Hassan Fathy was born in 1900 in Alexandria, Egypt. He was an Egyptian
architect, artist and poet who had a lifelong commitment to architecture in the
Muslim world. Early in his career he began to study the pre-industrial building
systems of Egypt to understand their aesthetic qualities, to learn what they
had to teach about climate control and economical construction techniques and
to find ways to put them to contemporary use.
systems dominated his thinking: the climatically efficient houses of Mamluk and
Ottoman Cairo, ingeniously shaded and ventilated by means of their two-storey
halls, mashrabiyyas and courtyards; and the indigenous mud brick construction
still to be found in rural areas. The latter consists of inclined arches and
vaults, built without shuttering, domes on squinches built over square rooms in
a continuing spiral, semi-domed alcoves and other related forms. The urban
housing forms of Cairo could not serve Fathy directly as a replicable source
because of the disappearance of the building traditions that created them.
These fine old houses enriched his imagination, however, and were to become
models for later large-scale work. The ancient mud brick forms, in contrast,
were still being produced by rural masons unchanged. Stimulated by what he had
learned, Fathy had what was then a revolutionary idea. He perceived that a
connection could be made between the continuing viability of mud brick
construction and the desperate need of Egypt's poor to be taught once again to
build shelter for themselves.
Hassan Fathy devoted himself to housing the poor in developing nations and deserves study by anyone involved in rural improvement. Fathy worked to create an indigenous environment at a minimal cost, and in so doing to improve the economy and the standard of living in rural areas. Fathy utilized ancient design methods and materials. He integrated a knowledge of the rural Egyptian economic situation with a wide knowledge of ancient architectural and town design techniques. He trained local inhabitants to make their own materials and build their own buildings. Climatic conditions, public health considerations, and ancient craft skills also affected his design decisions. Based on the structural massing of ancient buildings, Fathy incorporated dense brick walls and traditional courtyard forms to provide passive cooling.
Awards 1959: Encouragement Prize for Fine Arts and Gold Medal. 1967: National Prize for Fine Arts and Republic Decoration. 1980: Chairman's Award, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. 1984: Union Internationale des Architectes, Gold Medal.
"As a member of the Doxiades Organization in Athens between 1957 and 1962, Fathy entered wholeheartedly into both the intellectual and social activities of the Ekistics group, lecturing on the relationship between climate and architecture at Athens Technical Institute and joining the 'City of the Future' research project then underway at the Ekistics Centre itself.
The drawings for the Iraq Housing Program, which were associated with this project, include master planning of an entire city, as well as a detailed examination of one component. This component, representing one neighbourhood in the city, is made up of all the elements of a traditional Iraqi village, such as a mosque, market shops, coffee-house, school and houses, with the addition of a park and immaret, or administration centre. Closer examination of the drawingso for what he called Hussiyah Village, while initially giving pause because of an occaisional lapse into 'beton brut', which is used as a gesture towards his patron, show a deep concern for the separation of pedestrian and vehicular circulation, and for the types of housing provided for different classes of people, including farming and non-farming families as well as government officials, and tradesmen. The drawings are also accompanied by sketches of vernacular houses with stone basements designed to trap cool night air for recirculation through the house during hot summer days, indicating that they be used as models for single-family houses, with the old system incorporated into the new designs." (construction not verified)
Steele, James. 1997. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. London, United Kingdom: Thames and Hudson.