TWO DREAMS WITH TWO EYES WIDE OPEN
1. TAHRIRTahrir has done its thawra. All the Egypt(S), one can possible identify, formed one lion-like creature roaring in revolt in the face of the old regime:
One strong jump was enough to make the impossible happen. All jumped together and in the same direction. But this is just the beginning, now it’s time for us to change. The suppressed “monsters” are out. If these liberated GOOD AND BAD monsters are not busy making real change, the heat of the energy will devour us all.
WE NEED CHANGE
WHO? WHERE? WHEN? HOW? WITH WHAT?WITH WHOM?AGAINST WHOM?FOR WHOM? SACRIFICE? HOW? WHICH ELIMINATIONS? HOW? WHAT KIND OF ALTERNATIVES? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW?
First step towards change: “Let’s GROUP OURSELVES POLITICALLY”: YES: Salafiyeen, Liberaliyeen, Christians, Ikhwangiyya, , Naseriyeen, I’tilaf shabab al-thawra, Sitta Abril, Wafdiyeen, Al-hizb al-watani (oups!), I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf…, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …,I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …,I’tilaf…, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I…, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilaf …, I’tilafWe were not concerned with politics before. Now we all have become involved in politics. So, as an architect, I HAVE BECOME an Ikhwangiyya. Good for me. Now I have adopted my preferred political course and I belong to a political wave, and will back up change on this line. This done, I am not afraid to say “khalasssss”. I will go back to my “kar” – architecture, and try to change from within the discipline I know best.
Second step towards change: “Let’s REGROUP OURSELVES PROFESSIONALLY”Now that Tahrir has made the ‘BIG BANG’, it is time for us to make our ‘SMALL BANGS’ in our own disciplines … “Al-thawra mihtaga thuwayrat”. Mi’mariyin have come together to exercise the freedom gained by the BIG BANG explosion. Soon enough, there is this movement… WE WANT TO CHANGE MIDAN TAHRIR – AL-TAHRIR COMPETITION…I am uncomfortable about jumping directly to ‘the most highlighted terrain’, which has not even said its last word. Tahrir has made history over and over again. It was redesigned more than any other Midan has ever been in al-Qahira - whenever urbanists and architects felt the need to express change. BUT THIS TIME WE DON’T NEED TO DO THIS. Tahrir’s last episode is still in the making. DEAR COLLEAGUES, LEAVE TAHRIR ALONE. What do you think you can add to a place which is still carving its imprint on the memory map as the prime “lieu de memoire” of our modern history? Let Tahrir live through its history long enough to see real change happen. We owe this to all those who gave the most precious of what they owned – their lives. Tahrir is breathing with their spirits – let it breathe … Let us, architects, urban planners, designers, change the whole of al-Qahira and dedicate this change to the souls of the maryrs and then tackle the Midan … We don’t need to dilute the value of the Midan … let’s work up to the standards of Tahrir somewhere else in more need of our efforts.
KARAMA … HURRIYYA …‘ADALAIGTIMA’IYYA
And only when we have earned these standards, only then, we may think if we want to do something about Midan al-Tahrir. On a practical note: Let’s say we have rehabilitated Midan Tahrir, then midan ‘Abdin Competition, then midan Sulaymna Pasha Competition, then midan Tal’at Harb Competition, then midan … Competition, then midan … Competition, and the last midan … Let’s pretend we have all the midans rehabilitated, what are we going to do when we start to work on the streets joining these midans to each other? Are we going to re-redo the midans again? Ma’lish, hassal khayr? And what about the districts in al-Qahira which have no midans, in fact no streets, in fact they have nothing that can relate to decent human life, are these completely out of our scope of action, are we in a denial, or a blackout?????
KARAMA … HURRIYYA …‘ADALAIGTIMA’IYYA
Are we encouraging a collective action: architects together, by initiating an individualistic approach: a competition, my project against your project?Are we jumping full power into one specific object and drowning ourselves in its details without even tackling the ensemble? LET’S HALT AND RETHINK:Do we really need to do something after the thawra? YES.Are we angry, as architects, about the urban status of Midan al-Tahrir? MAYBE YES AND MAYBE NO.
Bass al-Tahrir!!! NO WE ARE ANGRY ABOUT THE WHOLE OF AL-QAHIRA.
TWO DREAMS WITH TWO EYES WIDE OPEN
NAIRY HAMPIKIAN 2. AL-QAHIRA What about the rest of al-Qahira!!! What are we angry about?BrrrikhiiigrrrikhiiizerzerikhiiinonvayyaaaikhiWhat?Ikhiiiououffffffikhiiila’la’ikhiiikoftaikhiiikoftaWhat?SamakikhiiiLabanikhiiiTamrhindiYASALAAMIt is so difficult to express my anger clearly when it comes to speak about al-Qahira. I know one thing al-Qahira is my battlefield, but from where to start?
