6 Politically Motivated Cities Built From Scratch

Image of the planned new capital of Egypt, masterplanned by SOM. Image Courtesy of SOM

Threatening to end Cairo’s 1,046 year dominance as the country’s capital, earlier this month the government of Egypt announced their intentions to create a new, yet-to-be-named capital city just east of New Cairo. The promise of the more than 270 square mile ‘new New Cairo’ has attracted headlines from around the world with its sheer scale; a $45 billion development of housing, shopping and landmarks designed to attract tourism from day one, including a theme park larger than Disneyland. And of course, the plans include the promise of homes – for at least 5 million residents in fact, with the vast number of schools, hospitals and religious and community buildings that a modern city requires – making the new capital of Egypt the largest in history.

The idea of building a new capital city has appealed to governments across history; a way to wipe the slate clean, stimulate the economy and lay out your vision of the world in stone, concrete and parkland. Even old Cairo was founded as a purpose built capital, although admittedly urban planning has changed a little since then. It continues to change today; see the full list of different ways to build a totally new city after the break.

SOM Masterplans Egypt’s New Capital City

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Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) has released a conceptual masterplan for Egypt’s new capital city following its unveiling at the Egyptian Economic Development Conference. The 700-square-kilometer “Capital Cairo” hopes stimulate ’s ailing economy and alleviate Cairo’s rising population density, while adhering to the cultural and climatic conditions of its site.

All the details, after the break.

Egypt Unveils Plans for “New Cairo”

© Flickr CC User garyjd

In an effort to combat the economic conditions that have plunged one-fourth of its population into poverty, Egypt’s ambitious development plan for a massive new capital city is soon to be underway. Roughly the size of New , the privately-funded city hopes to become the new administrative center, as well as a bustling metropolis of shopping, housing, and tourist destinations to generate economic activity. Plans were solidified at a foreign investment conference where the official project details were unveiled on March 13 in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Read on after the break for more on the $45 billion plan.

Egypt Plans to Build a 200-Meter-Tall Pyramid Skyscraper

Courtesy of Ministry of Housing

Egypt’s Minister of Housing Moustafa Madbouly has revealed plans to build the nation’s tallest tower in Cairo. The pyramid-like Zayed Crystal Spark tower will top out at 200-meters (656-feet) and occupy a 798,000-square-meter parcel in the city’s Sheikh Zayed district – a short distance from the historic of Giza.

AD Classics: Bibliotheca Alexandrina / Snøhetta

Courtesy of Snøhetta

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Egypt’s Mediterranean Coast is a spectacular, state-of-the-art facility with an unresolved architectural identity. Commissioned in 1989 as a contemporary resurrection of the fabled Library at once venerated throughout the ancient world, the present building was intended to serve as a city’s connection to history and heritage. But its stark modernity and technological innovations make it decidedly more forward-looking than historically referential, a cosmopolitan exploration of form and engineering perhaps longing for a stronger sense of regional belonging.

To some critics, the library has political overtones that obfuscate its architectural message, at worst acting as a monument to political posturing whose utility and conceptual integrity is only of secondary concern. And while critical scrutiny of the project necessitates its political and socio-historical contextualization, the building’s architecture—the competition-winning design submitted by Norwegian firm Snøhetta—is worth appreciating and evaluating as an autonomous object and as a precedent for contemporary library design.

Vincent Callebaut Designs Sustainable Mixed-Use Complex for Cairo

Perspective Towards a Courtyard. Image Courtesy of VCA

French firm Vincent Callebaut Architectures (VCA) has unveiled a new multi-use complex for in . Designed to obtain LEED Gold Plus standing, the building features a solar roof, green terraces, sky villas, and a vertical system of gardens and solar heating tubes. Composed of 1000 apartment units, the Gate Residence is also designed to include a health club and spa, fitness center, business center, restaurants and cafe, retail, and medical center.

Learning from Cairo: What Informal Settlements Can (and Should) Teach Us

Courtesy of Learning from

The following essay, written by Magda Mostafa, is an excerpt from the book “Learning from Cairo: Global Perspectives and Future Visions,” a collection of reflections from a three-day symposium of the same name. Here, Mostafa focuses on the need to accept informal communities as a reality, not an exception, and argues that conventional architecture practice and education must begin equipping architects to “address the potentials and problems of such parallel modes of existence in our built environment.”

It would be a disservice if the debate spurred at the “Learning from Cairo” symposium were to remain confined to the hypothetical. It is our responsibility to extend it to both the professional realm as well as the academic. The purpose of this discussion is just that.

How can architectural academia respond to this shifting climate? A climate where the majority of the built environment is conceived and implemented outside of the construct of conventional practice? Where the majority of the architectural product in our city exists without architects? How can we further propagate a singular top-down mode of practice in our teaching when it’s malfunctioning at best and corrupt or absent at its worst? When this conventional mode is only viable in neatly packaged projects with clear financing, educated clients and formal frameworks? How can we continue to teach our students, the architects of the future generation, to only be equipped to operate within a small portion of the built environment- ignoring the massive built environment and user groups often represented on maps as solid black “informal areas”.

