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Melodies of Design: Abdelhalim Ibrahim Architectur...

Melodies of Design: Abdelhalim Ibrahim Architecture Projects

Abdelhalim Ibrahim Architecture_linesmag_1

A renowned Egyptian architect, urban planner and a professor, Abdelhalim Ibrahim is one of the most celebrated architects.  He was born in 1941 in the small town in Cairo and got his architectural training in Egypt and the United States. The architect received his Bachelor degree in architecture from Cairo University in 1963. Then, he had his Master’s in architecture from the University of Oregon in 1968. Later, he received his PhD in architecture from the University of California, Berkley in 1978. In addition to his academic progression, he established the Community Design Collaborative (CDC), a private architectural planning and development consultancy firm. Recently, Abdelhalim Ibrahim has won the Tamayouz Lifetime Achievement Award.  Our article’s architect has developed a sound knowledge of working with traditional designs, materials and systems, respecting identity and cultural legitimacy in design. So, continue reading to know more about Abdelhalim Ibrahim architecture projects.

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Cultural Park for Children

Organized by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture in 1987 as a competition, Abdelhalim Ibrahim won and recognized this project as a potential to be a perfect forum for expressing the principles. To clarify, the architect deeply believed in the traditional wisdom of people and their ability to direct the architect. So, by revealing their well-established patterns and rituals and through a participatory, communal design process Abdelhalim would start designing.

Context and Program

Above all, the location of the park which was in the old Cairene district of Sayeda Zeinab was a great inspiration to the architect. In other words, the rich architectural character of the site’s surroundings greatly inspired Abdelhalim Ibrahim and influenced his design . For instance, the presence of Ibn Tulun mosque in addition to a string of Mamluk monuments as Sarghatmash mosque and madrasa and many others. The program of the park included a library, a nursery and a child-care center and a theater. In addition to open playgrounds for exhibitions and festival plazas.

Goal and Concept

The main goal of the park was to promote the development of culture and learning among children through play. Therefore, the design of the park took “growth” as a theme with the “spiral” to be the symbolic representation of the park’s form. To illustrate, the geometry of the spiral minaret of Ibn Tulun has been transposed into a horizontal spiral matrix. This matrix spreads all over the site organizing the various activities of the park. The whole process of design won an Agha Khan Award for Architecture in 1992.

The “ritual” Aspect of Design

It’s worth mentioning that Abdelhalim Ibrahim was keen on engaging the local community. The surrounding community’s presence can be traced in both the designing and the building processes of the park. To clarify, the park had an outstanding community participation, using local materials, labor and techniques. This is actually a key principle in Abdelhalim’s work. To illustrate, he believed in the power of rituals as a guiding force behind various human behaviors and the spaces in which they are enacted and designed to play out. Therefore, according to the architect’s belief, building in the context of the community can be identified as a series of operations linked together by events which integrates technical aspects of building with the cultural process of the community.

The American University in Cairo

Multiple Challenges

To Abdelhalim Ibrahim, The new campus of AUC was a real challenge. It wasn’t only a campus that would architecturally embody education. However, it should also embody the spirit of the 100 year old AUC down town campus spirit. In addition to that, another challenge was added which was the desert context surrounding the site in New Cairo.

Design Philosophy

To reply to the challenges that faced him, Abdelhalim Ibrahim had the design vision of creating an oasis. So, while keeping the essence of the old campus, he also created an oasis in the desert. Composed of morphological units which are based on internal courtyards of various sizes, the AUC campus stands. From academic to recreational, administrative and services the architect designed a park-like setting for students and visitors. Through the design of Abdelhalim Ibrahim (CDC) and Sasaki, a genius design was generated combining local architectural spirit with unique urban character.

Imam Muhammad bin Saud Mosque

Another one of Abdelhalim Ibrahim architecture projects is Imam Muhammad bin Saud mosque which was designed in a traditional style. Located in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, the site is divided into three distinct areas. To illustrate, the three areas are: the mosque, the imam’s residence and a large garden. Furthermore, the mosque is a rectilinear building with two square minarets have exposed stairs, similar to traditional minarets in Najdi area. The complex is the perfect integration of nature and architecture. It expresses traditional architectural motifs such as massive walls, wind towers, and desert landscaping. Abdelhalim Ibrahim designed the complex while preserving the local identity and culture. So, the buildings are concrete structures with exposed stone and roughcast masonry.

Palace of Fine Arts

Formerly known as the “Nile Gallery”, the design of the palace of arts is utterly amazing. It’s one of the largest art exhibitions in Egypt. Abdelhalim Ibrahim introduced a new and innovative design language providing the spatial framework for the galley’s reconstruction. To clarify, the gallery introduces a unique geometry.  This geometric design is based on a system of proportion that broke the large gallery into compartments and sequence of volumes and the roof works as an umbrella of light. Therefore, the emerging space recaptured the essence of authentic spatial archetypes (Al-Qa’a); re-introduced natural light as the age-old maker of Egyptian art; and provided references linking the new gallery to its origins.

To sum up, Abdelhalim Ibrahim architecture projects are truly inspiring. So, You can also check Abdelhalim Ibrahim’s King Salman’s University Design for an in depth look about other projects.

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Ambitious architect, eccentric writer and a lifelong learner. Fascinated by the world and always in search of new adventures and experiences to tell. The dream is to inspire people to pursue new perspectives through the splendid art of writing.


  1. Salwa Hassan

    2 September

    It was a real pleasure to read this amazing article about the achievements of a gifted Egyptian architect, by a gifted and specialized writer: Thank you.