Block 36, Egypt
Block #36 is a residential block in a new mixed use city center in West Cairo. The development is located in the raw desert between Cairo-Alexandria desert road and the city of Sheikh Zayed. Understanding the context was a major key in the design process. There was a mission of facing the challenges of Cairo: a dynamic, diverse and ever-growing city. The city has layers of history, each layer with different urban characteristics and unique grids representing a variety of lifestyles and developing culture. Zooming out on the surrounding landscape, a clear grid of intersecting textures is obvious. Green agricultural land intertwined with informal urban dwelling creep upon the vast desert in a very distinct iron grid. On the other hand, new developments are spreading to accommodate the fast growth in population and the need to get out of the jammed city.
The first lines of design were inspired by the rigid grid of green and concrete: orthogonal in periphery but random in texture. This grid was applied to all dimensions of the block: as a 2D layout and elevation and as a 3D mass. This geometry was used to mainly create solid vs. void and ultimately broken down to define different textures according to the spatial experience. The duality of solid and void in the mass was defined by the climatic and urban influences of the plot and surrounding edges. Wind direction created the first void in the grid to ensure best ventilation to all sides of the block. And the main vista as perceived from the surrounding streets identified the important vistas and the main gates of the project.
The architectural language used in this project was a result of research in contemporary needs of the user. Many living patterns were found to characterize residential architecture all around the world. Eight patterns were identified and used throughout the project. They included Boundaries for security, Gateways for definition, in-between spaces fulfilling the needs for privacy and shelter from heat and sun, sheds also for the hot weather, projections of building into the street to create shade for retail owners and shoppers, screens also used for privacy and finally stairs and clear identification of circulation elements. These patterns aim to fulfill maximum needs and relate the building to the humane aspect of the program; in addition to the unique concept in units’ design, where each unit is designed to fit in its place with the roof gardens and central voids in the elevations. Every apartment has a unique identity and spatial experience which responds to the need for individuality to every user.