Learning from Cairo, co-organized by CLUSTER and the American University in Cairo, was an international symposium that sought to engage the current political and urban transformation unfolding in Cairo as a critical context for examining relevant international case studies and best practices in areas ranging from housing, transportation, public space and local governance to informality.
The conference emphasized a comparative and interdisciplinary approach bringing practitioners, academics, officials and local stakeholders into dialogue, with the objective of generating an ongoing critical urban discourse and future visions for Cairo.
Archiving the City in Flux examines new modes of informal urban interventions in public space in Cairo that have emerged since January 2011. During this time a breakdown of the security apparatus has led to a state of unprecedented fluidity in the city.
Archiving the City in Flux offers a preliminary account of the city as it has evolved over this two-year period, focusing primarily on public space and emerging urban orders, and attempts to draw lessons from informality towards the development of alternative design guidelines and planning policies.
Housing Cairo: The Informal Response, edited by Marc Angélil and Charlotte Malterre-Barthes in collaboration with CLUSTER and Something Fantastic, offers a lens into the urban development of Cairo and the practices that have shaped it.
Home to 20 million people and still growing, Greater Cairo mirrors the global phenomenon of unplanned urban growth. Approximately 60 percent of the population of Africa’s biggest city lives in so-called informal housing, typically five-to-ten-story concrete-and-brick-infill structures built without permits in the desert or on former agricultural land. Housing Cairo: The Informal Response illuminates the architecture of informality and its mechanisms of production through a series of theoretical essays and architectural design proposals. Central to the project is a re-examination of the concept of “informality” itself and its often negative connotations. As the book argues, Cairo’s informal response to housing needs is not a marginal phenomenon, but rather an intelligent, optimized answer to planning incapacities – an answer that architects and planners should themselves be participating in.
Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo is an exploration of successful models of creative cities of relevance to the future development of downtown Cairo, and of the role culture can play as a catalyst for development.
Looking critically at the changes that have taken place in Cairo over the past few years, and building on the wealth of studies of both urban history and contemporary conditions that Cairo enjoys, Creative Cities offers comparative and interdisciplinary approaches to issues related to public space, heritage and urban culture, the revitalization of Downtown in the context of gentrification and securitization, and urban governance. The publication is based on the Creative Cities conference that brought scholars, professionals and experts together with local cultural actors, community leaders and stakeholders and consisted of public plenary sessions as well as critical urban walking tours that aimed towards alternative visions for Cairo’s downtown, informed by both local and international practices.
The appendix to the Creative Cities:Re-framing Downtown Cairo publication features CLUSTER’s mapping of the creative industries Downtown, and a specially produced timeline and map of heritage buildings in downtown Cairo.
The Creative Industries in Downtown Cairo map and listings present initiatives in the fields of art and culture, media, and design. Initiatives and organizations addressed in the Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo conference are highlighted and indexed with reference to the main volume.
The appendix also presents CLUSTER’s map of Downtown Heritage Buildings based on the National Organization of Urban Harmony’s listings, as well as a timeline of over 80 significant buildings, and detailed descriptions of 10 buildings featured in the Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo conference.
Cairo Downtown Passageways: Walking Tour publication falls within the context of CLUSTER’s broader research endeavor exploring the network of downtown Cairo’s passageways, back alleys, side streets and in-between spaces as an alternative framework for the development and revitalization of Downtown. Viewed together, they offer an opportunity to re-envision Downtown as a network of pathways housing commerce and entertainment. They also offer a counter-point to the traffic and street grid, with the potential to present a stage for periodic artistic and cultural programs, such as book fairs, children’s festivals, flea markets, and even bike lanes and greenways.
The guidebook explores cultural and entertainment highlights, spaces of memory and heritage sites alongside Downtown’s back alleys. It offers a glimpse into a larger body of information, a database on Downtown passageways and in-between spaces that CLUSTER has mapped over three years: including activities, patterns of use, typology and genealogy, materiality and texture, circulation and access, roofing and proportion, in addition to territoriality and tools of demarcation, and other spatial and visual documentation and analysis. The website also features interviews with local community members and stakeholders. The booklet, which is organized around superblocks and walking tours through their passageways, is a companion guide to the Cairo Downtown Passageways website. We invite you to explore Cairo’s Downtown passageways and their potential as sites for a more diverse, environmentally friendly, and vibrant Downtown:
Presented since 1950 as the solution to all urban problems, new cities have flourished in the deserts around Cairo. Colossal amounts of money and resources have been spent in the name of a modern Egypt, all of which have yet to show success. Instigated by the Master of Advanced Studies in Urban Design at the Chair of Marc Angélil, ETH Zurich, and directed by Charlotte Malterre-Barthes with Something Fantastic in collaboration with CLUSTER, this study explores these cities, their failures and relative accomplishments, and the urban conditions that have emerged as a result.
With the intention of launching a critical conversation, Cairo Desert Cities asks: If desert development must happen, why does it have to be unsustainable and poorly designed? Embracing the responsibility held by the design professions in directing this urbanization, the publication explores existing desert architecture, analyzes its urban forms, and proposes design solutions, thus offering another take on desert development.