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Blue Cairo

Part 2 Project 2010
Richard Bragg
University of Greenwich, UK
Whilst I was on site in Cairo, I was stopped by an Arab Sarab mother who said,
“all I want is a better life for my children”. This project grew from those few words.

Egypt’s farmland in the Nile Delta is being misused for intensive building construction with the result that 60% of Cairo’s housing is now illegal.

‘Blue Cairo’ looks at the intervention of Cairo University acting as custodians of a new eco-logical self built community; to provide a better future for both it’s people and Cairo’s beleaguered farmland.

The commitment centers on the relocation of Arab Sarab, an existing small agrarian community of displaced people, and examines the consequences for both the community and the existing inhabitants at the new site. The project is driven throughout by the needs of the people, taking account of their farming methods, education, issues of generational displacement and their adaptation to living in a new home.

The community is encouraged to develop self-building construction methods and accordingly, the buildings are built of mud using local past techniques that are affordable and understandable. The mud buildings are coloured blue to keep the buildings cool in Cairo’s hot sun without producing glare (unlike white) to the eyes of the passers by. Using a full range of blues creates an identity for the community whilst allowing individuality and variation. The use of blue food dyes in the mud helps to alleviate the stigma of mud building being for the poor.

The undertaking is inspired by eco-logical and sustainable methods such as the magical passive energy techniques of the past and has adapted them into a modern context.

The existing poor monocrop farming methods have been tested against the possibility of multicrop and rotation techniques, whilst taking account of key local issues such as shade and water. The community encourages the individual within the collective whilst maintaining an identity and sense of togetherness for the families. The architecture allows and encourages people to express themselves whilst working with adaptation and in a community that can change over time.

Richard Bragg

After a career working in many good practices building many reputable buildings as a technician, Richard took a late career move to finally train as an architect to discover what it was that architects did! At the conclusion of his final project in diploma Richard amused everyone listening, by explaining that he now realised the architects’ secret was that technical knowledge was the liberating basis for creative design, the very aspect of his work he had all the while! However Richard approached the challenge of Cairo’s numerous environmental and infrastructure problems with a strong moral conscience, taking the time to meet and gain the support of the illegal settlers farming the desert edges of the metropolis. Faced with eviction in the wake of rising land prices, they were encouraged to find an architect eager to utilise their agrarian experience and with the help of the University of Cairo acting as custodian of the land, develop a vibrant agricultural cooperative allowing their educational oasis to flourish on the edge of the urban desert.

Mr Alistair Barr

Mr Nick Pillans
Roger Seijo
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