Topic for Debate
Thesis: Conservation and Participation in Cairo
Hello, we are Elisa and Michele, students of the School of Architecture at Florence University.
We are about to prepare the thesis of degree: a study on the Cairo city that will be developed during an upcoming period of stay.

Can anybody help us with informations, documents, etc.?

Proposal of thesis:

Several theses of degree have been elaborate, concerning the urbanistic search on the self-government abilities development in many foreign countries. This thematics assume a peculiar character when ectogenous models of development notch the integrity and the maintenance of consolidate urban or architectural structures and whit great historical and cultural value. The mediterranean Countries are in this united by the huge heritages, that set often conservation problems apparently incompatible with the diffused tendencies of economic and urban evolution that characterize the modern metropolis.

The Cairo for us, parties in particolar way to the search and the historical-architectural analysis, is a case of study of extreme importance because it collect together the widest urban reality of the African continent and a vast cultural and artistic patrimony that touches the whole Islamic tradition and the history of the humanity whose conservation is an emergency recognized since the Congress for the rescue of the Islamic Cairo patronized by Unesco in 1980 and underlined with the inclusion of the historical center of the actual metropolis in the World Heritage List.

The progressive demografic increase determined by the urbanization of poor classes of rural origin has forced the Egyptian Government to search radical solutions that however, made ineffective by the strong affairs in the real estate sector, they have not succeeded in embanking the problem.

It occurs therefore:

- the search of informal housing solutions with the express proliferate of a wide spontaneous and unauthorized urbanization, often in agricultural areas previously respected by the urban expansion, those made fertile by the Nile floods;
- the overcrowding of the traditional housing zones, that makes inadequate the consolidated fabrics to the most greater housing density, provoking an environmental decadence characterized by the lack of infrastructures suitable to the civic uses, substitutions, raisings, arbitrary splitting up of ownership; neither the most recent boroughs of colonial era, also them endowed with particular architectural values, neither the monumental cemetery areas of the city are exempt from the incongruous use of the historical zones.

In this complex phenomenon, it is interesting to highlight that while in the historical borough the rapid transformations cause the loss of the urban identity features, instead in the unauthorized buildings the same spontaneity of such solutions produces the meaningful presence of building features and ways of use of the urban space more rooted in the traditional society, and often absent in the "globalized" public plannings.

The amplitude of the theme and the integrated and necessary multi-disciplinary approach to the planning of such reality come out from our field of study, that it cannot face the search of global planning solutions; nevertheless, the hypothesis of a possible work borns by setting the attention on some considerations.

- the idea that the urban form and her changes is expression of a precise social form, and that vice versa the urban environment conditions and determines forms of behavior and social changes;
- the presence of some situations (the waqf, the subdivision in local community and harrat, the permanence from XVI century of the manual garbage collecting private system, organized around the figures of the wâhiya and the zabbâlîn) in which the building forms were or they are tightly still tied to a tradition, an organization or a structuring of the collectivity;
- the disastrous effects on the urban image of ectogenous practices to the local culture applied to the city development.

These considerations push us to the formulation of the following questions:

- which are the social structures, permanent in the complexity of the metropilis, that they have formed the elements of the historical city?
- can be considered as resources, and how could they be strengthened and harvest to fruit for a model of conservation of the city and its cultural patrimony that is aware and sustainable?
- can it build a continuous and alternative model to the episodic interventions of conservation finalized to the tourist exploitation this way?
- is it able to get from this a valid tool to give completeness and possibility of coexistence to the historical areas of Cairo and the new use that it 's done from there?

The investigation necessary to answer to the above-said questions would like to be the matter of our thesis. This indagation, addressed to the city and mainly to its historical boroughs, up to the individualization of a more reduced area of study and useful to the close examination of the search, it implies:

- the analysis of the historical-urbanistic evolutions made through the examination of the cartographic documents, of the more recent city descriptions, of the iconographic repertoire, etc.
- the individualization of the traditional social structures permanents in the area of investigation and the building forms produced by it,
- the investigation on the field that corroborates the presuppositions of the search and it underlines the possibilities of its development.

So that the work assumes a meaningful depth, it will result necessary the support of local referents that addresses the necessary studies in the complexity of the real context, from the retrieval of the documents and the sources, to the individualization of the community values, to the contact with the principal actors of the local social frame. Finally, the results can be collected constituting an enjoyable base of knowledges for the possible planning or action developments within the faced problem list.
Michele Morbidoni
Thesis: Conservation and Participation in Cairo
Pls. contact me at
Galal Abada


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