Troelenberg, Eva-Maria. "Drawing Knowledge, (Re-)Constructing History: Pascal Coste in Egypt." In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 4, Number 2 (pp. 287-313), edited by Peter Christensen, Bristol: Intellect, 2015.
This article looks at the work of the French architect Pascal Coste in Egypt. Muhammad Ali hired him primarily as an expert for infrastructure projects in 1817. Over the course of several years spent in Egypt, Coste also studied the main medieval monuments, particularly in Cairo. These studies were related to his plans for two revivalist mosques in Cairo and Alexandria (which were never realized). They also resulted in the publication of his seminal work Architecture Arabe ou Monuments du Kaire. Employing a process-based reading of the architect’s drawings, I seek to revisit Coste’s work as an engineer and an historian of architecture in and for Egypt. I will look at the role of the expert as intellectual agent, assess the notion of drawing as a medium for the establishment of cross-cultural knowledge and relate these observations to his more technical and applied work as an engineer. Through a critical assessment of the limits and possibilities of this expert’s cross-cultural agency, the case study of Coste also aims to offer an exemplary perspective on the role of the Muslim Middle East and related notions of tradition within the narrative of a larger modern Mediterranean world.
Keywords: Egypt; Muhammad Ali; Pascal Coste; modern Mediterranean world; modernization; revivalism