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Fady S. El-Sadek
IDBE, Cohort 15 University of Cambridge
dedicate this thesis to my father, who has taught me that
diligence and perseverance are the keys to success.
Also to the people of Egypt, who continue to prove that even
the most difficult of circumstances can be turned into a goldmine of opportunities.
This thesis was started in September 2009 with the aim of articulating numerous problems inherent in the Cairo governments’ urban planning and development. These problems were evident in the city’s deteriorating qualities of life, paralleled by a lack of public space. The writing of this thesis was nearly complete at the onset of the people’s uprising against the Egyptian government’s neglect and abuse of its citizens.
On January 25 2011, after mass collaboration on the internet, protestors gathered in the largest public space in the center of Cairo; Tahrir Square. As the protests grew in intensity, the incumbent government disconnected the nation’s mobile telephone network and internet access in an attempt to weaken public organization within the virtual public sphere. The efforts, however, were in vain as the people had already taken to the streets. Over a million people gathered in the square and aired their grievances and demands during 18 days of continuous protests that started peacefully, but turned violent when the government attempted to quell the protestors by force. Aided by the continuous media coverage of Tahrir Square, the movement managed to topple the government, and the president was forced to step down on February 11, 2011.
Therefore, the final writing of this thesis reflects the situation as it was and also has the fortunate opportunity to report on significant changes that are being planned for the future of Cairo’s built environment.
Photograph of an informal settlement around Sayeda Zeynab in central Cairo: The picture shows the tight knit fabric, the city smog, and satellite dishes that keep the ‘informal residents’ connected to the public sphere.
“When we looked at public space, Cairo was one of the cities which had the highest density of people, and the lowest square meters of public space.”
(His Highness the Aga Khan quoted in AKTC 2008)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
5 7 9 12 14 16 18 20 24 25 28 29 31 34 36 38 42 43 44 45 47 51 53 56 57 57 59 61 62 64 69 70
The Urban Center: the Global City
a. Privatization of the City b. Decline of Public Space and the Ecological Environment c. Achieving a Sustainable Balance
Cairo: An Overview of Development and Urban Fabric
a. b. c. d. e. f.
Modern Cairo Three Generations of Modern Satellite Cities The Informal: Social and Environmental Priority The New ‘Order’: Economic Priority Public Infrastructure The Streets of Cairo
The Battle Ground: Cairo Today
a. b. c. d.
Exclusivity: Gated Communities and ‘Fortified’ Public Space Environmental Sustainability of the New Order Tourism and the Sterilization of Cairo’s Public Spaces Balancing Priorities
The Macro-Urban Core
a. b. c. d. e. f.
The Refurbishment of Islamic Cairo Gentrification of ‘Khedival’ Downtown The Ramses Challenge Al Darb al Ahmar: the Social Intervention of Al Azhar Park Cairo 2050: “The Planned City Sweeps the Poor Away” Overview of the Four Projects: The Scale of Intervention
Remediation at the Micro-Urban Scale
a. Grassroots Connection: the Role of Public Space b. A New Urban Approach: Proposed 200 Streets in Cairo c. Bottom-Up Redevelopment Conclusion Bibliography Appendix A Appendix B
Public space plays a vital role within the urban fabric of a nation and its communities that has been too often ignored as an essential ingredient in the health and life of a society. Historically, the programming of public space circulated around civic functions of political affairs, communication, and the marketplace. In the 21st century, internet technology and high speed transport have taken much of the information, communication and commerce activities remotely to individuals, reducing the need for physical presence. Today, urban public space involves the fostering of community through vital activities such as commuting, recreation, socializing, celebration, and when necessary, giving voice to the populace. Fundamentally, public space establishes the physical grounding of social justice within the urban built environment. True public spaces within the city can secure social rights by providing communal safeguard against “the futility of individual life.” (Arendt, p. 56)
In Cairo, Egypt, there is a dire need for public space. Over the past two centuries the built environment of the city has spread rapidly and intensified to the point that most publically accessible open spaces and green areas have all but disappeared. Priority has gone to the automobile; the road network within the city is continuous and extensive. In Cairo today, the asphalt road has become the predominant definition of public space. In this space, pedestrians negotiate with cars, buses and street vendors for right of way. There is no enforced regulation to maintain sidewalk continuity. Pavements are most often obstructed by electric boxes, advertisement boards, parked cars and even dividing walls. The street is nearly the only remaining arena that provides continuous pedestrian access to everyone without charge.
Empirical study has correlated societal well being with the public provision of open space and pedestrian infrastructure. Additionally, public transportation and the support of ‘nonautomobile’ modes of circulation have been positively associated with a healthier ecological
environment. Research asserts that on average Egyptians have a low “subjective well being” and the majority of Cairo’s residents live in ‘informal housing’ significantly lacking in basic infrastructure. (Hussein 2008) Pollution levels of the city are among the highest in the world.
This dissertation assesses the value of public space within the contemporary global city and its correlation with social, political, and environmental stability. Specifically the investigation covers the lack of public space in Cairo, assesses its impact, and proposes a possible approach of remediation. The preliminary issues that established the framework of investigation are; the intolerable traffic of Cairo, its lack of continuous pedestrian infrastructure, record pollution levels, and incessant planned development that does not prioritize social and environmental welfare. This is mainly the result of top-down planning that has been unable to holistically address these issues, resulting in compounded damage and increased difficulty in resolution. The definitive gap lies within the relationship between the individual districts and neighborhoods and the central planning authorities.
The discussion unfolds in five chapters. Chapter One discusses the historical and contemporary function of public space, and relevant issues of urban planning found in Cairo and other global cities. Chapter Two briefly reviews the history of Cairo’s built environment with the objective of identifying patterns in development. Cairo’s current situation and obstacles to sustainable development are then discussed in Chapter Three. Chapter Four reviews and assesses four macro-urban scale projects that address public spaces of the core city. Finally, Chapter Five proposes a possible approach that can address the ‘megalopolis1 ’ at a yet unexploited scale of intervention, the micro-urban scale.
Term used to describe large populous city regions that cover several urban centers. (Watson 2009)
The Urban Center: the Global City
Good spatial planning should shape our urban environment. It allows us to respond to complex needs at the most appropriate scale – whether regional, city or neighbourhood. The planning system has struggled to distribute activities in a sustainable way. It should always be possible to walk, cycle or take public transport to work, to school or college, to shops, to the park or the cinema. When the planning system gets these kinds of basics right, it will provide busy, distracted citizens with a genuine choice to reduce their carbon emissions. Vitally, we need to use the landscape of towns and cities – trees, parks, rivers and lakes – to mimic natural processes, like water flow and cooling air flow. This green infrastructure should be as much a priority for a successful place as grey infrastructure – like the road network, or the sewage system. (CABE, Hallmarks of a Sustainable City, p.4)
In both ancient and modern times, the city has always been a complex organism; a continuously transforming built environment that supports the largest groupings of human existence. Today, cities house over half of the world’s population. (Kries 2006; Watson 2009) Within this built environment human activity is sustained and organized through laws and culture. The laws influence the built environment, which in turn influences the culture, and in turn influences the laws. The cycle establishes the growth and continuous development of a city. There is rarely direct initiative to modify the culture as there is in dictating the laws and built environment, yet with the circle of influence among the three, cultural change is inevitably incurred with time. In Cairo, to promote the image of a modern and global city, there is often direct initiative to hide, or mask the culture. This is most notably executed through barriers and exclusionary public spaces.
Urban theorist Alberto Perez-Gomez discusses in his article “The City as a Paradigm of Symbolic Order” the architectural manifestation of ‘order’ within the city as portrayed by its built environment. The historical materialization, transformation, and layering of order over the past two millennia have resulted in the modern city, which he claims is in a state of contemporary crisis. (Perez-Gomez 1986)
Of the historically significant cities that have survived to present day, the majority of them have origins in the Roman Empire [Figure 1]. These cities have materialized upon ancient foundations, Roman planning, medieval growth, Renaissance development, and the Industrial Revolution woven together into the modern day urban fabric. The factors that constituted and steered their growth included political authority, rituals and religious manifestations, economic environments, and technological integration; most significantly of which, in latter times, has been traffic engineering. None of these factors has been solely responsible or capable of shaping cities into what they have become. Rather it is the combination of all of them along with a human and organic
development that creates the city; a “spatial and social organism.”
(Kries 2006; Perez-Gomez 1986) Figure 1 Greatest extents of the Roman Empire
Historically, city planning was concerned with the public arena and points of assembly. The Greek ‘agora’ and the Roman forum were the sites where political powers addressed the public and established the ‘logos’ or divine reason by which order was imposed in the city. 2
(Low 2006; Perez-Gomez 1986) Religion and political authority were tightly knit and embodied in
the public grounds.
The Greek discovery of logos also led the Greeks to the discovery of the individual, of the subject. A place had to be provided for the reconciliation of diverse logoi, and this was precisely the agora, the place for discussion and oratory, for politics, which was understood by Aristotle as the search for stability, i.e. order. The agora was the origin of polis, the Greek city. While the Greeks discovered the power of reason, they were always immediately concerned with maintaining the given order of the gods, and this was the role of the city: to embody this order. (Perez-Gomez, p. 7)
‘Logos’ can be interpreted as present-day ‘legislation.’
Aristotle’s search for stability has transformed into the modern search for sustainability. In the modern era, order has become fragmented, or decentralized. The “order of the gods” is now in the hands of government, which is intermittently being handed over to private enterprise. The integration of automobile infrastructure within the city fabric over the past century has influenced urban culture to adapt around the dynamic of mechanical mobility. The public arena has been divided more dramatically than before into path and open space. The provision of open space within a city is a public infrastructure that is necessary for social and environmental welfare. (Butterworth 2000) Perez-Gomez stated that “today the Western city has become completely “privatized.””
(Perez-Gomez, p. 15) Over the last 25 years since his
paper was published, this view has gained validity in cities around the globe. In Cairo, privatization has almost completely taken over the open space of the public arena, leaving pedestrians to negotiate right of way with cars through the streets.
