Two contrasting urban fabrics in Cairo, Egypt
People shape their cities in many ways and on many scales. Describe how socioeconomic factors can shaped the built environment from the entire city to the single public space. Discuss the most relevant example from the class/reading material and bring your own example from your own experience and observations
(Sustainable Development in Cities, USP 514 Class Discussion)
By: Waleed Shehata
Historic Cairo contains possibly the finest and best surviving collection of more than 600 listed building, as well as its preserved urban fabric. Sorrowfully, sixty or more years ago, Cairo’s historic quarters have started facing deterioration symptoms. The long government neglect resulted in squatter settlements, diluted infrastructure and informal industries. This situation together with poor public awareness toward the value of heritage contributed to severe deterioration conditions for years. Despite dedicating a huge financial resources from the local government and international organizations the preservation, restoration and protection of historic Cairo’s monuments extend far beyond saving, or even restoring bricks and mortar for tourists. With conservation of the authentic fabric in mind, the adaptive reuse of Cairo’s heritage buildings is a recommended strategy for integrative revitalization and urban development of the historic city.
In architectural heritage conservation, adaptive reuse refers to the appropriate functional conversions of heritage buildings to suit the existing use or a proposed use. “The fact is that the best of all ways of preserving a building is to find a use for it, and then to satisfy so well the needs dictated by that use…” Viollet-le-Duc, 1854. The function is the most obvious change, but other alterations may be made to the building itself. Adapting a valuable building for reuse can include intensive exterior and interior modifications that are purely aesthetic and/or functional; such as the circulation route, the orientation, and spatio-physical relationships. In some cases the process of adaptive reuse may exceed the boundaries of the existing structure, or it may even necessitate the construction of an annex building depending on the peculiarities of the project. In other words, adaptive reuse includes any intervention to adjust, upgrade, introduce new services and uses to suit desired functional requirements, while safeguarding the place. The process itself should be applied to the building while retaining its structure, character, original identity and general authentic significance for future generations.
Thus, adaptive reuse of heritage buildings does not only step up the maintenance of the structure and delay its decay, but it also allows the functioning building to get involved in the living context it lies within, unlike buildings that are deserted and disused.
By: Joe McBride
The urban forests of Johannesburg, Lagos, and Cairo were surveyed to provide a data base for a comparison of their composition, structure, and condition. Tree species diversity in these three urban forests was compared to the species diversity of trees in each biome in which the city occurred and to climatic parameters of each biome to measure the correlation between urban forest characteristics and the characteristics of the biomes. Structure of the urban forest was examined in relation to historical precedents for urban design in each city. Current problems of urban forest condition and management are discussed.
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Urban Forest of Africa (Johanesburg, Lagos & Cairo)
Picture taken from the Nile in Cairo looking at its western bank, Nov2013
The Nile, in general, and particularly in Cairo, is an ecological, cultural and social corridor that is not yet fully utilized. The 2011 Cairo workshop “Connecting Cairo to the Nile” identified the potential to increase accessibility to the river, suggested longitude trail system, proposed connecting the waterfront with adjacent neighborhoods and proposed expanding the ferry system. I studied a 2-km reach of the east bank in Maadi, a wealthy suburb about 10 km upstream of the city center, with relatively greener banks, availability of resources at the district level, higher awareness of local residents, physical setting allow for banks re-use, existence of community organizations (i.e. Tree Lovers and Midan). Findings of fieldwork and interviews show that: (i) species of native vegetation found are Phoenix Dactylifera, Jacaranda, Cortedarea and Papyrus alba; these are concentrated in 115 meter in southern part of the study area. (ii) Public access was categorized into: public space (accessible), private or semi-public space (accessible with conditions), and prohibited (inaccessible). Along this representative stretch of the Nile, the public access was limited to 16%, the private or semi-public makes 29% and the prohibited zones are 55%. (iii) Boating operations found to be in three categories, floating hotels (Nile cruises), motor boats (including ferries) and sailing boats, all are scattered along the banks without an overall plan or organization, which affects water flow and block public access to the banks. To better develop the banks, I recommend (i) maintaining existing riparian vegetation and expand it to other areas with healthy banks or planted nurseries, (ii) connecting open public spaces to create a pleasant walking trail along the banks in addition to improving public access by relocating government buildings (such as the police or military facilities) and facilitate access to the river for general public, (iii) reducing the anchoring points to two locations and redistribute boating operations to group all motor boats to use the ferry anchoring points and all the sailing boats to use Al-Yacht club marina.