“MY QAHIRA(S) WE ARE LOSING YOU
AND I SPEAKE NOT AS A CAIRENE BUTS AS AN ARCHITECT WHOSE JOB REQUIRES “SEEING” AND “OBSERVING …” On the MICRO-level: Whenever we look, only problems, negligence, mishandling, illegal acts, improvisation (funny almost to everyone and quite depressing for some), ta’adiyyat, baltaga (in its pre-January connotation), corruption, ugly details, bad quality of material, BAD WORKMANSHIP …. As if there is a deliberate act of destruction, a battlefield where the enemy is invisible. Why are we destroying our own city with our own hands?
I go to the closest balcony with my camera and take a shot in any direction. Please stand up wherever you are now and look around you. Unfortunately, you too will see what I saw.- Take care of the chimney-esque“thing” … it is leaning … might fall on you. It was erected just a week ago.
- The beautiful eaves atop the turn of the century buildings are full of zibala. On a windy day, don’t walk on the street, you might be the unlucky person of the day.-
No way to see the ground floor facades of buildings, they are all condemned by modern encroachments which are creeping up higher and higher on the buildings with their window displays and air conditioning units.- Zibalazibalazibalazibalazibalazibala everywhere.
- Passages between buildings are occupied by a workshops, shops and storage areas..
- Hanging gypsum decorations waiting for a strong wind or rain to fall and dissolve the history of a once existing finesse of workmanship.- Aggression on buildings, aggression on architectural details, aggression on the street, aggression on the entrances of the buildings, aggressions on aggressions.
- Don’t go close to the kiosk they planted yesterday in the street, it might fall on you.- Two lanes of parked cars on the left side and two opposite– zigzaglyplaced, luckily leaving one very narrow lane for the passage of cars or not…
On the MICRO-level, a perfectly orchestrated cacophony. A TRUE WAR ZONE On the MACRO-level: All the districts of al-Qahira, whether Manshiyyat Nasir, al-Zamalik, ‘Ayn Shams, or Heliopolis, are sinking into chaos under the congested traffic, over population, scarcity of services, negligence, elimination of green zones, bad roads or no roads ….
Al-Qahira is a sick person in need of replanting of some of its internal and external members. And it is only after a series of such treatments that we can start our plastic surgery.
The least we can do now is to accept the grimness of the situation and stop hiding our heads under the ground and pretending that up there, “la vie est belle”. WAKE UP AND THINK ABOUT AL-QAHIRA ‘ILLE BINHEBBAHA’, ‘MISH BASS ILLE FIHA AL-TARIKH’, ‘ILLE MAFIHASH TARIKH KAMAN’. AL-QAHIRA WHICH IS BEING STRIPPED OF ITS BEAUTY, VIOLATED EVERY MINUTE BY MONSTROUS STRUCTURES, INVADING ATROCITIES, DWELLINGS THAT ARE UNFIT FOR HUMAN USE … IT IS BEING RAPED IN EVERY INSTANCE, IN ALL ITS DISTRICTS, BY ALL SOCIAL GROUPS, FOR ALL THE DIFFERENT REASONS. And, in our highest level of consciousness, all we have thought for her as change was to redesign midanTahrir, MISH MA’QUUUL.
WE NEED CHANGE IN AL-QAHIRA’S URBAN SETTING AND ARCHITECTURE..
its people(s), its architecture(s), its urban setting(s), its history(s), its ordinariness(es), its infra structure(s) … … THE WHOLE BEAST … All THAT messy, jazzy, rotten, funny, sad mass is what I love and where I want to work and live. But before jumping into the details of the kind of change I am dreaming of, I want to stress again that I dream of change to free my discipline from all that is corrupt. People at the top are in jail. But their policies are still around. They are in jail for mishandling money not policies. SO ARE WE CHANGING THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE OLD STRATEGIES OR THE STRATEGIES THEMSELVES?
KARAMA … HURRIYYA …‘ADALAIGTIMA’IYYAThere is this a misunderstanding that these ideals are only about income and basic services and are to be addressed by certain Ministries such as Wizarat al-Tadamon. NO, THEY SHOULD BE OMNIPRESENT.
TWO DREAMS WITH TWO EYES WIDE OPEN
3. DREAMS MY FIRST DREAM: CONSISTENCIES
§ I dream of a gathering of architects to take place in al-Duwayqqa, to discuss the most needy of all districts, to initiate a project that can create “‘ADALAIGTIMA’IYYA”, and to give us architects and the Duwayqqa populationthe KARAMA,under the umbrella of al- HURRIYYA.
§ I dream of consequent gatherings in other districts considered by the old regime “impossible to approach”, for discussions, solutions and implementation to restore the dignity of all those involved.
§ I dream that after, maybe, ten-twenty-or thirty years, once having rehabilitated all the districts of al-Qahira, we can meet in Midan al-Tahrir, and discuss Tahrir, offering our ideas as a gift to those who have given their lives there KARAMA… HURRIYYA …‘ADALAIGTIMA’IYYA
§ I dream of care and maintenance offered to all Cairene buildings, streets and midans, not only those categorized as possessing Historical value, Architectural value, or any other value. ALL of the built environment of al-Qahira needs maintenance and monitoring irrelevant of individual value.