Privatization of the City
Calhoun denotes that the public sphere is a staple amenity to our nations and communities that defines our level of security and knowledge. In order for us to understand the public sphere and what it entails, it is necessary to contrast it against that which is private. (Calhoun
2005) “…during the modern era, not only did privacy come to appear as a positive value
linked to both individuality and the family, the idea of a public linked by communication of all sorts grew in importance, reshaping ideas of political legitimacy and underwriting the rise of democracy.” (Calhoun, p.1)
The essence of a city’s ‘public sphere’ embodies the provision of public goods and grounds for open communication. Not only are the physical grounds of public space necessary within the urban context, their connectivity as linked platforms is crucial to their role in communal
‘Privatized’ here means owned and/or managed by private enterprise.
health and education. The segregation of these spaces, through the exclusion of segments of the public, counters their role in securing public well being. (Calhoun 2005; Carr et al. 1992)
A literature review by Williams and Green identified a lack of clarity in the definition of public space. (Williams et al. 2001) As the nature of public space has changed, the definitive line has blurred between; public spaces that are publicly maintained, public spaces that are privately managed, and private spaces that are privately managed and considered by many to be public space. To assess the value of a public space in terms of public provision and its impact on the local community and environment, it is necessary to first identify the stakeholders responsible. Williams and Green break these down into those with:
Private interests: who evaluate a ‘good local environment’ based on profit, maintenance, and operational costs;
Public interests: who are primarily concerned with ‘public needs,’ namely security and accessibility; and
Community interests: who “see good local environments as ones that reflect local preferences and are contextually compatible.” (Williams et al. p.4)
The motivational drivers of the public and private sectors are unequivocally different. Public spaces designed or developed by stakeholders with private interests will almost always prioritize profitability of the space over social impact, environmental impact, or safety. (Low
2006; Saunders 2006; Williams et al. 2001) The over privatization of cities is beginning to
restructure the city; “planning and creation of the public realm are becoming more a result of private initiative than a driver of it.” (Saunders, p. 83) This phenomenon accordingly casts doubt upon the objectives of new urban plans such as the ‘Cairo 2050 Vision’ (discussed further in Chapter Four). Public and private interest groups need to coordinate urban development plans to promote communal and social welfare.
Excessive privatization of the city, and the resultant segregation of social classes based on wealth, doubly victimizes the underprivileged classes. Firstly, privatization has decreased public spending on a city scale as more investment goes into the ‘public spaces’ of more homogeneously wealthy areas. Secondly, particularly in developing nations, it is the wealthier, and often more educated, members of society that guide national planning and development. As the affluent masses of the Egyptian public continue to disappear from Cairo’s truly public arena, their contribution to enhancing public well being, both financially and intellectually, dwindles. In order for the voices of the underprivileged to be heard, platforms that encourage interclass communication must exist. Segregation will reflect in the public spaces of the city, and the consequent deterioration, particularly within the poorer areas will, in turn, reflect upon the community as a whole. (Amin 2006, Butterworth, 2000, Williams
et al. 2001)
From an economic perspective, there is no direct correlation between improving public spaces and increasing value, as often the cost of such improvements can offset the immediate profitability of a project. However, the evidence seems overwhelming that in the long-run, failure is imminent if balance is not achieved between suitable public space and economic development. The costs of such improvements in the bigger picture can be seen as negligible. “In most cases the cost of urban space schemes will constitute less than 2% of the total annual turnover of retail businesses within the town centre. Therefore, modest improvements in trading performance will be sufficient to offset the costs of most schemes.” (Williams et al.
p.14) Additionally, such improvements can be viewed in the light of establishing a ‘good local
environment’ that pivots on ‘good urban design,’ which in turn is directly correlated to; decreased energy consumption, waste production and running costs, and increased property values, jobs and security, and community pride. (Williams et al. 2001)
Decline of Public Space and the Ecological Environment
In assessing the maintenance and administration of several town centers across the UK, Williams and Green found that only two in nine had a town center manager, who plays the same role as a shopping mall manager that is consistently employed by developers to protect and manage their investments. Their report asserts that open public spaces are in decline, with the key failures of upkeep being lack of funding and poor management. (Williams et al.
One of the most significant root causes of the deterioration of public space is traffic. Changes to the street scene need to be made in order to decrease the negative impact of traffic. This could include readdressing the function and activities on the street, creating pedestrian streets through road closures, or reducing traffic volume and speeds (suggested at 10mph or less through pedestrian heavy areas). Traffic is equally influential on the quality of public spaces as it is on the social and ecological environments. (Ibrahim 2009; Williams et al. 2001)
People on [the] ‘light street’ (2,000 vehicles a day) were found to have three times as many friends and twice as many acquaintances in the neighborhood as those on the ‘heavy street’ (16,000 vehicles a day). Also, in mapping exercises, people on the ‘light street’ considered the whole street to be their home territory, whereas residents of the ‘heavy street’ regarded it to be a smaller area around their own building. The conclusions drawn were that heavy traffic has a negative effect on public interactions and changes the manner in which public space is used. (Williams et al., p.8)
Jan Gehl, a notable Danish scholar in the development of contemporary public spaces, and Lars Gemzoe defined four city types and the public space they entail; ‐ The Traditional City: Public space is centered as market and meeting place, and is not overwhelmed by traffic. ‐ The Invaded City: Traffic has completely taken over the public arena, negatively impacting the public space.
The Abandoned City: Public space has been abandoned, and residents are highly automobile dependant.
The Reconquered City: Post-intervention of an Abandoned or Invaded city, where automobile reliance has decreased, and public spaces have been refurbished. (Williams
et al. 2001)
According to this classification, Cairo can be identified as an ‘Invaded City’. In order to transform it into a ‘Reconquered City’ it would be necessary to reduce automobile reliance, prioritize pedestrians, and regenerate public space that would enhance the wellbeing of the entire community. To achieve such objectives, the provision of suitable public transportation will be necessary as a public provision. “Public space is intrinsically linked with transport use and the way in which public space is served by transport has a significant effect on the quality, usability and viability of it.” (Williams et al. p.13)
The Williams and Green report claims that people expressed preference in town centers that are “compact and well integrated” over new commercially based developments. Research in the USA showed that distance travel and traffic can isolate people in their homes and can increase crime, thus advocating more ‘livable streets’. Cities that prioritize public transportation and pedestrian networks allow for increased social interaction and sense of community. However, the complete removal of automobile traffic can have adverse effects on local commerce and safety. Accordingly, it is necessary to find a balance among different transportation alternatives that are well aligned, and controlled to prioritize the pedestrian. In order to find this balance planning efforts must be coordinated between local planning authorities and transportation operators. (Williams et al. 2001)
Transportation through the city is directly linked to the health and well-being of its residents. Infrastructure such as pedestrian walkways and open areas allow for physical activity, and mixed use developments encourage the choice of walking or cycling rather than taking a car. Connectivity amongst such infrastructure is critical to rendering it a valid alternative. Efficient public transportation additionally decreases the reliance on automobiles, one of the single largest culprits of localized pollution. (Butterworth 2000) The reliance on the automobile has been directly linked to surmounting ecological and social damage that, with the continuous development of non mixed-use residential districts that are not connected by public transportation, is becoming more unavoidable.
Achieving a Sustainable Balance
The contemporary city has reached unprecedented proportions of development and demand. The continuously changing and growing built environments house and support over half of the world’s population. Cairo alone accounts for a quarter of the national population of Egypt. Globalization, internet technology, and high speed transportation have dramatically impacted the response of the built environment, which requires a re-assessment of the role and impact of the city’s public infrastructure. Increased privatization and unchecked prioritization of economic drivers of growth have increased social segregation and reduced public provision. In Cairo, inclusive and accessible public space continues to erode. Heavy reliance on automobiles has diminished and deteriorated the physical public arena; negatively impacting urban social and environmental balance. Revitalizing public space can play a significant role in mediating this imbalance.
Improvements to town centers and public spaces need to be multidisciplinary in approach as the enhancement or addition of a single element will not have the overall desired effect and accordingly will not be cost efficient. Urban planning and development must give priority to 14
addressing circulation and open public space. Objectives should include; calming the traffic and improving public transportation, prioritizing pedestrians, greening of spaces, and the management of operations, maintenance and security; thus expanding social cohesion and reducing environmental degradation. It is necessary to define public space as ‘non-exclusive’ platforms that are accessible and interconnected within the urban fabric. Well designed and maintained public spaces enhance social, environmental, and economic stability within the city. Government incentives towards urban renewal along with planning policy guidelines that balance development objectives are necessary. With the goal of improving sustainability, synchronizing public and private responsibility of urban development is a primary step.
(Williams et al. 2001)
Cairo: An Overview of Development and Urban Fabric
With the objective of understanding the contemporary state of Cairo’s urban fabric, it is important to review the history of its development and patterns of growth. Although the city’s rich history is one of its most prized possessions, accurate accounts of its urban development beyond critical turning points are limited. “Leaving aside myth, science asserts that permanent settlement started at Cairo near the end of the last Ice Age… 10,000 years ago”
(Rodenbeck p. 6)
Figure 2 The beginnings of Modern Cairo (based on: Rodenbeck p. VIII; Graber p. 2)
The modern day city center lies within the Nile Valley wedged between two mountain plateaus slightly upstream from the apex of the Nile Delta, the most fertile land in the world. The location lies along the historical road that once connected the city of Memphis and ancient Heliopolis (the biblical city of On). The built environment of the present day capital commenced with the Islamic Period as the city of Fustat along the Eastern bank of the Nile in 640AD. The location was the crossroads of the Nile River and an ancient canal that once connected the Nile to the Red Sea 4 . Over the following thousand years the city would be overtaken by numerous dynasties and various forms of government as it expanded northwards along a series of satellite centers (Rodenbeck 1998, Sims 2003). “Building dynastic cities was a common phenomenon” [Figure 2] (Raymond, pp 23-24)
Cairo’s satellite settlements were usually designed to be self-sufficient and would be established either directly along the periphery of existing settlement, or beyond a buffer of open land. The open land would eventually be in-filled with informal development as formal planning focused on the center of each satellite. Aging older settlements would also infill in similarly unplanned fashion. This trend of formal development augmented by informal sprawl is the definitive pattern of Cairo’s growth. It was first addressed as a development problem during the Fatimid period of expansion from 969AD (the formal inception of Cairo [Al Qahira]) until the late 12th century. (Raymond 2001; Sims 2003)
Each surge of satellite construction created new low density communities, which primarily appealed to the wealthier population. The relocation of the urban poor from within the city core was most often executed by force, more so common in the latter 20th century. Attempts to entice underprivileged citizens through higher wages were largely unsuccessful in terms of decreasing the population density of the urban core. (El Shakry 2006)
The ancient canal played the role of the Suez Canal today; bypassing Africa en route between the Far East and Europe.
According to Description de l’Egypt written by the Napoleonic expedition in the 18th century, Al-Qahira, the historic core of Cairo, in 1798 [Figure 3] had a population density of 39,800 people per square kilometer. This is nearly the same average density of Cairo today. (Description de l’Egypt
1809; Metge 2000) Generations of modern
satellite development, reviewed in the following section, have continuously
attempted to reduce this density, rather than develop methods to mitigate the Figure 3 Cairo and its surroundings in 1798
(Description de l'Egypt 1809)
infrastructural demands of the existing.
