For decades Egypt has suffered from squeezing the population around the Nile Valley. As a result, we constantly kept following one dream, to go to the desert. Clearly, reclaiming the desert has been the ultimate dream we kept on chasing over the years. This appeared in several projects of new cities on the Egyptian outskirts. However, did these cities achieve their purpose? This is what “Emergency Exit” exhibition sheds light on.
Between the 15th of February to the 20th, NextArchlab held “Emergency Exit” exhibition at AUC. The exhibition tries to explore different phases of Egyptian urbanization history. This is through tracing the Egyptian attempts to find an “Exit” into the vast desert. Also, the exhibition is reflecting on possible future solutions. “Emergency Exit” uncovers this through four main stations of creating the new Egyptian desert cities
The over crowdedness around the Nile valley made the direction towards the desert a necessity. Indeed, the idea of desert cities is not new. It was up for experimentation since the 1950s. Clearly newspaper headlines reflected how media celebrated such endeavors. As a matter of fact, the idea of the exit into the desert is still prompted up to this very day. You can examine the political and economic factors affecting this approach.
Assembly point – Wayfinding I
The exhibition then examines the first way of finding method to create growth prototype. It attempts to closely analyze the planning methods of several new desert cities. Importantly, the exhibition raises the question of whether the planning really took the desert context into consideration?
The analysis is on Badr City, Shorouk Cty, El Sheikh Zayed city, 6th of October and New Cairo city. It shows data about date of construction, current population and land use in these cities. Moreover, it closely analyzes the urban planning in respect to the surrounding context.
Entering New Cairo – Wayfinding II
New Cairo represents another attempt of having modern city. However, there is much questioning around the user’s experience in New Cairo. Does the city enhance walkability or is it rather encouraging cars? Is the buildings’ design adding a special quality to the city’s identity? Is what we think is formal turning into another informality? All of these questions define major problems when reviewing New Cairo city.
Interestingly enough, the artwork is expressing a critical view towards the current image of New Cairo. Bombarding the street with brands and floating advertising. That’s the impression you get while moving down the 90s street. A load of billboards covering the city’s streets and promising of better future cities. Furthermore, the modern facades lining the street are speaking of the same reality. Buildings are out of context and adding to the chaotic essence more than creating a “modern street”.
Exiting New Cairo – Re-exit
This station is more about the upcoming phase. Currently, Egypt is planning a totally brand new city on the outskirts of the capital. If we are having a new capital city, then we should be learning from all the previous cities. We should be critically reviewing the good and the bad in order to not repeat the same mistakes. Will we be having a modern façade that’s covering up for a much uglier reality? Are we designing wide streets for cars while overlooking pedestrians? Now it’s the time to think wisely before adding to previous mistakes.
Now, what can we do next ?
Fortunately, NextArchlab is creating a platform for all the design enthusiasts of architects, designers and urban planners to gather and speak up. The platform is also connecting them with potential stakeholders and developers. This is in attempt to create valuable collaborations and develop solutions through future development projects. In the end, there will never be real change without critical analysis to previous experience.