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4 March 2015 / marouhhussein

Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo

sidewalksalon1Beneath the headlines of political unrest, economic struggles and ad hoc urban growth, Manar Moursi and David Puig have found a unique way to display life in Cairo. Over the past 3 years Moursi and Puig have traveled across Cairo collecting over 1000 Polaroid images of street chairs. Capturing chairs in neighborhoods as diverse as Shubra El Kheima, Khalifa and New Cairo, the duo has compiled the photos into Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo; the book seeks to present the creative practices of design that occur on sidewalks along with the unplanned interventions in public space that give Cairo its distinctive character. The result is an intimate portrayal of Cairo’s space and people. sidewalksalon2

The project is primarily visual but also includes interviews with select street chair owners and fictional pieces of poetry and literature inspired by street chairs. Contributing authors include Yasser Abd El Latif, Taher al Sharqawy, Maged Zaher, Mohamed Al Fakhrani and Amira Hanafy.

Sidewalk Salon will be available for purchase in Summer 2015. In order to raise money for printing costs 1001 Chairs is running a 40-day Indiegogo Campaign starting February 24th. To contribute to the campaign, click here.sidewalksalon3

For more information about 1001 Chairs of Cairo, you can visit their website http://www.sidewalksaloncairo.com/.

3 March 2015 / marouhhussein

Cairo’s Metropolitan Landscape: Segregation Extreme

The following is an excerpt from Abdelbaseer Mohamed’s “Cairo’s Metropolitan Landscape: Segregation Extreme” article. Follow the link below the text for the full article.

The urban growth patterns of the Cairo metropolitan area reveal a fragmented city of heterogeneous parts. As an urbanist and Cairo native I tend to see the city as a series of small islands isolated from one another by strong physical barriers. Walls, highways, flyovers, military sites, abandoned waterfronts, parking lots and vacant lands all contribute to a city that is characterised by a fundamental lack of cohesion. What is more, there is no public realm that accommodates different communities. Rather, each social group is confined to a separate enclave.

Spatial accessibility map for the urban agglomeration within the Ring RD. Red means integrated and accessible, while blue is segregated.

Spatial accessibility map for the urban agglomeration within the Ring RD. Red means integrated and accessible, while blue is segregated.

A long History of Urban Segregation

Urban segregation has been a continual feature of Cairo’s history. Fatimid Cairo (969) was a walled-city exclusively established for the ruling elite. In the Ottoman period (1517-1798), a Hara, mainly a gated residential quarter, was the basic urban unit of the city. Poor harat were located on the peripheries, while the wealthy bourgeois could be found in the centre. As Egyptian sociologist Nawal al-Messiri puts it, ‘Living in a hara, especially a closed hara, was like living in one’s own kingdom. The area was supervised and no person from the outside could enter’. These dynamics persisted into the Mamluk period, during which emirs would cluster around the outskirts of the city and surround their houses with gardens to segregate themselves from the citizens. More recently, the Khedivial city (1869), which was intended mainly for foreigners and wealthy Egyptians, was erected on vacant land west of the old city (although it eventually came to house the working class). By studying the city’s long history it becomes clear that Cairo is like a cracked vase, where fractures over many centuries have been etched into its physical memory. A cursory look at the more recent history of Cairo reveals that these fractures have persisted into the modern day.

Click here for the full article: http://www.failedarchitecture.com/cairos-metropolitan-landscape-segregation-extreme/

Abdelbaseer A. Mohamed is an architect and urban planner. Mohamed received his MSc in Urban planning and Design from Ain Shams University, where he is currently working on his PhD. He is mainly interested in studying the influence of urban space on society adopting a configurational approach, space syntax. Mohamed is currently a Carnegie fellow at American University in Washington.