The year 1863 was an important one for Cairo, for it marked the accession of Ismail Pasha, the first ruler in nine centuries to make an overall plan for the city’s development. Inevitably his plan echoed Western models, as Europe’s ascendancy in political and economic matters seems to have extended to urban ones as well […] the new urbanism was predicated on an organization of space in which the street system had primacy, an urban geometry based on the grid and a prior knowledge of the structures to be built. The new concept of urban development henceforth privileged perspective and alignment. (Raymond p. 309)
In his desire to display a modern city worthy of comparison with the grand European capitals 5 , Ismail Pasha commissioned some of the most notable architects and engineers of his time including Baron George-Eugene Haussmann who had worked on the renovation of Paris in the mid 19th century. The Paris scheme was implanted as downtown Cairo, creating a dramatically new public center for the city that later echoed in the satellite cities built at the
Modernization of Cairo was rushed in time for the inauguration of the Suez Canal on August 17, 1869
turn of the 20th century. (El Shakry 2006; Raymond 2001) Baron Haussmann’s design for “Second Empire Paris” signaled a pivotal transition of the public sphere around the world and has since been the subject of much debate.
Haussmann’s new wide boulevards not only provided for military control over strategic streets but opened up areas of new commercial activity […] This linked to a wider social restructuring, the emergence of a voluble middle class, the increasing segregation of the city by class and a symbolic shift in the representation of urban space as spectacle. (Low, p. 8)
The literature on Hausmann’s scheme addresses the capitalist intentions of the layout, but also acknowledges its value as
Haussmann's downtown stitched in a modern public setting where all can alongside medieval Cairo. (Raymond p. 310)
participate; integrating private and public governance. (AlSayyad 2006; Caldeira 2000) Downtown Cairo still provides some of the most accessible public space in the city that allows for the integration of public pedestrian infrastructure alongside private enterprise. The centerpiece of the plan was, and remains, the largest square in Cairo; Qasr al-Nil Square, [in Figure 4] renamed Tahrir after the 1952 Revolution. In 2011, this square was the epicenter of the historic People’s Revolution that brought down an oppressive government in demand for local democracy.
Although downtown Cairo (also called ‘Khedeival Cairo’) provides inclusive public space, the model was replicated with very little reference to the local environment. The similarity of the boulevards and many of the buildings to downtown Paris earned Cairo the nicknamed
‘Paris on the Nile’. [Figure 5] Abdelhalim Ibrahim, a prominent Egyptian architect, claimed that this marked a notable duality in the city between “the acquired and the inherited […] This conflict between the two trends is still ongoing at all levels, though in different forms, in present-day Cairo which, in reality is two cities, not one.” (Abdelhalim p.44) Today this duality exists between the planned more exclusive city based on foreign urban models, and the more organic and indigenously designed informal city,
which grows along the peripheries and within the gaps.
Figure 5 Talaat Harb Square in Downtown Cairo;
near replica of a Parisian square.
Three Generations of Modern Satellite Cities
During the 20th century, Cairo expanded around three generations of satellite cities. Years of recession or war would be followed by sudden booms of construction in both the formal and informal sectors. [Figure 9, page 23] Defects in planning were most notable in the city infrastructure that strained to cope with the burgeoning population and poorly integrated informal development
Figure 6 An informal district (named Ezbet el Haganna)
of the built environment. [Figure 6]
developing alongside Nasr City.
In 1905, the satellite city of Heliopolis commenced as the farthest modern satellite, ten kilometers north-east of the city center, and the first urban development on desert land.
Masterminded by Baron Edouard Empain a successful Belgian businessman 6 , Heliopolis was built around grand boulevards, mansions and European style apartments. The baron initiated the city’s development around two basic cornerstones; an electric tramline that connected it to central Cairo, and the Heliopolis Company, established as an authority over all legislative issues related to real estate, development, infrastructure, and maintenance. By 1925 Heliopolis housed 25,000 residents. Today the edge of Heliopolis cannot be delineated from the dense city fabric within which it has become tightly knit. The once low density oases in the desert now houses over five million residents. [Figure 7] The tram lines, which were instrumental success, to were Heliopolis’s significantly
dismantled in the late 20th century to make way for wider automobile streets. The Heliopolis Company and a few remaining tram lines remain operational. (Dobrowolska Figure 7 Heliopolis Today: The paths crossing the
2006; Raymond 2001; Rodenbeck 1998)
roundabout are remaining operational tram lines.
British colonialism ended in 1936 by the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty and the country’s occupation ended after the 1952 revolution. With the new found national liberation, “social planners imagined Cairo as a revolutionary planning hub, in which the rural was privileged, and targeted for improvement, in the reconstitution of space” (El Shakry p. 75) The size of Cairo was capped and the land was re-appropriated within a mapped ring, which roughly aligns with the path of the Ring Road; developed four decades later. New satellite cities were planned within this region, and city development took on a socialist approach to the ordering
Baron Empain was one of the key figures in the construction of the Paris Metro.
of public space and communal welfare. Nasr City was the emblematic model of the second generation of modern satellites.
[Nasr City] was intended to be a bureaucratic-administrative town, containing all the major ministries, with housing and community facilities for the growing technocratic-civil servant class. It thus spatially embodied the regime’s conception of Cairo as a technocratic planning nucleus. (El Shakry p. 85)
moved to Nasr City as planned, the other institutional, recreational and educational facilities, suitably
integrated with residential and commercial development, saw the
Figure 8 Nasr City Today: Note the strings of cars lining the
steady growth of the new satellite’s streets population. Today Nasr City maintains the best proportions of allocated public space and pedestrian infrastructure of any residential neighborhood in Greater Cairo. [Figure 8] However, Nasr City is concurrently known for its appalling traffic jams, which are directly attributed to poorly enforced building codes. The majority of the apartment buildings illegally increased floors to almost double the planned units. Corruption within planning authorities is most frequently blamed, and lax fines for code violation sanctified such practices. In the mid 90’s a new law appropriated prison sentences for violations on any new construction, yet still struggles to eradicate such activity. Today although the predominantly socialist-block type architecture of Nasr City is aesthetically unattractive, its stadium, fairgrounds, and several other institutions substantially serve neighboring satellites as well as Cairo as a whole. (El Shakry 2006; Ibrahim 2009; Sims 2003)
Figure 9 Modern Cairo's Built Environment and Public Infrastructure’s Timeline of Development (CAPMAS 2010; Metge 2000; Rodenbeck 1998; Sims 2003)
During the 1970’s Egypt opened its doors as a free-market economy (known as “Infitah”) during which time the governments’ urban planning focus shifted from the rural and urban development of the countryside, to the urban development of the capital city as an exemplary image for Egypt’s modernization. Plans for expansion embarked placing neoliberal economic ideology and capitalism as the cornerstones of development. Maintaining the objectives of decreasing population density, plans for satellite developments intended to expand Cairo to double its size. (El Shakry 2006) Infrastructural development of the largest of these satellites, the Sixth of October City, began in the mid 1980’s. [Figure 10] [See Appendix A]
Figure 10 The built environment of Cairo in 2010 spans nearly 70 km East to West and 30 km North to
South. The ring road, planned since the 1970’s and completed in 2010, is 110km long. One of the initial objectives of the ring road was to cap the growth of Cairo.
The Informal: Social & Environmental Priority
The informal built environment of Cairo is a physical manifestation of the human instinct to seek shelter. The informality ranges from roughly patterned districts that moderately align with more planned infrastructure, to an organic “urban crawl” common to Africa. 7 The
“Urban Crawl: A condition of hyperdensity, limited but enabling scale of communicative possibilities that converge opportunistically. It occurs when the pressure of an urban environment reaches a critical threshold in cities of developing countries.” (Brillembourg et al. 2009)
resultant patterns are a response to social and environmental demands [Figure 11]. The built environment is defined and characterized by economic limitations. The buildings range in composition from solid concrete and brick with air-conditioning and in-house piping, to makeshift structures of cardboard and aluminum siding that are dire in infrastructural provision. The inception of informal neighborhoods occurs almost always from nodes of transportation access or alongside areas that provide employment (mostly informal jobs such as domestic service or informal markets). Suitable investigation into the informal can provide innovations to city planning that can mitigate its polarizing duality. (Adeyemi 2009; Saleh 2010;
Figure 11 Informal Built Environment [Left]: aligned perpendicular to north-south due to
environmental demands. Informal Prayer [Right]: aligned perpendicular to southeast towards Mecca.
The New ‘Order’: Economic Priority
One of Cairo’s primary development issues has been the manner by which local planners have assessed the city’s growth and demands. In a lecture entitled “Cairo Reversed, Values and Spaces” 8 , Eric Denis discussed an innovative perspective on what he called Cairo’s ‘morphological trajectory’ during the 20th century. The most influential factors attributing to the city’s dramatically expanding trajectory are the economic reforms that much of the literature attributes to the IMF/World Bank restructuring of the economic framework of Egypt. This period of ‘Neoliberazation’ has resulted in turbulent but persistent economic
In the 2009 symposium on Urban Trajectories in Cairo
growth paralleled by rapid growth of the city’s built environment. [Figure 12] This growth may have served the wealthy population, yet is disconnected from political collaboration that adhered to a development plan for the capital as a whole. The most significant results of these movements were as Denis addresses; the structural adjustment of the economy as well as the city, a significant decrease of public spending, and the continuous growth of privatization.
(Denis, 2009; El Shakry 2006)
Figure 12 "Population and [Public] Investment Flows" (AbdulKarim 2009)
In 1976 when the national government launched plans for the latest ring of satellite cities the population of Cairo was nearly eight million residents. It was not until the early 2000’s that notable migration from the city began to these satellites by which time the population of Cairo had surpassed 16 million residents. In the 1990’s, to launch these satellites, the government subsidized millions of square meters of desert land to private developers. Over 300 developers began to build gated communities that house between 100 and 10,000 residential units each. Within less than two decades the landscape of the desert surrounding Cairo has completely transformed. The newly built developments were aimed at a middle
class that barely exists in Cairo. (Denis 2006) These satellites have significantly grown in population over the past several years and the rate of migration is increasing. It is expected that by 2020 they will house at least five million residents. (Cambanis 2010)
The privatization of mass sections of the city, intertwined with the commodification of land, has linked it to speculation and consequent inflation that has promoted social exclusion.
(Watson 2009) The majority of new development is affordable to only a minority of the local
population. Inflation in land prices since the turn of the millennium has seen property prices increase by tenfold. (Denis 2009) Areas of distant desert land now carry the same price tag per square meter as Nile front property by virtue of a branded community name. Inversely, older districts with prime location within the city have maintained cheap price tags due to the social classes that reside within; ultimately aiding in a homogeneous zoning of the city by class. (Denis 2006) The imbalance that lacks congruence with the physical location, the cornerstone of real estate, has recently seen investors buying large sections of poor districts, even informal areas, speculating on future price corrections. The Cairo 2050 Vision predictably earmarked several of these neighborhoods to be redeveloped as tourism and business districts of high rise buildings and commercial venues. [See Appendix B]
Today, at the climax of the capitalist era, manifestations of wealth and power continue to transform the capital cities of people’s republics into segmented zones that attempt to collect homogeneous sectors of society. This is contrary to what has given Cairo’s urban fabric its historical and cultural value. In recent developments of Cairo and other global cities, there has been a complete loss of common ground, the democratically inclusive public space.
