Westown (Block 36), Cairo
Published in 2A Magazine Issue #15&16 Autumn 2010 Winter 2011
Shahira H. Fahmy
Shahira H. Fahmy was Born and raised in Cairo. Shahira studied Architecture at the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University, graduating top of her class in 1997. After graduation, Shahira worked at Dar AI Handasah, a leading engineering firm in the Middle East. In 2002, Shahira completed her Masters in Architecture.
In 2005 she established Shahira H. Fahmy Architects, a visionary design centered architecture, interior and product design practice; and in five short years her practice has developed from a tiny three-person team into one of the leading Egyptian cutting-edge architecture and interior design firm that has received acclaims and awards locally and internationally.
Shahira H. Fahmy is an architect whose work strives to make a balance between new spatial concepts and existing context: culture, tradition, urban morphology, climatic, etc. in the pursuit of language that encompasses all fields of design, ranging from urban scale through to products, interiors and furniture.
With an impressive record of critical acclaim and a growing portfolio of work, Shahira is leading the way for Egyptian architects by demonstrating that architectural design can and should elevate the public realm, with a holistic approach that combines contextual analysis, playful experimentation, and an ethos of social responsibility.
Westown (Block 36), Cairo
From the Westown site, it is easy to believe that an endless desert surrounds. However, an aerial view reveals agricultural land only 3 km away, with expanding boundaries dominating the scene.
The design has been conceptualized on two levels. First, the urban massing drew inspiration from the patterns and forms of the urbanized plots of agricultural land which have been translated to integrated units with alternating patches of green/open spaces/patios/solid/void on the different floors of the design.
And second, the architectural language expressed in the irregular elevations- characteristic, of most parts of Cairo provide a reference for the design of the block’s skyline.
Surveys of typical building elements such as gateways, projections, stairs, screens, in between spaces, colors and textures have contributed to defining and refining the identity of block 36.
Security and the separation between public and private areas are important social and cultural issues that have been taken into consideration for the layout of gates and boundaries.
A central courtyard, characteristic of Islamic architectural layouts, together with patios on other floors and balconies create a pleasant flow of open spaces with different levels of opacity, and allows airflow through the building, which is an important consideration in view of sustainability and the climatic context.
Projections are used for shading, and creating irregularities that maximize the use of living space, surface area and open spaces.
The stairs or their inclines are protruding and apparent tocreate a feeling of dynamic flow and livelihood.
The Color code is mainly Earthy keeping in harmony with the surrounding, and a range of textures is used with rougher stone textures closer to the ground, to more refined textures towards the top.