This phenomena can no longer be blacked-out, and it is time for academia to begin educating its architects-to-be at least to be minimally aware, if not proficiently trained, to address the potentials and problems of such parallel modes of existence in our built environment.

‘Hydropolis’ Competition Entry / Margaux Leycuras, Marion Ottmann, Anne-Hina Mallette

Courtesy of , Marion Ottmann,

Designed by architecture students, Margaux Leycuras, Marion Ottmann, and Anne-Hina Mallette, from the architecture school of Nantes, they recently won a prize in a competition organized by the Foundation Jacques Rougerie. Their ‘Hydropolis’ proposal answers to this competition, in the category rising waters, by a project located in the Nile Valley which aims to exploit the phenomenon of rising waters instead of suffering the consequences. More images and the students’ description after the break.

Data Driven City / Mekano Studio

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The new city, designed by Mekano Studio, will be a smart data city, a city driven with data, a city that can help each person to choose and decide, a City respects the human mind and gives him the option to take part in his own life as it must have to be. The data city is a city that administrates everything with a real time data, in order to evaluate and respect the time factor as well and to increase the productivity with a well organized community. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Father and Son Skyscraper / IAMZ Studio

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The concept for the Father and Son skyscraper, designed by IAMZ Studio, is divided into three main elements including the shape, style and urban design along with green areas implemented into the design. The main reason for the skyscraper typology is to decrease the crowding in the capital . More images and architects’ description after the break.

Wadi El Gemal Visitors Center / MADA Architects

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Architects: Egyptian Earth Construction Association
Location: Marsa Alam,
Project Team: Ramses Nosshi, Khaled El Hammamy, Gawad Hashish, Hany Attala, Ne’ama Allah Hisham, Rasha Abd el Salam
Project Area: 250 sqm
Photographs: Courtesy of Nour Rifai & Ramses Nosshi

Blast from the Analog Past! Physicist Identifies First Protractor

Egyptian artifact identified as world's first known . www.newscientiest.com

And now a controversial look back… way back.

Physicist Amelia Sparavigna recently identified an artifact in a Turin museum as the world’s first known protractor. Sparavigna argues that the artifact’s ornate decoration, which resembles a compass rose with 16 evenly spaced petals surrounded by a zigzag with 36 corners, was used in combination with a plumb line to measure the slope angle of an object beneath it.

The Greek Debt Crisis and Historical Landmarks

Photo by Eurokinissi - https://picasaweb.google.com/cpg.kke

Any trip to Athens, would not be complete without a visit to the Acropolis, the purest remaining form of what the Greeks thought architecture should be. And yet, if you stopped by a few weeks ago, you might have been surprised to find large banners proclaiming support for a communist trade union adorning the Acropolis hill. These banners are the most visible and literal signs of the Greek crisis affecting the historic landmarks in the country, but they are not the ones doing the most damage. That honor goes to the drop in tourism that Greece has experienced since the beginning of the global recession and runs through the country’s fiscal problems to the present. More on how the crisis is affecting historical landmarks after the break.

Ataba & Opera Squares Competition Proposal / ZELLNERPLUS, OLIN, PACER, MR+E, and Nelson Nygaard

southwest aerial view

Intended as a catalyst and model for the ongoing redevelopment of Cairo, Egypt, ZELLNERPLUS, OLIN, PACER, MR+E, and Nelson Nygaard proposed a scheme that seeks to bridge the gap between the medieval, or Islamic, and the axial, or European Cairene cities. They would do so through the evacuation of the competition zone of its current disconnected fabrics. In their place, they proposed a green urban archipelago made up of a new connective tissue that will weld together the competition site’s disparate functions, flows and neighboring fabrics. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Seeds of Life / Mekano Studio

Courtesy

Mekano Studio has recently received an honorable mention in the eVolo 2011 skyscraper competition for their entry, Seeds of Life. Read more about the project in addition to additional images and project story boards after the break.

Sednaoui Al Khazendar / Contrast Designs

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Contrast Designs presents their development for the competition of the rehabilitation of “Sednaoui Al Khazendar,” a building in the midst of two historic periods of Cairo’s history. It stands as a relic of ’s history, below which the bustle of everyday life, of car traffic and street vendors, fills the space.

More on Contrast Designs competition entry after the break.

Egyptian Pavilion for the Venice Biennale

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Architects Ahmed Mito, Kamel Loqman, Hisham Alaa and artists Ayman Lotfy, Ahmed Refat, Niveen Farghaly, and Amer Abdelhakemrecently took part of the prestigious La Biennale di Venezia where they presented their work for the Egyptian Pavilion. Images and the architects description after the break.

S1 Villa / Paul Kaloustian

Courtesy of Paul Kaloustian Architect

Beirut-based Paul Kaloustian Architect shared with us his project S1 Villa, located in , . More images and architect’s description after the break.