2 March 2015 / marouhhussein

Smart Growth in Egypt- Now in Arabic

نحو نمو (ضواحي) ذكي في مصر

[Note: Complete text in English below]

منذ ال25 من يناير عام 2011 و مصر تذكر بكثافة في وسائل اعلام الشرق الأوسط والغربية. بالرغم من حوذ

.مصر بهذا الاهتمام الكبير بسبب التغيرات السياسية والاقتصاد المتدهور الا أن جزء رئيسي من مصر يتم تجاهله

في مصر, وهي دولة ذات عدد سكان ما يقرب ال 85 مليون فرد يسكنون مساحة مليون و 1442.21 كم مربع

أغلبها مساحات صحراوية – فان الاسكان والمواصلات أصبحوا مواضيع ملحة. للأسف فان العمل على حل هذه

.المشكلات لا يحظى بالقدر الكافي من الاهتمام

كأمريكية مصرية, فقد أتيحت لي الفرصة بالسفر الى مصر خلال أشهر مختلفة من السنة. يمكن للسفر الى مصر

من الولايات المتحدة أن يكون بمثابة صدمة كبيرة للكثيرين نظرا لاختلاف الثقافة, البنية التحتية وأسلوب الحياة في

مصر. خلال زياراتي المتعددة قد اتضحت لي مشاكل الاسكان المنتشرة بكمية في مصر, خاصة في المدن الرئيسية

كالقاهرة والاسكندرية. مقالة “جون متكلافي” الحديثة عن المباني متعددة الطوابق التي تظهر في صحاري مصر تسلط الضوء على احدى

الاستراتيجيات التي تتبع لتوفير المسكن الملائم اقتصاديا للمواطنين من الطبقات الوسطى والفقيرة. قد تبدوا هذه كبداية ايجابية لحل مشكلة الازدحام

و التشرد للكثيرين, الا أن بناء أبراج بالصحراء ليس هو الحل. حتى وان كانت الشقق تباع بأسعار مناسبة فان تكلفة المعيشة في الضواحي سريعا

ما تتضاعف. السكان بهذه المناطق سيكونون معتمدين اعتمادا كاملا على السيارات والمواصلات العامة (هذا ان تم مد شبكة المواصلات العامة

الى هذه المناطق). الوصول الى المرافق الأساسية كالمدارس, العيادات الصحية, المحلات التجارية وحتى مكان العمل سيستلزموا التنقل البعيد

الشاق وبالتالي سيكون عبئ على هؤلاء السكان الذين هم أغلبهم من الطبقة الفقيرة الذين بالكاد يجدون الرزق الشهري الكافي لهم ولأسرهم. بناء

مجتمعات جديدة بالصحراء خارج المدن من

غير المرجح أن يخفف من هذه التحديات. في الأغلب ستخدم هذه المشاريع أهداف عكسية وتفشل ان لم تنشأ كأماكن

عمرانية كثيفة بأنواع استخدامات الأراضي المختلفة والمتنوعة المتواجدة في المناطق العمرانية القديمة. حيث أن

مصر مستورد كبير للطاقة فان القلق من أسعار الوقود بالنسبة للعائلة على المدى البعيد للتنقل بالسيارة قد يتزايد

.بشدة في المستقبل. هذا النوع من النمو من المرجح أن يزيد الأمور سوء

حد الأمثلة الناجحة لنمو الضواحي هو “تايسونس كورنر”, أحد ضواحي واشنطن العاصمة. بالرغم من كون هذا

سياق مختلف بالولايات المتحدة الا أنه يظهر أن أحدث الأفكار الخاصة بتنمية المدن والضواحي ليس بناء مناطق

جديدة على أراضي صحراوية أو زراعية في أقصى محيط المدن بل اعادة تنمية ضواحي محددة ذات كثافة خفيفة

لتصبح أكثر كثافة متعددة الاستخدامات تحتوى على المسكن, العمل والأسواق التجارية. هذا الموضوع تم التطرق

وأحد المراجع “Retrofitting Suburbia” و كتاب “الين دونهام-جونز” تحت عنوان “TED  اليه في حديث “تيد

بعض العوامل في هذا “التوجه الذكي الجديد” التي .”Sprawl Repair Manual“المتعلقة بنفس الموضوع هو ال

:يمكن تطبيقها على القاهرة هي

.التأكد من كون المشاريع مناسبة اقتصاديا لأفقر فئات المجتمع بحق *

(TOD التنمية مركزة حول مواصلات عامة موثوق بها وقليلة التكلفة (تخطيط وتصميم يتبع المواصلات *

