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“Al-Fustat Center” Architecture : From Heritage to...

“Al-Fustat Center” Architecture : From Heritage to Heritage

Al-Fustat Center Linesmag

Old Cairo is one of the richest parts of our capital. Not because of the social status, but because of the great historical and artistic legacy of the area. In addition to the unique historic places, you can find on the land of Al-Fustat -that once was the capital of Egypt- the most beautiful Architectural and cultural gems. And today we will be talking about the architecture of a very special one, “Al-Fustat Center for traditional arts”.

The Beginning

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Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

Al-Fustat area is highly famous for its handicrafts and talented artisans, especially in the art of pottery and ceramics. And in the same area of the current project, there was a small atelier consisting of two rooms with one oven. It was the atelier of “Saeed El-Sadr” one of the most renounced Egyptian pottery artists in 1958.
In 2001 the Egyptian government wanted to expand this atelier and turn it into a Center for pottery art and handicrafts. The project would have workshops, multiple ovens, and showrooms for the artworks. And so, they selected the architect “Gamal Amer” because of his environmental and heritage inspired designs, to design this project.

About “Gamal Amer”

Al-Fustat Center Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

Born in 1960, and graduated from Cairo University with bachelor in Urban Planning in 1983. He was introduced during his years of study to the works of the most celebrated Egyptian architect “Hassan Fathy” when he read his book “Architecture for the poor”. Then he got the chance to be his trainee for some time, and was very affected by his traditional, environmental design and his building techniques that involve building with the available natural materials. And till this day “Gamal Amer” still follows the path of his mentor giving us the most beautiful architectural projects.

“Al-Fustat Center” Spaces

The project extends over 2400m2. At the beginning it consisted of one building, but now it developed to be a complex of two buildings and a third one which is currently under construction. The two current buildings are:
The Pottery Center which consists of: workshops for producing pottery and ceramics equipped with burning ovens, Lecture areas for teaching the students, exhibition galleries, a multipurpose hall, offices, and dormitories/guest rooms for the artists who stay in the center. All of these spaces connect to one another  by open air courtyards and corridors.
And The second building is “The Center for Traditional Arts” which hosts a number of workshops and outlets for various handicrafts such as copper art works, stained glass, jewellery, tent making “khaiameya”, and more.

Photo courtesy: Linesmag 

The Concept And The Context

Al-Fustat Center Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

Having the same school of thought as his mentor, “Gamal Amer” built the whole project using natural materials such as wood, stone, clay bricks and with the absolute minimal use of reinforced concrete. The structure system for the project is bearing-walls.  Also in the form, we can clearly see the influence of the traditional Egyptian architecture. The use of domes, vaults and intersected vaults, arches, using “Mashrabeya” in the window openings, and the use of internal courtyards. This usage of natural materials and traditional forms, helps the building to fit within the context of the area. As the courtyards help in the ventilation process and the materials keep the building cold in summer and warm in winter. Moreover the skyline of the project is in harmony with the skyline of the surrounding urban and cultural context. It blends with the bell towers, minarets, and domes of churches and mosques in the area.

Photo courtesy: Linesmag 

User Experience

This part is based upon our personal experience in “Al-Fustat Center”, and we can divide it into four main points:

1-The Soundscape

Entering from the somehow busy main road outside, you can’t help noticing the change that happens in the soundscape. Transitioning from horns and sounds of vehicles movement, to the sound of birds and movement of trees. This separation gives a feeling of relaxation and calmness. It also gives you the impression that you’re entering a different space where different activities happen.
while inside the project itself, it was also calm most of the time. But because of the acoustic effect of the forms such as domes, even the smallest of sounds had a different taste and a unique echoey feeling.

Photo courtesy: Linesmag 

2-The Visuals

The visuals of the place are amazing. The delicate and artistic composition of forms that the architect used makes each and every corner an artistic artwork. The way he combines domes, arches, vaults, and patterns makes the visuals very pleasant and relaxing at the same time. Also the presence of clay sculptures, along with the usage of traditional furniture, makes the experience even better.

now.

Photo courtesy: Linesmag 

3-The Roots

The moment when you find yourself in such a place, you feel connected to your roots and identity. A project with this form, these compositions, and with these materials can’t be anywhere else but Egypt. You feel connected culturally and environmentally to the place and to yourself as well.

Al-Fustat Center Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

4-The Human Scale

To those of us who spend most of their time in the city, you forget what the human scale is. You always feel small and negligible in comparison to the heights of the buildings and the widths of the streets. But here it is completely different; the spaces are designed for you, for humans. You can easily see the details, you can identify your position within the space, and you can feel how the spaces relate to one another, which again helps you to feel peaceful, connected and present here and now.

Al-Fustat Center Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

Truly “Al-Fustat Center” is one of those projects that help us to connect with our Egyptian identity. The identity formed of layers accumulated over hundreds years. They help us to be in harmony with our environment, culture and with ourselves as well. They give us the chance to identify the beauty in simplicity, and  the value of our heritage.

Al-Fustat Center Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

If your interested in traditional architecture and cultural projects, check our article about “Architecture of Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Center”, Here on Linesmag!


David grew up loving all kinds of narrative arts, it made him realize that everything revolves around, and ends up being a story. During studying architecture, he discovered that it is directed by a concept, a message or an idea interpreted in a physical form, and is directly influencing the lives of its users. And David is always eager to make these architectural stories, stories worth telling.

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