§ I dream that the teaching of “working drawings” becomes the main focus in the formation of architects instead of the emphasis on mediocre design.
§ I dream of architects learning with workmen, exchanging information and skills beneficial to both sides for an end product of higher quality. MY DREAM FOR NOW: A PLAN OF ACTION I DREAM OF A WIDE SPACE FUNCTIONING LIKE AN OPERATION ROOM IN THE BATTLEFIELD THAT WORKS 24/7 TO DOCUMENT ANY ATTACK ON AL-QAHIRA IN EACH MIDAN, IN EACH STREET, ON EACH BUILDING RIGHT ON THE SPOT. I DREAM OF NEW, QUICK TO EXECUTE LAWS WITH INSTANT PUNISHMENTS AND INSTANT REPAIR OF ALL DAMAGE.
(You break a cornice, you repair it now in the manner that we want it to be repaired, or we repair you pay … This kind of simple law)
§ I dream of a structure hosting a model of al-Qahira today, which also hosts a department for each district and also all the services provided in al-Qahira – ALL IN ONE BUILDING.
§ In the heart of the building, a model of al-Qahira today at a scale of 1:500 in which Mansheyyet Nasser, Mit ‘Uqba, Zamalek and al-Ma’adi are presented with the same degree of detailing. I dream of seeing the most famous of all buildings standing side by side with the poorest and the most ignored. Let them all be seen together at least in a model.
§ Each district occupies one horizontal level placed around the central model of al-Qahira. In each floor, there is one room for each street directly connected to another employee patrolling that same street and reporting back to his office colleague. On that same level there is an area dedicated to the district division of each service (electricity, gas water supply, sewage, police station, etc.).
§ Similar services on different floors are placed above each other to create vertical entities each representing a particular service.
§ On the top level, a second model is created; this time representing the master plans prepared on each floor for each district. This model might be virtual to support the possibility of change and discussions between the planners and the dwellers of the district who will visit the building and participate in decision-making.
§ On some levels the structure provides horizontal flying bridges crossing the model from one end to the other, that allow those using these passages, whether visitors or workers in the different departments, to allow a bird’s-eye view of the real situation on the ground.
§ Visitors, mainly Cairenes, who will come to this place of their own will to attend open lectures/ seminars, and to participate in the decision-making. They might also be invited to the discuss problems of particular streets. The apathetic and the indifferent are forced to come at least once every seven years to renew the raqam al-qawmi (ID of Cairenes). This service will be offered in special passages, set independent from all the rest of the activities in the building and crossing the central space above the model.
This dream is a reaction to:
§ The (un)holy secrecy of past urban planners as they made decisions related to the fate of the twenty million Cairenes. With our previous experience in trying to access data on the 2020 and then the infamous 2050 plans for al-Qahira, we have learned that information is just not available to the public. We had to get used to the “fait accompli”. “Feel change only when the bulldozer hits your wall”, and if you are a heavy sleeper, you might be ‘gone with, the house’ … Maybe the spirit of the openness of this one building, with its transparent views on the model and the continuous visits of those who are renewing their IDs can take town planners of al-Qahira out of their island and bring them back to us, the pieces of their chess game.
§ The torture citizens go through to collect data needed to do anything in their district, knocking on the many doors of governmental institutions in al-Qahira.
§ The false transparency, which was the masterpiece of the old regimes. Not only did we suffer from complete opacity, but we also had the misleading transparency of fabricated numbers, analysis and conclusions.
§ The difficulty of the abrupt dissolution of the mahalliyyat. This project can create a parallel institution that gradually takes over the duties and responsibilities of the old mahalliyyat.
§ LAST WAKE UP CALL
CHANGE IS A MUST IN ALL DISCIPLINES AND ALL ASPECTS OF EGYPTIAN INSTITUTIONS AND INDIVIDUALS. THE MAIN IDEALS OF THE THAWRA SHOULD BE ACHIEVED BY THE CHANGE OFFERED:
KARAMA … HURRIYYA …‘ADALAIGTIMA’IYYA
IF ONE IS FACING THE HOW TO CHANGE QUESTION, IT IS ENOUGH TO OBSERVE HOW THAT SAME THING WAS BEING DONE A YEAR AGO AND DO EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE. IN MOST CASES IT WILL WORK. ONLY REMEMBER:AS IT WAS DONE A YEAR AGO, WAS BEING REPEATED OVER AND OVER FOR MORE THAN THE PAST THIRTY YEARS, AND IT LED TO THE CATASTROPHIC IMAGE OF EGYPT TODAY, WHICH WE ARE TRYING TO BREAK OUR WAY OUT OF. SIMPLY BE IMAGINATIVE AND CREATIVE, BECAUSE THESE WERE DEFINITELY THE TWO MOSTLY HATED THINGS DURING THE PAST THIRTY YEARS.