  تنمية متعددة الاستخدامات – الأسواق التجارية, محلات البقالة وأماكن العمل متواجدة في الأدوار السفلى *

لتشجيع النشاط الاقتصادي وتوفير ما يسمى ب”عيون على الشارع” للمجتمع المحلي لضمان كون

.الشوارع أمنة

 .مراكز رعاية أطفال صباحية لخدمة الوالدين العاملين *

       النمو الذكي في ضواحي العمران قد يكون وسيلة مناسبة لتوفير المزيد من الوظائف وتشجيع المشاركة المجتمعية, الا أن الكثير من المشاريع

المقترحة للقاهرة ما هي الا أبراج في الصحراء خالية من الوظائف, المواصلات و الحس المجتمعي. الخبرات المكتسبة من المدن حول العالم التي

اتبعت هذا النموذج من تشجيع المناطق السكنية فقط في الضواحي أظهرت أنها تقلل من الازدحام المروري لفترات محدودة بينما تزيده على المدى

الطويل متسببة في عكس النتيجة المطلوبة. هذا التطور يسمى “بزيادة الطلب على المرور المستحث“. بالاضافة الى ذلك فانه يتوجب بشدة على

الحكومة المصرية أن تشارك في حل مشكلة الاسكان في مصر. على وزارة الاسكان أن تتخذ اجراءات جدية لتخطيط وتنفيذ مشاريع اسكان لما لا

يقل عن ال 20-50- عام المقبلة لتحسين ليس فقط حالة الاسكان في القاهرة والمدن الرئيسية الأخرى لكن أيضا مشاكل المواصلات والازدحام

المروري. من الواجب جعل أي مجتمعات عمرانية جديدة مناسبة لجميع فئات المجتمع وجزء من محيطها. أخيرا, فان تنشيط امتداد العمران الى

الظهير الصحراوي يجب أن يكون من أجل توفير فرص جديدة للسكن الملائم وليس لتوفير أماكن هروب لطبقات بعينها. اقتبس “متكلافي” عن

“الفاريس ديسترو” المقولة التالية:

“المجمعات السكنية المغلقة للأغنياء فقط وصممت كأماكن هروب من ازدحام وتلوث القاهرة. وضع المساكن في الصحراء منفصلة عن الوظائف,

الأسواق والمجتمع من المرجح أن تزيد من انفصام المجتمع المصري عن طريق فصل جزء من الأغنياء في الصحراء بينما يسكن باقي السكان

بالمناطق المركزية.”

يوجد بالفعل فارق اجتماعي واقتصادي كبير بين الأغنياء والفقراء في مصر. بناء مجتمعات منغلقة سيزيد من هذا الفارق ويسبب المزيد من التوتر

وعدم الاستقرار في المستقبل.

 

 

Egypt.Cairo.Metro.01

Since January 25, 2011, Egypt has been spoken about intensely within Middle Eastern and Western media outlets. Despite Egypt receiving a lot of media attention due to politics and its worsening Economy, a major part of Egypt is being ignored. Within Egypt, a country of an estimated 85 million people living on 386,659 square miles – the majority of which is desert land, housing and transportation have become major issues. Unfortunately, not enough attention and work is being put to improve these concerns.

As an American Egyptian, I have had the opportunity to travel to Egypt many times throughout different months of the year. Traveling to Egypt from the United States can be a shock to many people due to the different culture, infrastructure and way of life in Egypt. Throughout my frequent trips I have been exposed to the housing problems that widespread in Egypt, particularly in major cities like Cairo and Alexandria. John Metclafe’s recent article about high rises popping up across Egypt’s desert highlights one strategy that is being used to provide affordable housing for middle and lower class citizens. For many, this can be seen as a positive beginning in resolving overcrowding and maybe even homelessness. However, building towers in the desert is not the answer. Even if the apartments are sold at “affordable” prices, the long-term costs of living on the outskirts quickly add up. Residents in these new developments will be completely reliant on cars or public transportation (if it’s expanded to these areas). Basic needs such as schools, health clinics, supermarkets and even jobs will become long and onerous commutes causing distress for these residents, most of which will be lower class who are barely earning a living from their monthly salaries. Building new communities in desert land outside of cities is unlikely to alleviate these challenges.  Rather these projects will serve the opposite ends and become failures if they are not created as dense, urban places with the myriad of mixed uses found in urban neighborhoods.  As Egypt is a large energy importer, long term concerns about the cost to a family for gas with which to commute by car could be very significant in the future.  These type of developments are likely to make things worse. A recent example of a successful suburban development can be found in Tyson’s Corner, part of the outskirts of Washington DC.  While this is a very different (and US-based) context, it shows that the cutting edge of thinking on urban and suburban development isn’t to build new places on desert or farmland in the extreme periphery, rather to redevelop certain low density suburbs into dense, multipurpose communities with housing, jobs and marketplaces all together.  This topic is covered in a TED talk (linked here) and book by Ellen Dunham-Jones called “Retrofitting Suburbia” and a related resource is the Sprawl Repair Manual. Common features in this new “smart growth” movement that are appropriate to Cairo is:

