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Hassan Fathy (1900-1989)

Egyptian architect. Interested in housing for the poor. How to provide cheap, comfortable housing for the three billion poor people of the world?

Village of New Gourna (1945-48)

In 1945, asked to design and build new village for 7,000 relocated Egyptian peasantsthe Goruni. Their village close to Valley of Kings. Gournis were tomb robbers, destroying priceless archeological treasures.

Mud Brick
Gourni extremely poor. Building materials & methods must be inexpensive: 1. Must be able to build houses themselves. 2. Use of mud brick, the main local building material.

Thermal Properties
Mud brick conducts heat slowly. As gets hot outside, stays cool inside. As cools outside at night, stays warm inside. Inside temperature moderated.

Key Structural Problem:

How to build roofs out of mud brick? Found builders farther up Nile who still could build mud-brick vaults and domes. They come to New Gourna to train Gourni.

Plan of New Gourna

Boys School Girls School

Village Square



Divided into Five Neighborhoods

Old Gourna had 5 tribes in 4 neighborhoods. New Gourna also split into 4 neighborhoods.

1 2

Ghabat (forest people)

Hassassna & Atteyat (pious)

Baerat (from village near Gourna)

Horobot (warriors)

Group of 10-20 families related by blood. Fathy organized badanas in village blocks around courtyards.

Include open-air kitchen, bedrooms, outdoor living room, and stable for cow. Organized around courtyard.

Fodder (9) Toilet Oven (5) Kitchen (6) Bedroom (4) Cow Stalls (7) Courtyard (3) Entrance (1)

Functions of House Courtyard

Provides shade. captures cool air of evening. Place for children to play. Place for social events. Brings down sky, which reflects the oneness of Allah.

New Gournas Three Seasons

1st year (August 1945May 1946): 20 experimental houses and mosque foundation laid. 2nd year (October 1946January 1947): several public buildings constructed (crafts khan & portion of market) and mosque foundation relaid. 3rd year (September 1947May 1948): 80 houses built and more public buildings (boys school, crafts school, village hall, & threatre).

Completed Structures of New Gourna

mosque 80 houses

village hall theatre

crafts khan crafts exhibition

market place

crafts school

New Gourna Today

Reasons for Failure

1. Lack of governmental support. 2. Gourni did not want to leave their old village.

Significance of Fathys work

1. Exemplifies an approach to design that takes into account the needs of people. 2. Introduces us Westerners to a culture and people vastly different from our own. Key question: Would Fathys approach work if it had full governmental support and if the client group genuinely needed a new place to live?