(Caldeira 2000; Kuppinger 2004)
“Inevitably, rapid expansion brings with it major pressures on service and utility systems […] In face of the rapid pace of change, many improvements become either inadequate or obsolete by the time they are finished.” (El-Shakhs p.4) With the lack of prioritization of public infrastructure, networks have continuously failed to adequately support the city. Tramlines, which in the 1970’s accounted for 15 percent of travel were systematically dismantled to make more room for automobile streets. By 1998 automobiles had accounted for more than a quarter of travel, double what they had three decades earlier. Public buses and the new underground metro lines account for less than 40 percent of travel, 20 percent less than what busses alone carried in 1971. (Metge 2000)
Heliopolis, the symbol of the first generation of modern satellites, was developed with ample pedestrian provision, communal infrastructure and public transportation. The second generation satellite cities were developed upon modern-socialist block type architecture along strong street grids, well maintained sidewalk setbacks and residential parks. However, public transportation was not a cornerstone of development, and poor management of the intensification process led to significant strains on the infrastructure. The sidewalks and parks were equally compromised. The latest (third) generation, based on the American suburban model, relies almost completely on the automobile. [Figure 13] There are no significant public spaces outside the private
developments, providing only the streets as public infrastructure.
Public transportation is significantly inadequate with a handful of stops covering a catchment area of several Figure 13 Gated Communities in New Cairo. Area shown is
15 square kilometers.
square kilometers. Over the past half century, the public infrastructure of Cairo has continuously compromised on provisions of public space and public transportation.
Recent development has been almost solely steered by economic drivers of growth. The pursuit of financial development has been relatively fruitful, but neglect of the public arena has pushed the city into social and ecological imbalance. Continuous privatization has depleted the city of open public space. As developments continue to intensify, the streets strain to cope. They have become unorganized and hazardous with pedestrians weaving through traffic. [Figure 14] The street is the only space in Cairo where all communities and classes within the city interact. This is Cairo’s
remaining point of assembly; its agora.
Figure 14 A typical downtown street in Cairo; pedestrians and
automobiles battle for the right of way. (A Nation in Waiting 2008)
The Streets of Cairo
Modern Cairo has developed through waves of construction that ebbed and flowed over the past two centuries, with each cycle being exponentially larger than its predecessor. The latest series of satellite developments along with the intensifying existing fabric has nearly tripled the area of the megacity over the last few decades. (Denis 2009) City planning has consistently aimed to decrease the population density by reallocating residents, industry, and institutions, yet has failed to achieve such objectives. The definitive pattern has been the continual decrease in public provision paralleled by the increasing speed of informal intensification that has been relentless throughout Cairo’s history.
In Streets: A Critical Perspective on Public Space, Ceylik, Favro and Ingersoll explore the development of city streets as a transforming phenomenon that evolve as the rings of a tree telling the story of its life. A chapter by Nezar Alsayyad travels the history of a street that runs along what was once the central court of a 340 acre compound in Cairo built in the distant desert by the newly arriving Fatimid dynasty at the turn of the first millennium. The “Bayn Al Qasrayn” (directly translated as “between the two palaces”) court was encroached upon by the growing city, but continuously played a significant function of social public space and civic arena even as the surroundings changed and the two palaces themselves completely disappeared. [Figure 15] The street that runs along what was once an open public court has become a mere avenue that is flanked on both sides at this particular zone with retail and commercial activities. Today, over a thousand years later the street and neighborhood are still known by the same name yet have been transformed by the imminent intensification. (Alsayyad 1994)
Figure 15 Bayn al Qasrayn Street: showing the encroachment of the city. (Alsayyad 1994)
The question at hand is the development and maintenance of sufficient public space within this growing fabric. Although the picture may easily seem bleak for Cairo, the city has a vast resource of urban assets that could potentially transform it into an integrated stitching of the antiquated city, the modern city and the human scale. This reconciliation needs to begin in the only remaining open grounds: the streets. Among numerous other factors, formally planned buildings and streets set a framework for the evolution of the city even as some of those buildings eventually disappear. The streets do not disappear as quickly, if at all.
The Battle Ground: Cairo Today
Cairo is in many ways a cosmopolitan city. Its built environment alone embodies layers of historical and modern architecture within neighborhood layouts of both foreign and indigenous models. In a paper entitled “Grieving Cosmopolitanism in Middle East Studies” Will Hanley stands the ideology of cosmopolitanism upon two “complementary issues; tremendous ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity, and (being) the opposite of ‘national’ or nationalistic.” (Hanley 2008) Cosmopolitanism is generally an inclusive concept, which entails a universality of citizenship, broadness of thought and a lack of prejudice. As such, Cairo embodies the virtues of diversity and globalization; yet incongruously embodies exclusion and segregation. The formulation of the cosmopolitan state of Cairo is elitist in application and legitimizes value to formal labels over actual content. (Hanley 2008)
The mask of false grandeur and impractical organization has persistently taken over spaces of significance to the community. A notable example is the Sixth of October Bridge; a twenty kilometer elevated highway that cuts across the city creating its main east-west artery. [Figure
16] This crudely constructed concrete platform, referred to by pre-Revolution officials as ‘one
of the longest bridges in the world,’ was constructed incrementally over three decades.
Figure 16 The Sixth of October Expressway. Note the sideboards along the side facing the more
Planning of the expressway was ad hoc at best; some stretches of the bridge run between buildings nearly touching third floor balconies, and other sections were developed by trailand-error, requiring portions to be closed off and redesigned post-construction. (Atia 1999) The purpose of elevating the entire highway across the city was to swiftly transport automobiles and tourist buses from the main airport access road to the center of town, while hiding the neighborhoods and slums below. [Figure 17] This was achieved by placing side-boards to block the views of the very poor areas. Additionally, 80 percent of its trail has rendered parallel roadways below
dysfunctional due to the colossal support columns. Although tourist buses are
Figure 17 Neighborhood spaces in the Abbasia
permitted access, public buses are not.
district below the Sixth of October Expressway
Present day Cairo is a collage of planned districts and informal sprawl that are stitched together by the streets. Walking in Cairo is tedious as there is a lack of continuous pedestrian infrastructure. Nearly all sidewalks are incomplete with no enforced regulation to maintain continuity. Although buildings within the planned city are set back from the road by a minimum of three meters, garage ramps, elevated planters, on center lamp posts and even light structures (such as cigarette kiosks) are standard obstacles. [Figure 18] The only
Figure 18 [Left] Tramline infrastructure and advertisement boards along a street in Heliopolis create
obstacles along the pedestrian path. [Right] A kiosk and trees in Zamalek block the sidewalk.
continuous path is the asphalt road, which pedestrians are forced to resort to, competing with the automobiles. [Figure 19] Traffic regulation is generally ignored as are the rare pedestrian crossings. “Right of way is not administered according to a standardized system, but is usually negotiated (visually) between the intersecting drivers, or the driver and the pedestrian, according to the variables of each encounter.”
pedestrians and drivers often aggressively and capriciously assert their boundaries within
Figure 19 A crowded street in Cairo. Cars, buses, motorcycles,
the congested public arena.
cyclists, pedestrians, and street vendors share the asphalt road.
(photograph by Andy Serrano)
The conditions in the streets of Cairo have become no less than chaotic, riddled with confusion. Heavy traffic has resulted in intolerable levels of noise and air pollution, and a constantly decreasing average speed of travel through the city. Rather than addressing the cause of the growing “urban tumor”, planners and developers most often resorted to masking the symptoms. Gated residential communities and exclusive public spaces that are physically separated from the streets by walls have grown throughout the city, creating refuge for those with means. (El-Naggar 2007; Harris 2009; Issa 2009)
If we look for a moment at other cities around the world where enclaves are increasing, we see that some are going through similar processes of deep transformation and democratization: Johannesburg and Buenos Aires, for example. The unsettling of social boundaries is upsetting, especially for the elite. Their movement to build walls is thus understandable. The problem is that the consequences of fragmentation, privatization, and walling are severe. Once walls are built, they alter public life. The changes we are seeing in the urban environment are fundamentally undemocratic. What is being reproduced at the level of the built environment is segregation and intolerance. The space of these cities is the main arena in which these antidemocratic tendencies are articulated. (Caldeira, p. 334)
Exclusivity: Gated Communities and ‘Fortified’ Public Space
The majority of the literature unfavorably criticizes the growth of gated communities and ‘fortified’ public spaces. The development of gated communities in and around global cities has spread at an unprecedented rate, particularly in developing nations. These ‘exclusive’ neighborhoods designed to mitigate security risks, do not necessarily impact crime reduction and can make the location more vulnerable as there is less public around. Such settings are likely to increase the notion of fear rather than avert any actual threat The development of “defensible spaces” both as residential communities and ‘fortified’ public spaces such as shopping malls and luxury hotels in Cairo has exasperated the city’s social polarization. The resultant momentum undermines social cohesion and democracy. (AbdulKarim et al. 2009;
AlSayyad 2006; Caldeira 2000; Kuppinger 2004; Ribiero et al. 2000; Williams et al. 2001)
In older parts of Cairo, expensive buildings house one to two poor families living in the ground floor that provide services and protection to the residents of the building. Additionally, the rooftops of such buildings often house affordable one room accommodations that are rented by lower income members of the society. This heterogeneity of the city fabric has maintained a mixture of social class within districts. However, the sidewalks, parks, and communal areas of these neighborhoods have been absorbed by organic intensification and an abundance of parked cars. The wealthier residents consequently resort to fortified public spaces, while the less wealthy spend the evenings in the actual streets; in and around cars. Adequate “opportunities need to be created to encourage residents to physically see each other, in order to begin to get to know each other through socializing and talking. Safe, attractive public spaces and venues need to be built to encourage community mingling and socializing.” (Butterworth, p. 9)
Planning regulations in Cairo require a minimum percentage of public space in new developments. However without defining the function and purpose of such spaces, privatization has allowed for retail and commercial centers to satisfy this requirement. In an essay entitled “Egyptianizing the American Dream”, Mona Abaza assesses the surge of shopping malls and mixed use entertainment complexes throughout the capital. Before the 1990’s such malls did not exist in Cairo. Groups of shops had only existed in outdoor bazaar type settings, or lined the ground floor of residential buildings open directly onto the sidewalk or street. The appeal of enclosed shopping malls can be attributed to the prioritization of the leisurely pedestrian, and the provision of ‘escape’ from the pollution and disorder of Cairo’s streets. “The mall provides a feeling of ‘elevation,’ of being modern and protected from the outside world”. (Abaza p.212) [Figure 22] However, these malls are not inclusive to all strata of the society and thus cannot be defined as public space. In spite of the financial decline of such establishments, particularly in the US at the turn of the millennium, their existence in Cairo continues to flourish. (Abaza 2006)
Public space in the city should be responsive to the entire community, free of exclusion, and literally a spatial interpretation of participatory responsibility; a democratic arena. (Caldeira
2000, Williams et al. 2001) Applying suitable planning policy and guidelines can directly affect
the reduction of ‘undemocratic spaces’ that intend to exclude those who cannot afford to buy. In the UK, for example, city development plans have included social housing in every borough of London to counter social segregation. Additionally, since the induction of PPG6 (Planning Policy Guidance #6) 9 , aimed at revitalizing town centers with commercial activity and discouraging developers from building new malls, “the number of new large developments has decreased each year and retailers are refocusing their attention on town centers”. (Williams et al. p.11) Rather than constructing new, ‘fortified’, public spaces,
According to the 2001 edition of the Social Trends publication of HMSO
revitalization of existing urban centers also responds to the public preference of ‘compact and well integrated’ town centers that are accessible to all. Additionally this reduces the need for transportation, minimizing the associated environmental impact.