  • Projects are genuinely inclusive for poorer families
  • Development is concentrated around reliable and cheap public transportation (or Transit Oriented Design TOD)
  • Mixed Use Development – Supermarkets and workplaces are built on the lower floors of buildings to stimulate economic activity and provide community and so called “eyes on the street” to ensure streets are safe
  • Day care centers for working parents
CAIRO_METRO

Map of Existing Metro System – Could we find ways of concentrating future growth along new and existing metro lines? (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Smart growth in the urban periphery could be a way to provide more jobs and encourage citizen involvement, however, many of the projects proposed for Cairo are just towers in the desert divorced from jobs, transportation and community.  The experience of cities around the world that have followed this model of pushing “housing only” to the outskirts has shown that it only decreases congestion for a short period of time, while increasing congestion in the long run: having the opposite of the intended effect: this process is known as induced traffic demand. Moreover, it is very important for the Government of Egypt to get involved in resolving the housing problem in Egypt. The housing department must take serious measures in planning and implementing project plans for at least the next 20-50 years to improve not only the housing crisis in Cairo and other major cities but also transportation and congestion concerns. It is imperative to make any new housing communities inclusive and part of their surroundings. Lastly, land revitalization should be to expand living options, not getaways. Metclafe quotes Alvarez Diestro, “The gated communities are for the wealthy and meant as an escape from Cairo’s congestion and pollution. Putting housing isolated in the desert from jobs, markets and community is likely to further fragments Egyptian society by isolating a part of the wealthy in the desert from the rest of the population living the central areas.” There is already a huge social and economic gap between the wealthy and the poor in Egypt. Building closed off communities will just enlarge this gap and cause more tension in the future.

Sarah Elbery

 

Sarah Elbery is a recent graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Planning & Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies. She is currently an MPA candidate at Rutgers University with a concentration in International and Regional Development. 

2 March 2015 / marouhhussein

Get your own copy of Our Urban Futures

!”احصل على نسختك من “مستقبلنا العمراني

[Note: Complete text in English below]

مستقبلنا العمراني – منشور مسابقة الأفكار

(Amazon أو شراء(بمبلغ 10 دولار على (scribd يسعدنا أن نعلن أنه يمكنك الأن تحميل (مجانا على

نسخة من منشور “القاهرة من الأسفل” المسمى ب “مستقبلنا العمراني”. هذا المجلد يظهر أفكار التحول

العمراني عند العاملين والمهتمين بالعمران في مصر ويوثق العملية والأفكار التي نتجت عن مسابقة الأفكار

مستقبلنا العمراني” التي نظمتها حركة “القاهرة من الأسفل” في عام 2013

تتنوع المشاريع المقترحة بين مشاريع عملية وأخرى خيالية. بعضهم مبني على قراءة دقيقة لمحددات

وسياق مناطق بعينها بينما هناك مشاريع نظرية تهدف الى تحدي منظور التخطيط المعتاد. بمجمعها فان

هذه المشاريع شاهد على ابداع, امكانيات وشغف الكثير من المصريين الشباب الذين يجرأون أن يتخيلوا

مستقبل عمراني جديد. نتمنى أن تسهم هذه المسابقة في الهام أخرين لبدء مشاريعهم الخاصة التي تشجع

