Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Rising Cairo in Egypt by Stefan Al Architects
May 1st, 2013 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Stefan Al Architects
Reviving the Vision
One hundred fifty years ago, Khedive Ismail imagined a progressive urban scheme for Cairo that brought the city to the forefront of the world. This projects attempts to revive his vision in a current way. It brings back the once exciting landscape of Azbakia Garden, including a lake, artificial hills, thousands of lights, and spaces for musical performances. A spectacular Opera House and a range of artistic spaces offer the city cultural delights. New transportation structures, underground parking, a tramway, and pleasant pedestrian spaces allow for convenient and efficient access. Finally, contemporary architecture and high-rises lend an image to the area that rivals with any world-class city.
Formal / Informal Integration
Cairo’s informal economy is the basis for its formal economy. Rather than expelling the informal activity from the site, this project reorganizes the present clash of uses. Through a more structured agglomeration of activities, the site will strengthen its economic and social vibrancy. Two integrated layers organize the two interconnected spheres. Sheltered informal markets connect to the demand of commuters, neighboring the transit station and minibus terminal. Above, tourists and locals stroll freely across the landscape, urban spaces and pedestrian streets.
A Cultural Axis
A new cultural axis connects Khedive to Fatimid Cairo. In front of the statue of Ibrahim Pasha stars the new Opera House, a complex of theatres with a façade inspired by a pentagonal tiling pattern that occurs in local streets, the Cairo tessellation. Opera Square accommodates outdoor performances, while Ataba square becomes a site for outdoor exhibitions, protected from the weather by sweeping canopies of acrylic glass. Flanking the square is an elevated sculpture park, as well as an intimate space that houses Azbakia Wall’s booksellers. A large lake with floating stages provides a natural backdrop for concerts and musical performances. Towards the eastern end of the axis lies the old vegetable market that has been converted into a gallery of modern art.
The master plan consists of six major parks. At the heart lies the undulating landscape of Azbakia Garden: the Entertainment Park. Striking hills, valleys, native trees, a botanic garden, a play garden, fountains, and a large lake with a beach for sunbathing provide a relief from the stress of the city. An existing artificial hillock has been preserved, which has been the impetus for the design of the new garden. In addition, existing trees have been incorporated into the park, while many more have been added, providing lush and shaded passages to pedestrians. Longitudinal openings in the new artificial hills let in natural light during the day to the spaces below, while dramatically lighting up the garden at night. Restaurants, cafes and a food-court lure locals and tourists with gastronomical pleasures. Azbakia Garden is fully integrated in the surrounding area. Meandering pedestrian routes extend into the five bordering parks: the Cultural Park with the new Opera House, the Financial Park, the Business Park, the ourist Park and the Commercial Park. The profit from the private development will be able to capitalize the new public Azbakia Garden as well as the Cultural Park, enabling the entire scheme to be financially, in addition to environmentally, sustainable. The six parks make up a harmonious whole, forming the vibrant heart of the Cairo of tomorrow as Khedive Ismail would have envisioned it.
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