As for the future of the new satellite cities and their gated communities, the pattern of Cairo’s growth alludes to an inevitable intensification that will occur with time. Petra Kuppinger poses the question that looms repeatedly in the realm of this discussion: Given another decade or so, will the gated communities then be the new Heliopolises and Maadis? 10
(Kuppinger p. 53)
Environmental Sustainability of the New Order
As professionals of the built environment turn their focus to low carbon cities, the search ensues for the most suitable density and layout to increase environmental sustainability. AbdelKhalek Ibrahim questioned the validity of the claim that the new ‘suburban’ layout and density of the gated communities sprouting around Cairo, and elsewhere in Egypt, is a more environmentally sustainable city scheme than the locally common high density mixed-use layout. A simplified logic has supported this claim that lowered density would result in lowered consumption of resources and energy at single points. However, the overall picture, as Ibrahim settles, is quite the contrary.
The urban fabric of the Egyptian city has been dictated by an environmental response to the desert climate conditions of extended periods of harsh sun and strong sand bearing winds. As a result the Arabian typology of city planning emerged, and the typical Egyptian city is compact, dense, and applies significant mixed-use function. This allows for suitable shading, protection from desert winds, and minimizes transportation needs. The local culture itself has
Heliopolis and Maadi are heralded here as symbols of the first generation of modern satellite cities .
grown accustomed to the close proximity of neighbors and functions due to the traditional setting. Neighborhood bonds are very strong in the Egyptian city and people generally spend a good portion of the day in the vicinity around their house interacting with neighbors, passers-by, and market vendors. “Egyptian people often prefer streets, buildings and neighborhoods that are abundant with life and activities and thus safe, whereas spaces that are not inhabited or used by people are seen as unsafe.” (Ibrahim, 2009)
The new urban layout that is appearing, however, does not allow for any of these conditions… yet.
[Figure 20] A foreign import from
North America, the suburban model is a response to a much different
Figure 20 New Cairo Satellite showing a gated community
surrounding a golf course (lower half)
climate and as an effect of the urban fabric, has resulted in different cultural interaction. The fabric itself does not allow for the same mixed-use nature of the more compact and dense city. Distance travel for work and market is more common in the American city, as is travel by sustainable public transport, cycle, and foot, all of which are not very common in Cairo. This urban layout, as it is being superimposed over the deserts around Cairo, is already increasing reliance on the automobile, as well as air conditioning needs due to the lack of neighborly shading.
The gated communities of the latest generation of satellites have already set a framework that will, with time, transform as the surrounding context intensifies. The current state of over densification and high pollution of Cairo is primarily the result of poor management of this intensification process. Strong guidelines for the transformation of the fabric over time could mitigate this problem. (Ibrahim, 2009) To better suit the development of the future urban fabric
of Cairo, it would be favorable if urban planners approach the design more as a foundational framework to support the eventual adaptation of the city. To mitigate the environmental impact of the forthcoming densification of the latest satellites, infrastructural requirements of public transportation and communal spaces should be prioritized.
Tourism and the Sterilization of Cairo’s Public Spaces
Tourism, a significant contributor to the national economy of Egypt, has taken priority of a vast amount of Cairo’s development. The commodification of living portions of the city and its culture for tourism has frequently come at the expense of the local community. In a paper on the agoras of global cities, and the local communities and tourists they now serve, Bart Neuts discusses the exhaustion or overconsumption of public goods. The definitions of public space, common property and public goods are intertwined, dependant, and frequently misused. Public space delineates a physical platform that is openly accessible, inclusive and non-subtractable in absolute terms. This means that as a public good it is consumable, or subtractable, but is regenerated upon the departure of its user. Common property, on the other hand, is a space shared by a defined set of users that is subtractable and can be depleted. The difference between public space and common property is its accessibility, and accordingly its degree of ‘private ownership’. This variance begins to define the level of investment as well as level of exclusivity exhibited by a space. (Neuts 2009; Webster 2007)
The perspective by which Neuts, and many other scholars, discuss urban public space is intrinsically positioned on the premise that it is open to all citizens. The city’s public space can even be viewed in this light as a common property of its citizens, hence allowing the right to exclude non citizens. (Neuts 2009) To sustain the public provision of open space it is necessary to avoid overconsumption. The capacity of a given public space to handle a quantified mass of users simultaneously, determines what should be viewed as the maximum 38
public resource allocated by this space; what Webster calls a “congestion threshold” (Webster
2007). Since public space is non-subtractable, its function, or usability, will maintain as long
as the absolute number of users at one time does not exceed this capacity.
Failure to exclude people from benefitting from the resource leads to what is known as the free rider problem. Consumers are unwilling to voluntarily invest in a public goods resource, since their investment is not essential in order to enjoy the outcome. Therefore, each rational individual will have the incentive not to participate, free riding on the investment of others.(Neuts, p.4)
Those with vested interest in tourism will ‘rationally’ poise development to enhance the tourist experience, relying on the more intangible local community or government to preserve the communal interest of citizens. The free rider problem is not a notable issue in more sterilized, or homogeneous, tourist areas as tourism is quantifiable into number of tourists and resultant revenue. Accordingly investments in such areas are higher and provision of what is questionably called ‘public goods’ is more directly linked to profit. Such investment in more heterogeneous public spaces of the city that cater primarily to its citizens is not directly related to immediate profit. Accordingly these spaces are greatly devoid of private investment, leaving the responsibility of public provision on the shoulders of government.
Figure 21 Resource use of a public space under
Figure 22 Marginal Cost and Revenue Curves
open access conditions (Neuts p.6)
for Public Space (Neuts p.7)
Figures 21 and 22, developed by Neuts, mathematically interpret the quality of experience in a space using G. Hardins theoretical example from his paper “Tragedy of the Commons” of too many animals grazing in a field. The quality of the visitors’ experience (E) is based on 39
the constant features of the space itself, the number of users at one time (n), and the price paid by the visitors (p). The graph in Figure 21 shows that the optimal experience for value requires a number of users (n*) below which the experience is too sterile, and above which the quality of the experience is decreased. The price of the experience should respectively rise to suit the supply/demand ratio. Open access to locals and tourists, unrestricted by a proportionate cost to tourists, reduces the quality of experience for all users. (Neuts 2009)
“Due to negative externalities, the individually optimal resource use will be higher than the socially optimal quantity, ns [refer to Figure 22] leading to a loss of societal wealth.” (Neuts, p.7) Figure 22 graphically describes the inverse relationship between the marginal costs incurred by society (MCs) and the marginal revenue (MR) as the individual marginal cost (MCi) remains constant. The analyses show that an optimum number of users of a public space lies between n* and ns. As tourism statistics are closely monitored in Egypt, the optimum number of tourists at one time, and the appropriate cost figures can be easily calculated. The optimum balance between the number of users and price can maintain the quality of the space. In order to be sustainable, the number of users needs to be addressed in terms of maintenance, operation, and external costs incurred by the city and its citizens.
Most historical and cultural attractions throughout Cairo have amplified the freerider problem in public spaces, which suffer from poor management and maintenance. Several landmarks have become tourist ghettos while others have become sterilized for a scripted tourist experience. An example of the latter is the Al-Rifa’i Mosque and the Sultan Hasan Madrasa. In the mid 1980’s the extension of the prominent Mohammed Ali Street that ran between the two landmark buildings of Islamic Cairo was closed and the area was paved as a pedestrian plaza. The initial intent of the transformation, according to an official from the Supreme
Council of Antiquities (SCA), was to cleanse the space of suspected drug use in the surrounding area and curtail the growth of “fundamentalist cells”.
In the following years the people of the surrounding neighborhoods found refuge in the new pedestrian plaza and began enjoying its potential as an open public space within their community. Yasser Elsheshtawy conducted several interviews with members of the public using the space and observed the square over a period of several months. His analysis revealed that the space had taken on a new role where the people of the surrounding community would sit, chat, and play all the while as tourists would visit the landmark structures and catch a glimpse of the daily lives of the Egyptian people.
However, the interviewed official of the SCA had expressed his dismay of the public activities around the monuments. He perceived the presence of the
Figure 23 Pictures of Al Rifai Square by
Yasser Elsheshtawy (Elsheshtawy 2006)
poor locals as a nuisance to tourists, and indicated [Top] Retirees enjoying the square
[First Down] Children playing soccer
that plans were underway to control the problem. with tourists Within a few years the square was walled off to deter [Second Down] A marriage ceremony
[Bottom] Tourists entering from the only
non-tourists from entry and use. (Elsheshtawy 2006)
available gate after the wall was built.
Although tourism is beneficial to the city on many levels, the transformation of Al Rifai Square epitomizes the singular prioritization of tourism, and a non-holistic approach to Cairo’s development. The initial decision to close Mohammed Ali Street had suitably improved the location for tourists and locals alike. If there was further need to separate or delineate tourist activity from local activity within the square, interdisciplinary approaches of resolution could have been introduced. Landscaping and public provisions such as benches and playing areas could have focused local activity away from tour paths. However the decision to ‘wall’ deprived the local community of a valuable amenity resulting in their increased disenfranchisement. Additionally, it rendered the square an awkward ‘sterile’ space for tourists that is disengaged from the city fabric within which it resides. Rather than separating users and functions, the sustainability of a public space can be attained by balancing the number of citizens and tourists. Restrictive costs and schedules imposed upon tour operators can help achieve such a balance, thus securing the public provision.
In summary, it can be said that the physical public arena of Cairo is in a “state of contemporary crisis.” (Perez-Gomez 1986) Insufficient pedestrian infrastructure, poor management and organization of the streets, and unchecked intensification has resulted in poor circulation, decreased safety and compounding environmental damage. Gated communities and fortified public spaces have provided exclusive arenas for some, yet have increased social fragmentation. The overwhelming of urban spaces by traffic and tourism has dismantled connectivity within the city’s physical public arena, negatively impacting the local quality of life. Balanced objectives of development and remediation must be achieved in order to counter the absorption of public infrastructure at the expense of the social and environmental welfare of the city.
