New Gourna and Hassan Fathy’s earth architecture for the people of Egypt

New Gourna and Hassan Fathy’s earth architecture for the people of Egypt

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Hassan Fathy was an Egyptian architect, poet and visisionary who labored to revive vernacular architecture for the Egyptian people. His imaginative and prescient is related for a lot of the Middle East and Levante space, Greece and Turkey included. New Gourna was his imaginative and prescient –  a novel earthen neighborhood commissioned by the Egyptian Department of Antiquities within the sugarcane fields under the focus of historic Egyptian tombs. The village was designed and constructed between 1946 and 1952 to resettle villagers with a historical past of raiding and pillaging antiquities. Here is the story of New Gourna, an experimental village that may form the way in which architects can design our future.

New Gourna in Egypt

Why was New Gourna constructed?

In the guts of Egypt’s arid panorama, nestled on the west financial institution of the Nile, lies a village that defies conference. Its story begins round 1940 when an Egyptian architect with a imaginative and prescient named Hassan Fathy got down to redefine the way in which we construct and dwell. New Gourna, because it got here to be identified, was born from a noble function – to offer a greater life for the individuals who referred to as it residence.

hassan, hasan fathy, Egypt, green sustainable architect

Hassan Fathy, vernacular architect for the folks of Egypt

Hassan Fathy, who we have now featured over time, launched into this bold mission to deal with the dire dwelling situations of the impoverished residents of Old Gourna. Its inhabitants lived in abject poverty, crammed inside mud-brick homes that had been falling aside. Instead of dwelling in ramshackle slums, Fathy’s imaginative and prescient was to create a sustainable, self-sufficient, and culturally delicate neighborhood that will uplift the lives of the villagers whereas preserving their heritage. He hoped to construct them houses they might construct and restore themselves. A proud place to name residence.

Fathy drew his inspiration from the vaulted Islamic structure of historic Cairo and the normal mud-brick homes that could possibly be discovered throughout Egypt, from the Nile valley to the desert oases. The synthesis of those two types turned the muse of Fathy’s designs, and had been his manner of protesting in opposition to what he noticed as an invasive and concrete-heavy wave of modernism influenced by the West. We learn here about one of the problems of concrete.

Why wasn’t New Gourna a hit?

New Gourna, World Monuments Fund

New Gourna, aerial view. World Monuments Fund.

Photographer: Hubert Guillaud, World Monument Fund

New Gourna Village, Gina Haney/CommunityConsortium & World Monuments Fund

Despite the noble intentions, New Gourna confronted quite a few challenges that in the end prevented it from realizing its full potential. More than 10 years ago Arwa Aburawa reported here that New Gourna was in shambles. Several components contributed to its lack of success:

  1. Limited Resources: Fathy’s dedication to utilizing conventional, locally-sourced supplies and strategies meant that the development course of was sluggish and resource-intensive. This, coupled with an absence of funding, hindered the completion of the complete village. Only elements had been ever accomplished.
  2. Government Bureaucracy: The Egyptian authorities didn’t totally help Fathy’s unconventional strategy to structure and concrete planning created obstacles. They had been extra inclined in the direction of modernization and concrete growth, which didn’t align with Fathy’s imaginative and prescient. This continues to be true in all elements of the Middle East. While the United Arab Emirates was proud to fund Masdar, a zero energy city near Abu Dhabi, no residents from the area wished to dwell there. An amazing concept that did not launch.
  3. Socioeconomic Factors: The future inhabitants of New Gourna had been immune to Fathy’s concepts, as they required them to adapt to a brand new lifestyle.
  4. Maintenance Challenges: New Gourna’s low-tech structure constituted of earthen supplies requires upkeep, which the villagers struggled to afford and do.
  5. Incomplete Vision: Some say that Fathy’s bold imaginative and prescient for New Gourna was by no means totally realized. Only a portion of the deliberate village was constructed earlier than funding dried up and the mission was deserted. Hassan Fathy additionally used dome ceilings which had been linked to religious buildings and homes of worship, reminiscent of mosques. (Related: 5 beautiful and sustainable mosques). This made the native resist dwelling in such houses.

What can vernacular architects study from New Gourna?

New Gourna, Hubert Guillaud, World Monument Fund

While New Gourna could not have achieved the success Hassan Fathy initially envisioned, it affords worthwhile classes in sustainable structure and neighborhood growth:

  1. Cultural Sensitivity: Fathy’s dedication to preserving the cultural heritage of the villagers through the use of conventional constructing supplies and strategies is a testomony to the significance of respecting and valuing native tradition in architectural initiatives. Every outsider coming to construct a brand new “imaginative and prescient” even when they’re from the place and communicate the language wants to essentially hear and perceive the wants of the long run inhabitants.
  2. Sustainability: The village’s eco-friendly design showcased the potential for sustainable structure lengthy earlier than it turned a world concern: this was earlier than environmentalists understood the function of the circular economy and the influence of sustainable constructing. Lessons from New Gourna might be utilized to up to date efforts to create eco-friendly and energy-efficient buildings. New Gourna is extra related than ever particularly when crimes in opposition to nature are about to be constructed – see the Neom project in Saudi Arabia.
  3. Community Involvement: Involving the neighborhood within the design and development course of is essential for the success of any sustainable growth mission – particularly in low-income areas. New Gourna’s struggles spotlight the significance of garnering native help and participation. If you look to pure builders like Bill and Athena Steen in Canelo, Arizona, they’ve recruited a world following and neighborhood who come to study and share natural strawbale building techniques. Or Nadar Khalili, a refugee from Iran who lived in California, working at Cal-Tech. Khalili was an Iranian-born American architect, writer, and educator. He is finest identified for his ingenious buildings that included a spread of atypical constructing supplies to offer shelter within the growing world and emergency contexts. Superadobe houses are probably the answer for sustainable housing around the globe. See how they are used by Palestinians here.
  4. Resourcefulness: Fathy’s capability to create revolutionary options with restricted sources is a testomony to human ingenuity. It underscores the significance of discovering sustainable, cost-effective options to trendy city challenges.

