Only 100 kilometers southwest the capital, lies the beautiful Fayoum city overlooking Qaroun lake. Over the years, the serenity of the place has captured the hearts of the many. Artists and architects fell in love with the place and its unique atmosphere. Moreover, the natural resources of the city inspired many architects and designers. Therefore they decided to pursue traditional natural ways and create innovative architecture. Accordingly, Fayoum became rich with vernacular architecture.
Fayoum Vernacular Architecture Approach
Fayoum vernacular architecture refers to using natural materials from the surrounding environment. It also depends on local builders using traditional sustainable techniques. Especially in a hot place like Fayoum, considering passive techniques is crucial. Respecting the sun and wind direction can maximize natural cooling and shading in the building. In addition to implementing a passive cooling strategy using wind catchers. Furthermore, using clean sources of energy, like solar and wind energy, can be of great help.
Here are some buildings with natural materials in Fayoum and the story behind them:
Fayoum House by Mariam korachy:
The 270 meters squares country house was built for an Egyptian-French family. Their dream was to own a country house in Fayoum.
The building’s main design concept is using natural materials in building functional spaces. For instance, the roof was built using recycled wooden beams from demolished buildings. As for the flooring and cladding, they used local materials such as stones from Fayoum quarries.
In order to balance the temperature of the house, the design depended on using passive techniques. This is by building thick walls, high ceiling, mezzanine to work as an air shaft and an inner court.
Dar Wanis (The House of Sun & Wind) by Adel Fahmy:
After spending 17 years abroad in Germany and Western Africa, Adel Fahmy came back to Egypt and decided to build his own house. He chose to build it on lake Quaroon after he fell in love with the place.
First, Fahmy then purchased 1750 m2 of land in Fayoum. He wanted to work with local non-professional masons. Hence, he provided practical training to whoever interested to participate. Then, they started using natural stone from the site and used traditional building techniques.
For building the walls they used the clay “Tafla”. That material was already available on the site. Women of the village along with her family worked to make those bricks. By the time they could produce up to 3000 bricks per day. For the foundation, they used natural stones and cement. After completing the foundations, they built walls with Tafla bricks and Tafla mortar.
The Free Dome (Caricature Museum)
In the summer of 1997, a teacher and his family wanted to build a small ecological farm by Qaroun Lake. Adel Fahmy was responsible for this project. Later, Mohamed Abla turned it into an iconic caricature museum. Currently, it’s called the Fayoum Art Centre and is supporting cartoon artists in Egypt.
Adel Fahmy was greatly influenced by the urban layout of the small villages in upper Egypt, where he was born. Especially the narrow streets and lanes that led to squares where people gather. Also, he was inspired by the courtyard in the village houses. All of this shaped Fahmy’s vision as he applied the same methodology in his design.
The ‘Free Dome’ has an area of 300 square meters. They used clay and Tafla bricks as natural building materials in the area. Clearly, the construction depends on bearing walls and roofing by domes and vaults. This is besides the integration of the inner-court system.
Pottery House in Tunis Village
In 1980s, the Swiss female potter, Evelyn Porret came to Fayoum with her Egyptian friends. Soon, the magic of the place captured her, and she decided to have a house there. She had a dream to turn the house to a pottery school. Building of the house followed the principles of Hassan Fathy. The house has a dome ceiling and and is built with natural materials.
First, children of the village visited the place to explore what’s going on. As time passed, locals found a place to unleash their talents. Today, the pottery house became an important pillar of the pottery in Fayoum.
Dar Farouk on Quaroun Lake by Omar El Farouk
Omar El Farouk is an Egyptian architect who appreciates the art of old Egyptian architecture. He completed his Fine Arts BA project on the Khayamiyya quarter in Old Cairo. After that, he did his postgraduate studies focusing on traditional interior design with the mashrabeya as a main focal point.
Important to mention that Farouk had the chance to work closely with Hassan Fathy. Greatly influenced his style, Farouk believes that we cannot ignore the past when we contribute to the future.
Omar El Farouk got inspiration from Sultan Hassan Mosque architecture while building Dar El Farouk. This building took him 22 years to build. Applying the principles of vernacular architecture, Farouk used lime stone from the surrounding site. He also applied passive technique of wind catchers and court yard design. Later, Farouk included the same concept in several houses in Tunis village like Dar Yousra Khan, Dar Abdallah Schleifer and Dar Ali El Mofty.
Consequences of climate change is clear everywhere. Therefore, considering natural materials and passive techniques has become out of the question. Fortunately, there are those who decided to make a change and do what is best for our environment. However, we need to see more buildings of vernacular architecture. Now it’s time to encourage such approaches and change our perspective towards building strategies. Read also vernacular architecture in Yemen.