The Macro-Urban Core
The history of Cairo’s urban development over the past 1500 years reveals a continuous pattern of new satellite development that was considerably devoid of refurbishments to the existing. The majority of older districts have been taken over by informal settlement that organically reused, transformed and intensified the city’s core. Until recently, the idea of gentrification was unknown to the city that continues to house centuries of urban treasures. With Cairo reaching megalopolis scale, and several failed attempts to relocate major institutions and population out of the core, pivotally located within the Nile Valley, attention has turned to redeveloping the existing fabric.
This chapter will review four projects that are redeveloping the public arena of central Cairo.
[Figure 24] Although these projects address less
than five percent of the city, they provide lessons for dealing with the remainder of the urban fabric. The success or failure of each of these macroFigure 24 The four projects in central Cairo
scale refurbishments can be correlated to their that are discussed in this chapter. level of research, detail, and community involvement at the micro-urban scale. Their objectives vary from tourism development; transforming the urban fabric into a quasimuseum, to social and cultural development and the provision of public infrastructure. They are ordered in the discussion from the most economically focused, to the most socially and environmentally focused redevelopments.
The Refurbishment of Islamic Cairo
Once it [the museum] was a place that had instruction and the propagation of a particular view of the world as its underpinning. Now it [the museum] has come to be seen as an urban landmark – a replacement for the missing agora, a place devoted to spectacle. (Deyan Sudjic
quoted in Hamnet, Shoval 2003)
The Historic Cairo Restoration Project (HCRP), which began in 1998, is responsible for the restoration of the largest section of the old city; Islamic Cairo, the world’s largest living collection of Islamic heritage monuments. [Figure 25]
(unesco.org) Refurbishment of what is intended as
an ‘open air museum’ has been underway for well over a decade. The project carries the primary agenda of tourism development; however the scheme has succeeded in upgrading the public
Figure 25 UNDP Rehabilitation Plan (1997)
arena of one of Cairo’s poor districts. Al Moezz for Islamic Cairo (Crane 2006) Street, the districts’ main thoroughfare, has been transformed into a pedestrian spine that serves locals and visitors [Figure 26].
opportunities for local artisans and craftsmen within the restoration process, and with the production of ‘ethnic products’ for tourist consumption. However the edge of restoration between the tourist path, and the communal Figure 26 Al Moezz Street; the pedestrian
spine of Islamic Cairo.
public alleys of the district, underlines the projects’ incompleteness. A project of this scale should include primary objectives of social enhancement, particularly as it utilizes a ‘living’ quarter of the city for economic gain. This gain must equally provide for the involved community in order to be successful. These imbalanced objectives have impacted the quality of the tourist experience as several critics have noted a loss of “cultural value” within the recently opened monuments. (Williams, C 2006)
The Gentrification of ‘Khedival’ Downtown
The Haussmann designed downtown (often called “Khedival Cairo”) houses some of Cairo’s most ornate 19th and early 20th century architecture. It also houses the city’s best kept pedestrian network. Since the 1990’s there has been significant movement to refurbish the district that has fallen victim to urban decay mostly due to rent control laws. Over the past decade, downtown Cairo has seen improvement to its public arena. Sidewalks are being maintained, zebra crossings have been introduced, and adherence to traffic lights is being enforced. More significantly two streets have been closed to traffic and paved as pedestrian only. (El Kadi et al. 2006) Several factors have led to the preliminary success, albeit still small in scale, of the ongoing gentrification. Primarily, the integration of participants from the public and private sectors, along with significant media attention increased the momentum of change. Additionally, the project commenced with an intricate assessment and data collection process dubbed “heritization”.
The heritization process comprises a range of successive and/or concomitant stages: study, appraisal, documentation, selection, classification, enacting protective laws, creating special institutions to manage safeguarding efforts, deploying the tools, making the renovations, raising public awareness, training consumers, and ensuring ongoing maintenance. (El Kadi et
al. p. 350)
Based on diligent data collection, redevelopment efforts continue to snowball in effect. A recent competition by the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP) produced a Revitalization Master Plan for an aggrandized scope of the district. The project parameters now cover two significant squares that have been completely invaded by traffic; AbdelMoneim Riyadh Square, and Tahrir Square. [Figure 27]
Figure 27 The winning entry for the Revitalization Master Plan proposes; significant reduction to
automobile access, increased provision for public transportation and open green space. Spatially, the proposal appears to integrate with the immediate fabric while being proportionate in size as a downtown for the macro city. (GOPP 2010)
In 2008, two privately funded companies were established to purchase, refurbish, and manage several buildings of downtown Cairo; one of which is Tatweer Real Estate. Marshall Stocker, of Tatweer, explained that Cairo was selected by his investment fund for two reasons. First, because “Egypt is going through very massive and ambitious economic changes, moving from communism [socialism] to capitalism, the macro-economic change is phenomenal.” 11
(Stocker 2010) Second, because of the old rent control law instated in 1921 that continues to
Interview with Mr. Marshall Stocker, Chairman and Managing Director of Tatweer Real Estate, conducted by the author on November 28th, 2010 in Cairo
protect residents and their first generation inheritors by locking rents several thousand percent lower than free market value. Rent control has been one of the most influential factors in the deterioration of buildings and their surroundings as landlords have no incentive or income to provide maintenance. The disrepair of the district resulted in the wealthy and affluent moving elsewhere, further reducing funding for maintenance. Research has positively correlated the Egyptian rent control law to reduced private investment in formal housing and increased private investment in informal housing. The rent control law in Egypt was abolished in 1996, effective only to rent contracts post this date. (McCall 1988, Stocker 2010)
Downtown Cairo exemplifies how the lack of social diversity within a district results in the decline of its public spaces, with the inverse being equally valid. Research and planning at both the macro and micro levels have resulted in a well integrated development plan. The heritization process of the Khedival Downtown Project has managed to change damaging housing policy, as well as attract local and international investors.
The Ramses Challenge
Ramses Square is a major civic plaza centrally located in present day Cairo. The square is at the crossroads of the country’s trainlines, and the city’s main east-west traffic artery. In a 1984 seminar entitled “The Expanding Metropolis: Coping with the Urban Growth of Cairo” 12 , local and international scholars and practitioners of the built environment convened to review Cairo’s urban history and assess the city’s urban development. One of the main debates surrounded Ramses Square, and questioned the sustainability of a proposed flyover bridge that would continue across the city. The response of the seminar was to not build the bridge, and alternatively relocate the station north of the city leaving the historic station
The seminar was held by the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in Cairo.
building [Figure 28] to house lighter innercity transport. 13 The advice was not heeded and the expressway bridge was built, crudely dissecting the historical square and essential qualities of public life.
The square has borne the name Ramses since 1955 when the ancient statue of
Figure 28 Ramses Square (Pre 1882), then called
Ramses II was brought from Memphis to ‘Bab el Hadid’ (Translation: the ‘Iron Door’ stand at its center. (Raymond 2000) By the
referring to the railway entrance to the city).The image shows the station building surrounded by turn of the millennium, the statue stood at commercial activity, pedestrians, and a horse drawn carriage moving goods.
the center point of the Sixth of October Bridge expressway. [Figure 29] Figures published in a November 2009 article claimed that Ramses Square was traversed by 300,000 pedestrians, and 3,000,000 cars and buses every eight hours. (El-Aref
2009) The statue that had stood the test of
time for thousands of years, could not sustain the pollution of central Cairo, and in 2006 Ramses II was transported out of the city in a ceremonial 12 hour procession at a large expense to public funds.
Figure 29 Ramses Square today
When the station was constructed in the mid 19th century, it was located at the then northern edge of the city as can be seen in Figure 5 [page 11].
In 2008, the National Organization for Urban Harmony (NOUH) 14 announced a competition for the redevelopment of Ramses Square. Proposals were called to address the immediate role of the square as a functioning landmark and civic center, realign traffic and public transportation to better integrate with the larger network of Cairo, as well as address the ailing ecological state of the city. Additionally the scope asked for a macro-urban scheme to address the incomplete public transportation network. (NOUH 2008) Ambitious as the scope was for a single competition, it underlined the city’s need to reassess its public spaces and civic centers, in conjunction with its overwhelming traffic and defunct public transportation.
Figure 30 Ramses Square: the winning scheme (El-Aref 2009)
The winning entry [Figure 30] rerouted 1.3 kilometers of the expressway bridge through an underground tunnel, redirected surface traffic and created an open pedestrian plaza. Adjacent to the square the proposal called for an 18 acre “urban park,” which would be developed as “a second lung for Cairo similar to Al-Azhar Park” (El-Husseini 15 , quoted in El-Aref 2009). Notably however, the proposal did not provide space within the square for the informal market that has existed there since the 19th century.
NOUH is the urban development advisory body to the Governorate of Cairo Omar El-Husseini is the architect and urban planner representing the winning redevelopment plan.
Since the competition results were announced in 2009 significant debate has ensued over the implementation of the winning scheme. In an article entitled “Midan Ramses: Between the Crimes of Disfiguration and Beautification”, the author Ezzat El Kamhawy implored planning authorities to identify the objectives of the Ramses redevelopment plan and confirm the reasons for further public spending. Significantly, El Kamhawy expressed the public’s distrust of the government agenda stating that it is evident that Cairo is developing towards the sole objective of becoming a global center of tourism and commerce, without suitable provision for the communal welfare of the city. (El Kamhawy 2010)
The challenges of Ramses Square have continued to deplete the resources of public funds without successful resolution to its compounding problems. Public attention brought on by the departure of the Ramses II statue, signaled civic confusion as the uprooting of the landmark rendered the square’s name illogical. The highly criticized construction of the Sixth of October expressway, and the subsequent debate to dismantle it a mere decade after completion; exhibits both a lack of insight and attention to public opinion, thus casting doubt over future plans. As Ramses square is one of the oldest planned civic nodes of modern Cairo, the majority of the surrounding urban fabric has been either informally developed, or informally intensified. 16 The square is in many ways a major meeting point of the formal and informal city. [Figure 31] Notably, community involvement and
data collection at the microurban scale were significantly absent in the development plans of Ramses Square.
Figure 31 The urban fabric surrounding Ramses Square today
has been developing and intensifying for centuries.
The inception of the Square began with the construction of the train station in 1856
Al Darb Al Ahmar: the Social Intervention of Al Azhar Park
Following the same 1984 seminar that debated Ramses square, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture embarked on a community centered redevelopment project in one of the poorest neighborhoods of core Cairo; Al Darb Al Ahmar. In conjunction with refurbishing the dilapidated urban fabric, the goals included; revitalizing the community, providing employment, and developing infrastructural services such as health care, sanitation, and training. The redevelopment would be unified by a project to be built by the community: AlAzhar Park [Figure 32]. Income from the park would provide employment and funding for community projects and loans. (AKTC 2005; Ouroussoff 2004)
Figure 32 Al Azhar Park; built for, and by, the surrounding community (Al Darb Al Ahmar
neighborhood is the area on the left).