What supplies had been used within the development of New Gourna?

Brick making in New Gourna, around 1945

Locals engaged in brick making for New Gourna, round 1945.

Hassan Fathy’s architectural philosophy revolved round utilizing locally-sourced, sustainable supplies to construct buildings that had been in concord with the setting and tradition of the area. In the development of New Gourna, a number of key supplies had been employed:

  1. Mud Bricks: The major constructing materials in New Gourna was mud bricks, also referred to as “adobe.” Famously utilized in Mexico and New Mexico, complete cities might be constituted of mud bricks as we see in Yemen. These bricks had been constituted of a mix of clay, sand, and straw, and so they had been dried within the solar. Mud bricks should not solely eco-friendly but in addition present glorious insulation in opposition to excessive temperatures.
  2. Palm Wood: Palm wooden was used for roof buildings and beams. It is a available, renewable useful resource within the Egyptian desert and supplied a pure aesthetic to the buildings.
  3. Stone: In some circumstances, stone was used for foundations and structural help, offering stability and sturdiness to the buildings.
  4. Reed: Reed was used for ceilings and as a shading materials within the scorching desert local weather. It allowed for air flow and diminished the necessity for energy-intensive cooling methods.
  5. Natural Pigments: Natural pigments had been used to brighten the buildings, including colourful patterns and designs to the exteriors. If you will have ever travelled to Sinai you will notice sand and rocks that vary from a darkish black to pinks, mauves and purples.

Original photograph from the mid-Forties of New Gourna

Fathy’s selection of supplies was not solely sustainable however was additionally rooted within the vernacular structure of Egypt, guaranteeing that New Gourna seamlessly blended with its environment.

Who was Hassan Fathy?

Hassan Fathy

Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy

Hassan Fathy was a visionary Egyptian architect who left an indelible mark on the world of structure and sustainable design. Born in 1900 in Alexandria, Egypt, Fathy studied structure in Cairo and later in France, the place he was uncovered to modernist architectural developments. However, he felt disillusioned by the disconnect between trendy architectural practices and the wants of his homeland. You may say it was the time. Quite a lot of new religious actions had been gaining momentum. There was Rudolf Steiner in Austria and Germany and spiritualists like Viktor Schauberger. engaged on water.

Fathy’s architectural philosophy was deeply influenced by a reverence for conventional Egyptian structure, a dedication to social fairness, and a priority for the setting. Spanning hundreds of years, Egyptian structure just isn’t one type, however a set of types differing over time however with some commonalities. He believed that  Egypt’s structure ought to be accessible to all and that it ought to be in concord with its cultural and environmental context.

Throughout his profession, Fathy championed the usage of local, indigenous materials and development strategies, advocating for sustainable architecture lengthy earlier than it turned a world motion. His most well-known work the village of New Gourna, exemplified his dedication to those ideas.

Fathy’s legacy extends past his constructed works. He wrote extensively, along with his influential e-book “Architecture for the Poor” (initially revealed in 1969) outlining his architectural philosophy and ideas. His concepts proceed to encourage architects and designers worldwide who search to create sustainable, culturally delicate, and socially accountable structure.

What is the standing of New Gourna at the moment? 

New Gourna Village, World Monuments Fund

Today, the village of New Gourna is a mix of each success and stagnation. Many of the unique buildings nonetheless exist, bearing the architectural and cultural marks of Fathy’s imaginative and prescient. These buildings proceed to draw architectural fanatics, historians, and vacationers who come to understand the distinctive mix of custom and innovation that characterizes the village.

It was open to the general public round 2018 and you’ll go to it on the way in which to the Memnon Colossi, the Ramesseum or the Hatshepsut Temple. The mosque is straightforward to see from the tip of the primary village highway. Look for an indication to the Hassan Fathy structure in New Gourna. Some elements are solely open within the mornings, so journey early.

However, New Gourna stays a divided neighborhood. Some of the residents have embraced Fathy’s concepts and have maintained their houses within the spirit of his imaginative and prescient, whereas others have steadily deserted the normal mud-brick homes in favor of extra trendy dwellings. The upkeep and maintenance of the adobe buildings have been a big problem for the residents, resulting in the decay of some buildings.

The Egyptian authorities has acknowledged the cultural significance of New Gourna and its potential as a heritage website. Efforts have been made to protect and restore a number of the buildings, however monetary and logistical constraints have hindered complete restoration initiatives.

Despite its challenges, New Gourna continues to function a supply of inspiration for architects and concrete planners worldwide. Back in 2010 the World Monuments Fund expressed help in preserving New Gourna. A PDF report of the site was created by the World Monuments Fund with the help of the Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Conserve our Heritage, and in collaboration with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the Luxor Governorate of Egypt. You can get the 2010 report on New Gourna here.

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