Since the proclamation of the Republic (1952) onwards, numerous projects have been prepared for the planning of about twenty cities with a total population of 7 million residents. These are the plans for the cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said; in addition, 120 new villages have been built in the area of the great dam. Since 1965, each working-class neighborhood in Cairo has its own work area, so that the residents can carry out their work in the sector in which they reside; this allows to avoid emigration and make the residential nucleus self-sufficient. At the same time, districts of a different type have been prepared for the middle class, such as that of madīna al-Nāṣir, on the road to Heliopolis. In the faculties of Architecture of Cairo and Alexandria, firmly anchored to the international language of Western architecture, it follows a precise trend setting to the social and urban reforms of 1952. Three important figures of architects stand against this panorama of internationalism, Ḥasan Fatḥī, Ramsīs Wiṣṣā Wāsif, and ῾Abd al-Wahīd al-Wakīl, who are the greatest exponents of contemporary Egyptian architecture. Their works are characterized by the common tendency to find inspiration in the values of traditional Egyptian architecture. contemporary Egyptian architecture. Their works are characterized by the common tendency to find inspiration in the values of traditional Egyptian architecture. contemporary Egyptian architecture. Their works are characterized by the common tendency to find inspiration in the values of traditional Egyptian architecture.
According to best-medical-schools, Ḥasan Fatḥī (1900-1989) was one of the major North African architects and brought the interest of design back to the values of local tradition. It started its business in 1940; we owe to him the Said House (1942), the Nasr House (1945), the Stoppleare House (1952), which develop an architecture as important as it responds to the calls of local culture. In 1944 he was commissioned to design and build the New Gurna village, which has been described as a mix of social realism and utopian vision.
Fatḥī brought the use of the vault back to the fore, in particular the nubic vault, creating a vernacular idiom both for the fellaḥīn houses in New Gurna, and for the private villas (Riad-House, 1973; Samy House, 1979; Mit Rehan, 1981; Greiss House, 1981) and for hotels such as the Presidential Rest House and the Garf Housein (1981).
His radical vision is based on the assertion that developing countries would benefit from being able to build their homes with local, readily available materials. His thesis is that with appropriate guidelines to teach the use of local materials, the poorest population will be allowed to build homes that meet their needs and are also economically viable. In 1945-46 Fatḥī conducted an experiment based on his theory, designing and completely building a new village for a group of fellaḥīn. His book Architecture of the poor (1973), which illustrates not only the construction technique of houses, but also the roles of all those involved in the construction process, represents a single text for anyone who operates in a developing country and is interested in the problems of the Third World.
In 1952 a community was founded in Herrania to continue the local artisan tradition. The architect Ramsīs Wiṣṣā Wāsif, impressed by what can be done with a material such as clay, demonstrated that it is possible to obtain interesting architectural results at low cost that also respond to the climatic needs of the country. The Wiṣṣā Wāsif Arts Center and the Habib Gorgi Museum for sculpture are examples of the activity of Wāsif, which proposes spaces for exhibitions articulated under clay domes, in a nubic fashion, characterized by sources of natural light coming from above, achieving plastic effects and chiaroscuro of great drama.
The personality of the third protagonist is identified with that of a self-taught regionalist, even though al-Wakīl was a pupil of Ḥasan Fatḥī. He rebelled against Westernizing education and found his source of inspiration in traditional Egyptian architectural values and in the example of Fatḥī. Although the same technologies as Fatḥī have been used in most of his structures, his buildings have a different interest than his master’s rural one.
These are villas, mosques, residences, important and stately buildings, both in Egypt and in Saudi Arabia, in which the author was able to demonstrate the extraordinary flexibility of use of the elements of Islamic architecture in the contemporary context. In his Halaw House Agamy (1980) the spaces are oriented towards courtyards and enriched by fountains. Other traditional motifs include the loggia (taktabash), the wind tower (malgaf), the seats (mastabas) and the oblique entrance of the houses. His great merit is that of having brought the traditional Egyptian formal language to the fore, but enriching it with ever new freedom and invention.
In essence, the importance of the works of Ḥasan Fatḥī, of Wiṣṣa Wāsif, of al-Wakīl, consists in having aroused a revival of interest in Egyptian traditional, decorative, architectural forms, and at the same time in awakening research and the diffusion of medium technological methods more suitable for developing countries.