Al Azhar Park, completed in 2005, was greatly needed on a city scale. A large park had not been developed in Cairo in over a century as concrete and asphalt blanketed a large portion of the Nile Valley. 17 (AKTC 2008) The park is a grand move towards the reclamation of public space on the macro and micro-urban scales. Although entry is not free, it is affordable, and a
In 1984 the green space per resident of Cairo was roughly equal to a single human footprint. (AKTC 2008)
discounted rate is provided for the residents of Al Darb Al Ahmar 18 . The location of the project capitalized on the existing threads of the urban fabric, as well as an archeological infrastructure. Significantly, the 300,000 meter square plot covers what was once a vast trash dump in the middle of Cairo’s urban core that had collected refuse for five hundred years. Additionally it uncovered a two kilometer stretch of the old city wall that was fully restored by local artisans. The long term vision of the project has already begun to create a wave of refurbishments within the surrounding neighborhoods. [Figure 33] The success of the project can, among other things, be directly attributed to the active
involvement of various stakeholders, most vital of which was the local community. (Ouroussoff 2004, Salama 2008)
Figure 33 Azhar Park along side Al Darb Al Ahmar
District (Salama 2008) The Aga Khan Trust for Culture brought together institutional partners, local nongovernmental organizations, municipal institutions, neighbourhood representatives, local businessmen and people living and working in the area. A detailed survey of the local population’s socioeconomic needs was made and a series of meetings were then held to determine the community’s own development priorities. (AKTC 2005, p. 7)
With the focus on community involvement, surveys were conducted during each phase assessing the results of achievements. Subsequent steps were tailored accordingly, particularly those of the socio-economic development plan. This closed loop of end user feedback aided by a microfinance program helped achieve the social revitalization objectives of the project. The development of the public space was not the primary objective of the project, but rather the tool used to provide for community enhancement. (AKTC 2008)
Park entry fee = 5LE roughly $1; Darb Al Ahmar Residents entry fee = 2LE roughly $0.35
Cairo 2050: “The Planned City Sweeps the Poor Away” 19
The ‘Cairo 2050 Vision’ was the latest government plan for the urban development of Cairo. The grand scale vision claimed the pursuit of social development, yet appears to have been designed almost solely for global appeal; attracting tourists and investors for the economic development of the ruling class. Although the 2050 plan was promptly discarded after the 2011 Revolution, it indicates the incentives of planning authorities in dealing with the city. 20
This, now former, master plan for Cairo had listed the objectives of; increasing parks and open space, increasing public transportation, reducing traffic and pollution, and achieving social equality within the city. It asserted that the informal areas account for 50 percent of the city’s housing stock [other sources place the figure at over 60] (AbdelHalim 2009, GOPP 2009). In spite of this acknowledgement, and suitable objectives, the overall scheme proposed only a few points of remediation with the informal districts. Alternatively, the vision planned for the relocation of ten to twelve million residents from within the city to new satellite settlements; an objective of previous plans that has consistently failed.
[Figure 34] The vision intended to decrease
the unplanned regions from 50 percent of the current built environment to 15 percent by 2050.
Figure 34 Cairo 2050: Planned reduction of the
population within the urban core (GOPP 2009)
New low income housing was to be constructed within and around the city. The proposed imported models were selected to achieve a lower density urban fabric, yet they do not
(Anna Tibaijuka, quoted in Watson, title) As announced after the 2011 Revolution, by the general organization of physical planning (GOPP); a unit of the Ministry of Housing that continues to be in charge of developing and overseeing Cairo’s urban strategies.
respond to the local environment; socially, ecologically or aesthetically. [Figure 35] Additionally, the neighborhood genre relied heavily on automobiles rather than public transportation. (Watson 2009, GOPP 2009)
Figure 35 Cairo 2050: Proposed transformation of one million square meters of existing informal
housing and scarce agricultural land alongside the Pyramids at Giza (GOPP 2009)
The core city’s redevelopment was approached as a ‘tabula rasa’ that envisioned the eradication of mass sections of the existing urban fabric. [Figure 36 and Figure 37] Throughout the development of modern Cairo, formal mitigation of informal growth has remained unsuccessful. The challenges of halting such growth, or retrospectively installing public infrastructure remain unmet, as planning continued to insist that the solution was removal.
Figure 36 Area around Azhar Park was planned to be cleared from the informal housing covering
millions of square meters. Zone 2 is the UNESCO protected Islamic Cairo (GOPP 2009)
Other cities internationally, particularly in the global south, have suffered from similar growth, some of which have developed innovative methods of intervention; such as the Metro Cable Transport system in Caracas, Venezuela. In dealing with a similarly tight knit and seemingly inaccessible fabric, public transportation was achieved using cable cars. The residents of the barrios can now reach the center of the city at a fraction of the time and cost.
Since the systems’ integration, dubbed “acupuncture”, there has been visible economic development and upgrade within the barrios. The station nodes themselves began to develop communal activity platforms and have become pivotal to the neighborhood, and the relationship of the local residents with the macro city. (Brillembourg et al. 2008)
Although the Cairo 2050 Vision had promised socially and environmentally viable objectives, the plan appears geared primarily towards the identified economic objective of doubling the tourist capacity of Cairo. (GOPP 2009) The vision was designed around grand schemes that would transform the city at a macro-scale, completely eliminating expanses of heavily populated neighborhoods with the intent of relocation. The rationale was touristic perspective of landmarks and ‘global appeal.’(GOPP 2009) [Figure 37] The definitive hindrance of the vision lied in its scale of spatial intervention. For the built environment of Cairo to move towards enhancing social and environmental sustainability, plans need to approach the fabric at a meso and micro-urban scale. (Salama 2008) Now that the demand for social balance has been clearly asserted by the 2011 Revolution, planning authorities need to realign their development approach in order to achieve a sustainable city. The discarding of the Cairo 2050 vision is a positive first step. [Further excerpts of the Cairo 2050 Vision in APPENDIX]
Figure 37 The planned "Khufu Plaza,” parks and boulevard would replace two million square meters
of existing formal and informal development (GOPP 2009)
Overview of the Four Projects: The Scale of Intervention
The four reviewed projects aiming at the revitalization of the macro-urban core of Cairo provide important lessons in dealing with the city. The successes and failures of each confirm that; in order for the macro objectives to be achieved, local needs should first be addressed at the micro urban scale. Each neighborhood presents individual challenges by which smaller objectives can be established. These objectives provide solutions that are more immediately responsive to the local community. By networking these micro-scale objectives, a framework approach can be developed for the larger district or region. This method of intervention proved successful in the development of both the century old Khedival Downtown, and the millennium old Darb al Ahmar district. The macro-scale revitalization plan of Downtown is accordingly more likely to succeed than that of Ramses Square, as it was based on the unique heritization process.
By understanding the urban fabric of Cairo, it is possible to read the political agenda and antidemocratic nature of the developing built environment, lending to the conflicting duality of the city. The Cairo 2050 Vision highlights the gap between planning authorities’ top-down schemes, and the actual parameters and requirements of the individual districts of the city. The 2011 Revolution has brought to an end this unsustainable trajectory towards social imbalance. Shortly thereafter, grassroots committees have organically developed throughout the city to address and discuss potential methods of remediation of the urban public arena; thus placing the seeds for micro-scale collaboration. By synchronizing these micro-scale efforts, with the macro-scale objectives, Cairo could begin to transform into a more sustainable city.
Remediation at the Micro-Urban Scale
The urban planning of Cairo has, over the past couple of centuries, frequently replicated urban models from cities of the global north. The ‘borrowed’ ideas themselves have become outdated as the ‘founding fathers’ of the original models are now turning their attention to ‘governance’ or support rather than government control. (Avritzer 2002; Shehayeb 2009; Watson
2009) Definitively top-down “dominance of universalist perspectives on planning [… has]
impoverished and limited planning thinking and practice, and [has] left it open to accusations of irrelevance and of directly worsening urban poverty”. (Watson p. 186) The present nature and circumstances of Cairo render it a highly unique urban fabric to approach. For continued development of the city to be sustainable, social and environmental objectives need to be placed on par with economic ones. These objectives will require a deeper understanding of the social, economic and environmental needs as pertains to a very intricate urban fabric. The feasibility of such investigation and planning would be unsustainable in a top-down approach, and accordingly hinges on community participation.
Grassroots Connection: the Role of Public Space
Marcelo Lopez de Souza has written extensively on the urban reforms experienced in Brazil commencing in the latter 20th century. Similar to Cairo, cities in Brazil are experiencing social segregation and polarization enhanced by privatization of the city. The introduction of “alternative urban planning and management” into legislation has provided planners with “new master plans” that are significantly more ‘grassroots’ in approach. (Souza 1999)
‘New’ master plans are seen as different to the old ones, in that they are bottom-up and participatory, oriented towards social justice and aiming to counter the effects of land speculation. Souza states that while conventional urban planning strives to achieve an ideal
city, from which illegality and informality are banned, new urban planning deals with the existing city, to develop tools to tackle these problems in a just and democratic way. (Watson
The gaps in Cairo’s urban planning appeared in the top-down approach, which was widely disconnected from the micro-urban scale. The mass of Cairo’s recent development has been achieved through government initiatives in facilitating large-scale private developments. Although ultimately serving only the wealthy minority, privatization has provided for higher quality and better maintained ‘exclusive public spaces’ and residential communities. The broader spectrum of the city’s growth and intensification remains informal and is completely self-financed. This significantly overlooked aspect may easily be utilized to the authorities’ advantage, to guide urban development in a more organized manner. If the government addresses the small scale developers and individuals and provides incentives of financing and tax cuts, as well as allowing for incremental development, more authority can be exercised in guiding city growth, as well as the quality of development. Over the past decade several programs have developed, which promote micro-financing, a tool that has proved beneficial in the refurbishment of the Darb al Ahmar district. (AKTC 2005)
In order to obtain a holistic perspective, community feedback and involvement is essential. As the public response to the proposed development of Ramses Square has shown, there is demand for public understanding and support for development objectives. As Souza indicates, one of the significant tools to the reforms in urban planning and management in Brazil has been ‘participatory budgeting’ in which there is public involvement in prioritizing budget allocation. This tool has since been exported across several Latin American countries as well as Europe. (Souza 1999; Watson 2009) There are other forms of community involvement in infrastructural development such as Municipal Bonds, common to North America, through which the public can directly invest in the infrastructural projects they choose.
Government support in the form of small scale financing, along with well-integrated public transportation are perhaps the most significant demands that are greatly lacking in Cairo. However, the distrust in government initiatives, and the lack of existing connection between the city residents and planning authorities must first be addressed and negotiated. Enabling this relationship is an important role of public space within the city. In today’s Cairo the lack of public space is paralleled by the public’s disenfranchisement. Inversely, it was through assembly in Cairo’s largest open public space and civic center, Tahrir Square, that the public’s demands of liberation from an autocratic government regime were heard.