.الحوار, تنمي الأفكار المبدعة وتبني المهارات

“اعرف المزيد عن المسابقة هنا: مسابقة أفكار “القاهرة من الأسفل” 2013 – “مستقبلنا العمراني

Our Urban Futures - Ideas Competition Publication

Our Urban Futures – Ideas Competition Publication

Our Urban Futures Ideas Competition

Our Urban Futures Ideas Competition

We are excited to announce you can now view (free on Scribd) or purchase (USD $10.00 on Amazon) a copy of Cairo from Below’s publication “Our Urban Futures.”  This volume explores the ideas for urban transformation held by young professionals and urban advocates in Egypt and documents the process and ideas generated through Cairo from Below’s 2013 “Our Urban Futures” Ideas Competition. The entries range from pragmatic to fanciful. Some are based upon a close read of site-specific context while others are more conceptual and aimed at challenging convention planning paradigms. Together they are a testament to the creativity, talent and passion of many young Egyptians who dare to imagine a new urban future.  We hope this competition inspires others to initiate their own projects that encourage debate, develop creative ideas and build capacity. Learn more about the competition here: Cairo from Below’s 2013 “Our Urban Futures” Ideas Competition.

5 February 2015 / marouhhussein

Smart (Suburban) Growth in Egypt

Egypt.Cairo.Metro.01

Cairo Metro Line One – showing multi-use buildings in background (via Wikimedia Commons)

Since January 25, 2011, Egypt has been spoken about intensely within Middle Eastern and Western media outlets. Despite Egypt receiving a lot of media attention due to politics and its worsening Economy, a major part of Egypt is being ignored. Within Egypt, a country of an estimated 85 million people living on 386,659 square miles – the majority of which is desert land, housing and transportation have become major issues. Unfortunately, not enough attention and work is being put to improve these concerns.

As an American Egyptian, I have had the opportunity to travel to Egypt many times throughout different months of the year. Traveling to Egypt from the United States can be a shock to many people due to the different culture, infrastructure and way of life in Egypt. Throughout my frequent trips I have been exposed to the housing problems that widespread in Egypt, particularly in major cities like Cairo and Alexandria. John Metclafe’s recent article about high rises popping up across Egypt’s desert highlights one strategy that is being used to provide affordable housing for middle and lower class citizens. For many, this can be seen as a positive beginning in resolving overcrowding and maybe even homelessness. However, building towers in the desert is not the answer. Even if the apartments are sold at “affordable” prices, the long-term costs of living on the outskirts quickly add up. Residents in these new developments will be completely reliant on cars or public transportation (if it’s expanded to these areas). Basic needs such as schools, health clinics, supermarkets and even jobs will become long and onerous commutes causing distress for these residents, most of which will be lower class who are barely earning a living from their monthly salaries. Building new communities in desert land outside of cities is unlikely to alleviate these challenges.  Rather these projects will serve the opposite ends and become failures if they are not created as dense, urban places with the myriad of mixed uses found in urban neighborhoods.  As Egypt is a large energy importer, long term concerns about the cost to a family for gas with which to commute by car could be very significant in the future.  These type of developments are likely to make things worse. A recent example of a successful suburban development can be found in Tyson’s Corner, part of the outskirts of Washington DC.  While this is a very different (and US-based) context, it shows that the cutting edge of thinking on urban and suburban development isn’t to build new places on desert or farmland in the extreme periphery, rather to redevelop certain low density suburbs into dense, multipurpose communities with housing, jobs and marketplaces all together.  This topic is covered in a TED talk (linked here) and book by Ellen Dunham-Jones called “Retrofitting Suburbia” and a related resource is the Sprawl Repair Manual. Common features in this new “smart growth” movement that are appropriate to Cairo is:

  • Projects are genuinely inclusive for poorer families
  • Development is concentrated around reliable and cheap public transportation (or Transit Oriented Design TOD)
  • Mixed Use Development – Supermarkets and workplaces are built on the lower floors of buildings to stimulate economic activity and provide community and so called “eyes on the street” to ensure streets are safe
  • Day care centers for working parents
CAIRO_METRO

