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.
"The Stopplaere house, which dates from the year after New Gourna was completed, was designed as both a guest house for the Department of Antiquities and the headquarters and apartment of Dr. Alexander Stopplaere who was the chief restorer of the Department at that time. The architect's drawings of the house, which went through several revisions, all convey the difficulty of combining these two diverse entities into one, showing how the architect was struggling with the duality of functions involved.
The first scheme he attempted uses a square plan to group both sectors around two perfectly balanced parallel courtyards that are divided by a bisecting wall. The demands of a ridge-like, linear site, however, which is strategically located at the summit of a step ridge overlooking the main entrance into the Valley of the Kings and Queens at Luxor, eventually forced the opening up of the plan into an elongated rectangle. A skylit gallery, of a kind that first appeared in the Hamid Said house, is used to join both sides of the residence, and the bisecting wall of the original concept finally emerges as a fully expressed buttress in the finished building, effectively separating the main entrance and its garden from the private quarters of Dr. Stopplaere.
In spite of the fact that no "as-built" drawings for this project exist, the small collection of initial sketches that have survived provide a rare insight into the creative thought processes of the architect, and show how actual site conditions began to inform a beginning design idea. The photographs of the actual building are equally important in that they include interior views of both the rooms and the courtyards. As is the case with so many of Fathy's surviving works today, access into the Stopplaere house is now very restricted, which gives these interior views added significance."
Steele, James. 1989. The Hassan Fathy Collection. A Catalogue of Visual Documents at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Bern, Switzerland: The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, 19.