New Urban Approach: Proposed 200 Streets in Cairo
The civic role of the agora in ancient Greece is one that can be easily overlooked in the capitalist, neoliberal, democratic 21st century. However, in Cairo, this physical platform has a major role in the re-establishment of trust and connection between citizens and their government. The civic platform is required for citizens to become the leading driver, by which planning is developed to achieve a more sustainable city.
Public space in its purest form is a physical platform that is open to all. Ideally, the space allows for the transfer of knowledge and order between the government and citizens of a nation. As the scale of nations, or cities, has grown, the division of representation has ensued. Decentralization and dispersion are hallmarks of the modern era. In the case of Cairo, in spite of the previous Egyptian governments’ persistent goal of decentralization, the actual momentum has not been achieved. A new scale of intervention could provide possible solutions. Observation and statistical documentation can provide adequate insight into unexplored scales of intervention.
Cairo is represented by 108 seats in the People’s Assembly, dividing the city into 54 districts 21 . If each of these 54 districts is further subdivided into three or four neighborhoods, dependant on local population, approximately 200 neighborhoods can be delineated throughout the city. With current population estimates of around 20 million inhabitants, neighborhoods would roughly account for 100,000 residents each. It is proposed that a local committee for each neighborhood be established consisting of; representatives of the community, representatives of the central planning authority, and third party representatives that would aid in identifying local objectives, needs, as well as gathering information. (AKTC
These committees would, by using a set of guidelines, choose one street that is central to the
neighborhood, close in access to existing public transportation, or could be accessible, and lined on both sides with retail and commercial activity. Where possible, a connection to a green or open space, which can be converted into a park, would be ideal. The selected street would be paved as a pedestrian thoroughfare, providing parking infrastructure underneath or as suitably designed for each neighborhood. Local traffic would be adequately redirected and the new pedestrian street would be retrofitted with public provisions such as seating, shading and fountain facilities. Each of the pedestrian streets would house a public building that would host the neighborhood committee as well as government provision of information and data collection units for the neighborhood. Ultimately, this proposed pedestrian “Main Street” would provide a government sponsored community center for each neighborhood.
As is common for cities of Cairo’s scale, particularly in developing countries, governments do not have the resources or ability to suitably meet city demands in a centralized manner. By establishing a city-wide network of ‘main streets,’ a physical ‘agora,’ based on localized
Two seats per district
centrality and intercity accessibility, will be instated into the city fabric. This would create a public platform for development of the city and the refurbishment and maintenance of individual neighborhoods. It would additionally facilitate raising funds, collecting taxes, collecting votes, and promoting small scale financing opportunities for community development. (El-Shakhs 1997) Additionally, when mapped, the community selected centers would show 200 centers dotted across Cairo that, when connected, would provide alignment for a more effective public transportation network.
The proposed approach allows for a micro-urban scale of intervention that could begin to rebuild the relationship between the local communities and the central government. Additionally the introduced centers can allow for an improved public transportation network and a physical ‘public’ space that begins to address the social and ecological imbalance of the city. The network of 200 streets would ultimately allow for better city-wide coordination in achieving functional and well ordered public space.
By creating decentralized platforms of citizen-government collaboration, that are more manageable in proportion on both the micro and macro scales; neighborhood, city, and even national objectives can begin to synchronize with increased support and unification in purpose. With such a dynamic, the old government view of the population being a major burden can be transformed to understand that this population can become an asset. Community participation can provide insight, statistical foundations, and grassroots innovations to development plans. Additionally, as the relationship between the government and citizens develops, the provisions will be reciprocal, as the costs of providing public infrastructure can be shared by the taxes collected from portions of the city that had been previously unaccounted for. 61
Today over half of the world’s population lives in cities. These urban environments are constantly growing and adapting around developing technologies and demands. Since Aristotelian Greece there has been acknowledgment of the impact of the urban built environment on the ‘order’ of civilian society. In the modern era of individuality and democracy, the need for communication and interaction is evermore necessary for collaborative efforts of development and coexistence. Although the virtual public sphere has superseded the physical on many levels, the provision of functioning public space within the urban built environment has been positively correlated with societal health and quality of life.
The historic city of Cairo has in modern times suffered from severe disorder due to an imbalanced state of affairs. Social segregation and environmental degradation are merely symptoms of deeper rooted problems of social imbalance and corruption that have plagued the city for decades. In the search for sustainability, the focus is often overwhelmed with remedying the symptoms of disorder. The factors that have maintained and enhanced this disorder have been both; the unsustainable drivers of planning, as well as the results of unsustainable planning. With an urban population of over 20 million residents, top-down development plans of the city have consistently failed to remedy its burgeoning problems.
The duality of Cairo’s formally planned and informally developed built environment has been polarized in recent times. As residents of the informal city account for the majority of Cairo’s population, the city’s infrastructure does not support the needs of the sum of its residents. This has created an unsustainable dichotomy. Continued prioritization of the wealthier minority and tourism has seen the disappearance of inclusive public space, decreased public spending, increased public disenfranchisement, and an overall deterioration of the city’s quality of life.
Communication and transportation technology, along with the magnitude of populations and spans of built environment within the global city, have led the urban center to become decentralized. In the multi-centered city, public space should work as a network, paralleled and facilitated by public transportation; rendering the platforms of communication and collaboration functional. Opening such channels will allow for increased community participation and shared responsibility for the development of the city. In dealing with the existing urban fabric of Cairo, the intervention of public space at the micro-urban scale will establish manageable centers of community involvement in both the micro and macro development of the city, a necessary element in the revitalization of the urban environment.
Since the success of Egypt’s 2011 Revolution, a newfound trust in local grassroots collaboration has led to a wave of movements calling for the resolution and mitigation of the dichotomy of the city. The momentum of change is phenomenal. As Tahrir Square allowed for the seeds of local democracy to be planted, so has risen the legitimacy of public space.
[Figure 38] The role of the square during the events of the revolution verified that true public
spaces within a city can be pivotal in securing social reforms. By reintegrating well connected public spaces within Cairo, the “agora” of the city can be reinstated. Thus enabling the Cairo of tomorrow to secure social provisions and balance among its citizens, and reconcile the divisions implicit in the previous government’s urban development trajectory. Such
progress would ultimately enhance order within the city’s society, economy and environment, and reFigure 38 Democracy implanted in Tahrir Square (caricature
establish urban space as the heart by Carlos Latuff) of public life. 63
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Growth of Third Generation Modern Satellites
(El Kouedi et al. 2007)
The pioneer settlements of the latest generation of modern satellites were designed around industrial activities, and were to be self-sufficient centers.
As the industrial infrastructure for the satellites of Sixth October of City and Tenth of Ramadan City was developed, residential communities began to sprout around the ring road. Al Obour, introduced in the 1980’s, was developed around agricultural trade and processing mostly from the northeastern corridor of the Delta. The “New Settlements” shown in dark blue were initially developed as lowincome housing. These were overtaken by more ‘exclusive’ private developments in the 1990’s creating New Cairo and Sheikh Zayed City, as well as doubling the size of Sixth of October City.
The Cairo 2050 Vision (GOPP 2009)
The imagined vision of Cairo in 2050. The only existing buildings in this perspective are the three yellow dots; (left to right) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the television building (Maspero), and the Ramses Hilton Hotel. The caption reads; “Cairo 2050: A global, green, integrated city”
Below is an extended northern ‘vision’ of Cairo 2050. The same three buildings are dotted in yellow.
Dealing with the Informal
The existing built environment of Dar as Salam and Al Basateen districts shown as the standard type of informal development that is proposed for remediation; to be retrofitted with roads, green areas, and infrastructural services.
The proposed remediation of 700 feddans [local land area unit = 4200m2] of the Dar as Salam and Al Basateen districts alongside Maadi. The caption reads “Loosening up 125 Feddans for Roads, Green Areas, and Services - (10,000 housing units)”
The proposed remediation of 5500 feddans of the Shobra and Qalyub districts. The caption reads “Loosening up 180 Feddans for Service Roads and Green Areas (14,000 housing units)”
The proposed remediation of 2500 feddans of the Al Moneib district. The caption reads “Loosening up the built block of informal areas Removal of factories - Introduction of roads and green areas Provision of required services.” The proposal shows the development of several hotels over scarce agricultural lands.
New models of low-income housing proposed for development within and around Cairo. Caption reads: “Provision of 2.5 million housing units with full services and necessary methods of transportation based on international standards of living.”
With the above and below housing models, plans were to develop two new districts (insert in lower right image) near the Pyramids at Giza. The new districts were designed to “belt in” the sprawling informal districts, thus containing them from spreading further.
The development plans for public transportation are to increase the existing metro lines by roughly 500 kilometers in 40 years at a cost of 400 Billion Egyptian Pounds (approx. $67 Billion). Note: The approximately 85 kilometers of currently existing metro infrastructure have taken 30 years to develop.
Significantly, the Cairo 2050 vision still showed very large catchment areas (low coverage) of public transportation within the latest generation of satellite cities.
Doubling the Tourist Capacity of Cairo
The Vision 2050 planned for doubling Cairo’s tourist capacity from 27,000 existing hotels rooms to 50,000 hotel rooms in 2050. Caption reads: “Use of Nile river as entertainment spine; Tranformation of Islamic Cairo, Coptic Cairo, and Khedivel Cairo into open-air museums and centers of tourism; Increasing entertainment tourism, medical tourism, and conference and conventions tourism.”
The transformation of 1200 feddans of Nile front property into a tourism and entertainment valley. [Requiring the removal of the existing informal districts of Boulaq, Al Sabtiah, and others]
An obelisk found in the Ancient city of Heliopolis (Biblical city of On) now stands in the middle of the heavily intensified, semi-formal, district of Ain Shams.
The vision called for the clearance of 500 feddans of the area surrounding the obelisk to create open parks, hotels and commercial developments along the new “City of the Sun” boulevard.
The caption reads; “The transformation of the informal district of Nazlet al Semman [informal district adjacent to the Pyramids] into an open museum and exposing a hidden valley temple that lies below; Maintaining social welfare for the residents by relocating them to new housing units within and around the area, Transforming their economic livelihood to suit new activities; and providing employment opportunities, Developing integrated tourism activities within the unique location.”
The New Khufu Avenue and Plaza concept is based on the international examples of the Champs Elysee in Paris and the Mall in Washington DC.
The development of Khufu Avenue and Parks would require the clearance of 2000 feddans of existing formal and formal development
Additionally, development would require the “loosening up” of the Boulaq al Dakrour and Faisal districts.
Greening the City
Several districts alongside Azhar park and the Citadel would be cleared to provide open green spaces, new low density neighborhoods, and tourism and business districts.
Al Azhar Park would be augmented and made 25 times bigger.
Below is a birdseye perspective of the new “Great Traditional Handicrafts Business Park” to be developed alongside Al Azhar Park.
The highly contested Nile islands which have managed to remain almost purely agricultural will be developed to create green parks, hotels, a skyscraper business tower, and exclusive residences and clubs.
The proposed project was aptly titled “The Cloud.”
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