Map of Existing Metro System – Could we find ways of concentrating future growth along new and existing metro lines? (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Smart growth in the urban periphery could be a way to provide more jobs and encourage citizen involvement, however, many of the projects proposed for Cairo are just towers in the desert divorced from jobs, transportation and community.  The experience of cities around the world that have followed this model of pushing “housing only” to the outskirts has shown that it only decreases congestion for a short period of time, while increasing congestion in the long run: having the opposite of the intended effect: this process is known as induced traffic demand. Moreover, it is very important for the Government of Egypt to get involved in resolving the housing problem in Egypt. The housing department must take serious measures in planning and implementing project plans for at least the next 20-50 years to improve not only the housing crisis in Cairo and other major cities but also transportation and congestion concerns. It is imperative to make any new housing communities inclusive and part of their surroundings. Lastly, land revitalization should be to expand living options, not getaways. Metclafe quotes Alvarez Diestro, “The gated communities are for the wealthy and meant as an escape from Cairo’s congestion and pollution. Putting housing isolated in the desert from jobs, markets and community is likely to further fragments Egyptian society by isolating a part of the wealthy in the desert from the rest of the population living the central areas.” There is already a huge social and economic gap between the wealthy and the poor in Egypt. Building closed off communities will just enlarge this gap and cause more tension in the future. Sarah Elbery

Sarah Elbery is a recent graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Planning & Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies. She is currently an MPA candidate at Rutgers University with a concentration in International and Regional Development. 

28 January 2015 / NHamilton

Get your own copy of Our Urban Futures

Our Urban Futures - Ideas Competition Publication

Our Urban Futures – Ideas Competition Publication

We are excited to announce you can now view (free on Scribd) or purchase (USD $10.00 on Amazon) a copy of Cairo from Below’s publication “Our Urban Futures.”  This volume explores the ideas for urban transformation held by young professionals and urban advocates in Egypt and documents the process and ideas generated through Cairo from Below’s 2013 “Our Urban Futures” Ideas Competition.

The entries range from pragmatic to fanciful. Some are based upon a close read of site-specific context while others are more conceptual and aimed at challenging convention planning paradigms. Together they are a testament to the creativity, talent and passion of many young Egyptians who dare to imagine a new urban future.  We hope this competition inspires others to initiate their own projects that encourage debate, develop creative ideas and build capacity.

Learn more about the competition here: Cairo from Below’s 2013 “Our Urban Futures” Ideas Competition.

5 November 2014 / NHamilton

Cairo from Below – NYC Event – Thursday Nov 6

UPDATE:Flyer

Cairo from Below is holding a special event this Thursday November 6th to celebrate the launch of our publication “Our Urban Futures – Ideas Competition” and announce a second ideas competition!  The event is open to all (over 21), please join us and spread the word among those in NYC who have an interest in urban development and Cairo.

New: we are honored to be joined by special guests Janice Perlman and Jacqueline Klopp. Janice Perlman is Founder & President of the Mega-Cities Project, author of the recent publication, Favela  and groundbreaking leader in issues of urban poverty since introduction of The Myth of Marginality: Urban Politics and Poverty in Rio de Janeiro in 1976.  Jacqueline Klopp is the Associate Research Scholar at the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the author of many publications on urbanization and politics in Kenya and a key collaborator on the Digital Matatus project, a first of a kind initiative to map the informal transportation system for millions of Nairobi residents.

Cairo from Below is thankful to be collaborating and co-hosting Thursday’s event with NYC’s Urban Sustainability Meetup’s Happy Hour event, which aims to bring together urban enthusiasts from all over NYC for a few hours of brainstorming, knowledge sharing and networking. Come connect with people passionate about Egyptian urban development, get a copy of Our Urban Futures publication, and support the upcoming Cairo from Below competition.

Please register on the meetup page and be sure to like us on FB and follow us on twitter.

Donations to Cairo from Below will be accepted but are not required.

When: 6:00 to 8:00 PM Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Where: Three Sheets Saloon  (upstairs now downstairs), 134 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012

(b/t Avenue Of The Americas & Mac Dougal St), Greenwich Village

Look for event hosts: Nick Hamilton, Heba ElGawish and Liz Marcello.

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