian-Isreali conflict that took place between 1967-1973 which

led to an economic stalement that in turn caused the freezing of formal development in major cities since most the resources were directed towards the army’s war effort.

4 decades later of rapid population growth, mediocre corrupt infested governments, and a slow economy, the UN estimates that 25-35% of Cairo’s 20 million inhabitants live in slums1. Due to the lack of government regulation these slums have no regard to planning or construction laws, creating a very hazardous mal-performing environment for its inhabitants.

1

El Singaby, Rashed , A Wake up Call – Cairo <http://urbanpeek.com/2011/06/13/a-wake-up-call-cairo-slums/>

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Appendix B: â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Egyptian Energy Crisisâ&#x20AC;? The Egyptian energy crisis is somewhat of a new problem that started in the wake of the revolution, but its roots go much further into the past. This crisis which culminated between mid-2013 and late2014 with massive blackouts throughout the country1. The crisis occurred due to the massive increase in the demand for electricity from an outdated hydro-carbon based infrastructure which was not yet equipped to handle it. The overconsumption of electricity, especially during the summer, by the everincreasing Egyptian households is one of the main attributes to such an immense increase in demand2. An average Egyptian household mainly uses electricity for illumination and air conditioning, so in theory if the need for illumination and air conditioning could be solved architecturally, then the demand for electricity will decrease substantially. This has also led the Egyptian government into the direction of renewable energy, with intent to shift about 20% of energy production to wind powered and solar powered stations. Although such intent is highly recommended for environmental and economic purposes on the long run, implementing an environmental building performance code would be the more effective short term solution.

1 2

Kingsley, Patrick, 'Egypt suffers regular blackouts due to worst energy crisis in decades', The Guardian. Devaux, Pascal, 'Egypt: A Crisis in the energy sector', BNP Paribas Economic Research.

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Appendix C: “The Influence of Hassan Fathy”

Figure 53: The work of Fathy’s pupils around the world

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Hassan Fathy was a very polarizing figure in the Middle-East, in one hand there was a small adoring fellowship of young architects who trained under him, and in the other hand there were the majority of western advocates who cursed his work. Fathy’s influence over Arabian architecture wasn’t extensive but could still be seen through the work of his disciples, especially his most famous disciples Abdel-Wahed El Wakil (a highly regarded Egyptian architect) and Rasem Badran (a world renowned Jordanian architect). The work of El Wakil and Badran really reflected the ideals of Fathy in an exemplary manner1. Fathy’s influence was not just felt in the Middle East, but it was actually a worldwide phenomenon. His traditionalist ideology, climactic awareness, and sustainable adherence resonated with many architects worldwide. His self-help system and his use of natural materials to create low cost housing were both championed in Africa and Asia. Even in Europe and North America Fathy’s adherence to traditional architecture without resorting to historicism was met with admiration. Finally, Fathy’s humanist environmental approach to architecture at a time when the synthetic monumental modernist movement was the norm inspired young architects everywhere to break away from rigidity towards a more natural architecture2.

1

Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. pp 180-187. El-Shorbagy, Abdel-moniem M. The Architecture of Hassan Fathy: Between Western and Non-western Perspectives. pp 206-215. 2

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Bobhate, Pranoti, Villa Savoye: An Architectural Wonder or a Thermal Disaster, (Nottingham: University of Nottingham, 2011).

Devaux, Pascal, 'Egypt: A Crisis in the energy sector', BNP Paribas Economic Research, 1.3, (2013), <economic-research.bnpparibas.com>, [accessed 8 December 2014]. Doxiadēs, Kōnstantinos Apostolou, Ekistics: an introduction to the science of human settlements, 3rd ed. (Oxford University Press, 1968).

El-Shorbagy, Abdel-moniem M, The Architecture of Hassan Fathy: Between Western and Non-western Perspectives, Thesis. (University of Canterbury, 2001). Elwany, Hossam, ‘It is About Time for the Building to be completed.’ A Documentary on Hassan Fathy, Al Jazeera Documentary Channel. (Aired February 13, 2007).

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El Singaby, Rashed, A Wake up Call â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Cairo Slums (2011) <http://urbanpeek.com/2011/06/13/a-wakeup-call-cairo-slums/> [accessed 5 January 2015].

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Figure Referencing: Figure 1: Author Figure 2: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 3: https://mslamli.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/sustainable-architecture-for-the-poor/ Figure 4: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/457045062155363349/ Figure 5: http://www.shaspo.com/nubian-village-trip-aswan-tours Figure 6: Author Figure 7: Author Figure 8: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 9: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 10: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/harrawi.htm Figure 11: http://islamic-arts.org/2012/elegant-solutions/ Figure 12: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 13: http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/nubian-vaults-in-africa/ Figure 14: https://www.educate-sustainability.eu/kb/content/thermal-mass/, http://sabalolodge.com/imgs/a-mud-brick/ Figure 15: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zishansheikh/3414485796/ Figure 16: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 17: http://traveltuesdays.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/potters-of-garagous.html Figure 18: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 19: Author Figure 20: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 21: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 22: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 23: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 24: http://vinayakbharne.com/practice-university-of-southern-california/ Figure 25: http://shortformcontent.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/k-doxiadis-man-of-futrure.html Figure 26: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 27: Author Figure 28: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture | 74


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Figure 29: http://www.alwaysegypt.com/western-desert-tours/ Figure 30: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 31: Google earth image Figure 32: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 33: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 34: http://misfitsarchitecture.com/2013/02/22/its-not-rocket-science-2-yakhchal/ Figure 35: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 36: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 37: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 38: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 39: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/567031409307015255/, http://thecityasaproject.org/2014/03/the-dom-ino-effect/ Figure 40: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 41: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/40110252902401286/ Figure 42: http://imgkid.com/villa-savoye-2nd-floor-plan.shtml Figure 43: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 44: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 45: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 46: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 47: http://aglobalvillage.org/journal/issue8/materials/syria/ Figure 48: http://www.arch.ced.berkeley.edu/vitalsigns/workup/two_houses/two_analysis.html Figure 49: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/88506031 Figure 50: http://whc.unesco.org/en/activities/637/ Figure 51: the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Figure 52: http://urbanpeek.com/2011/06/13/a-wake-up-call-cairo-slums/ Figure 53: Author

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Profile for Ramez Khalil

Dissertation  

My dissertation for the BA of Architecture.

Dissertation  

My dissertation for the BA of Architecture.

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