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Egyptian architecture might bring to mind the vast scale of the pyramids and the wonder of the temples with their vast statues - but Egypt has other architectural wonders too.
Islamic decorative art and architecture peaked in the Mamluk period (1249-1517). Cairo was then of the most influential cities in the Mediterranean, at the commercial and cultural crossroad between the East and the West, and the city soaked up the varied influences of foreign styles of art and architecture liked a sponge. This enthusiasm has continued, and architects of more recent times have also left their mark on Cairo.
Luxor experienced architectural experimentation of a very different nature, with Hassan Fathy's failed attempt at social engineering.
This highly regarded Egyptian architect had high ideals. Soon after graduating as an architect, he worked on a school at Talkha, a small, squalid town beside the Nile - an experience which inspired him to improve the lives of the disempowered. He pioneered the re-introduction of appropriate building methods and design for housing the poor in developing nations, working to create an indigenous environment at a minimal cost - and thus to improve the economy and the standard of living in rural areas.
From 1946-1953, Fathy worked with the Antiquities Department which had decided to displace the inhabitants of the Old Gourna out of 'the Antiquities Zone'. He designed and supervised the building of a completely new village to enable a forced relocation of the inhabitabs of Old Gourna. Fathy used the New Gourna project to re-establish the use of mud brick, together with traditional design such as using dense brick walls and traditional courtyards to provide passive cooling. Part of his philosophy required training local inhabitants to make their own materials and build their own buildings.
Fathy broke with custom by seeking to satisfy the individual needs of each family in the design of each house, saying
In Nature, no two men are alike. Even if they are twins and physically identical, they will differ in their dreams. The architecture of the house emerges from the dream; this is why in villages built by their inhabitants we will find no two houses identical. This variety grew naturally as men designed and built their many thousands of dwellings through the millennia. But when the architect is faced with the job of designing a thousand houses at one time, rather than dream for the thousand whom he must shelter, he designs one house and puts three zeros to its right, denying creativity to himself and humanity to man. As if he were a portraitist with a thousand commissions and painted only one picture and made nine hundred and ninety nine photocopies. But the architect has at his command the prosaic stuff of dreams. He can consider the family size, the wealth, the social status, the profession, the climate, and at last, the hopes and aspirations of those he shall house. As he cannot hold a thousand individuals in his mind at one time, let him begin with the comprehensible, with a handful of people or a natural group of families which will bring the design within his power. Once he is dealing with a manageable group of say twenty or thirty families, then the desired variety will naturally and logically follow in the housing."
In the end, however, the Gournis strongly resisted efforts to relocate them to their new village - they chose to stay put and continue their preferred way of earning a living.
Hassan Fathy left a legacy of 160 worldwide building projects - large and small, but all important, some even in New Mexico. His work earned (amongst other awards) the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1980.
Hassan Fathy's philosophy of sustainable architecture is closely linked with his observation that
neither capitalists nor the state seem willing to undertake the provision of peasant houses.
In Architecture For The Poor: An Experiment In Rural Egypt Fathy talks about his aspirations and experiences, from learning the native technique of mud brick construction in Nubia to his reasons for including traditional Egyptian architectural designs elements such as enclosed courtyards, vaulted roofing etc.
His work with the villagers at Gourna is particularly interesting. He tailored his designs to their needs, taught them how to work with the bricks, supervised the building, and encouraged the revival of such ancient crafts as claustra (lattice designs in the mudwork) to decorate the buildings.
The 'Belle Epoque' saw Cairo's transformation into 'the Paris of Africa' at the moment when Egypt stood at a crossroads in history and took it's first grand, bloody steps into modern times. It was a time - which now feels surprisingly distant - of both showy opulence and cruel decadence.
The story of how Cairo's 'Beautiful Era' - known as her 'Belle Epoque' came about, through nearly a century of greed-driven, bloody, cruelty. When the 'Belle Epoque' finally arrived, Cairo became know as the 'Paris of Africa' - in a reflection not only of her architectural splendour and social glitz but also of extravagance and decadence, epitomised in the extravagant celebrations surrounding the opening of the Suez Canal. But just a year later, the French empire collapsed and Egypt plunged into debt. Now, only hints of the 'glory' linger in some of Cairo's palaces and Parisian-style gardens.
200 black-and-white photographs of Cairo today. Architectural and street photography show an evocative mix of old and the new. The architects of the buildings in photographs are credited, and contact details are provided wherever possible.
A study of the beautiful and elegant Fatimids art (textiles, lustre ceramics, metalwork, carved rock-crystal, ivory and woodwork) and architecture. The creative use of figurative imagery and Arabic calligraphy characterised their work (909 - 1171 AD).
Part of a series of titles investigating Islamic art and architecture in the Mediterranean, the book is a collection of essays by different authors on the legacy of Mamluk art and architecture in Egypt. Eight itineraries cover Cairo, Alexandria, Rosetta and Fuwa.
A serious study which has engendered some debate amongst scholars.
Rossi shuns the search for abstract 'universal rules' to explain the history of Egyptian architecture, instead attempting to reconcile the different approaches of archaeologists, architects and historians of mathematics. Examining the pyramids in the context of their cultural and historical background, Rossi argues that theory and practice of construction must be considered as a continuum, not as two separated fields, in order to allow the original planning process of a building to re-emerge.
Highly illustrated with plans, diagrams and figures.
The first book to reproduce - in full - the wall paintings and murals of the royal tombs in "The Valley of the Kings" - one folding out from five full pages. The book is interestingly structured so that the illustrations follow the story of 'the journey of the dead', rather than the more usual 'tomb by tomb' method.
A helpful chronology and an introduction to the various gods and to the explorers who sought their tombs makes a useful start to this information packed reference book. Gloriously brimming with close-up photographs of the statuary, stelae, sarcophagi, wall paintings, reliefs, artifacts, and monuments, this book details the major discoveries across Egypt from Alexandria to the Monastery of St. Catherine and from the pyramids of Giza to Abu Simbel.
White Star publishers have established a well-deserved reputation for large books (10.5 x 14.5 inches) full of some of the best photographs of ancient Egypt seen in print.
A useful reference work in it's own right, this is also one of a series of three textbooks and three readers. This social history of technology explores the transition from predominantly rural to urban ways of living - how towns and cities have been shaped by applications of a range of technologies; the social origins of technology; and how such technological applications have been influenced by their contexts. Politics, economics, culture and the natural environment are considered with reference to archaeology, urban history, historical geography and architectural history.
The Pre-Industrial Cities and Technology Reader is designed to be used as a free-standing resource.
For children - a look at how the Egyptian pyramids were constructed - and an introduction to the people who built them.