Hassan Fathy, an Egyptian architect, was ahead of his time. He designed in 1945 the new village of Gourna to be a model of human architecture and to demonstrate the role of architecture in community development.
Architects in the whole world, from China to Nigeria, have been alerted to his ideas, especially since the seventies of the twentieth century, and his name has been associated with environmental architecture, green architecture, native architecture, popular architecture, and currently with sustainable architecture and development. Despite this, Hassan Fathy’s Gourna did not receive enough attention, therefore , we present this initiative as a vehicle to the disseminate, implement and develop of Hassan Fathy’s ideas and methods toward the realization of the role of architecture in sustainable development.
Hassan Fathy was not satisfied with only designing buildings to take into account community organization, and that the houses were of local materials and provided with natural ventilation. The people of the village were also presented with the first theater to provide culture, recreation, community participation and preserve the folklore of music, singing, dancing and games. In addition, he created a vocational training center for crafts and traditional industries (called the Khan), brought trainers, set training courses, and an outlet for the sale for tourists on their way to the monuments of the western mainland in Luxor.
Hassan Fathy’s works attracted the attention of architects throughout the world when environmental conservation movements spread and he became a pioneer in the field of green and Earth architecture. In addition, when concept of sustainability appeared, his works characterized by the participation of people in construction, restoration, use of local materials and taking into account the environment became the pillars of “sustainable architecture.” Hassan Fathy thus well deserved the Balzan Prize for Architecture, Urban Planning and Good Living in 1980, and in the same year the President Aga Khan Award for his overall lifetime work, as well as the alternative Nobel Prize. In 1984 he was awarded the Gold Award of the International Union of Architects. Other awards follow, and architects in Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Latin America were eager to get acquainted with his work, prompting the American architect James Steele to compile the works of Hassan Fathy in a reference book published in 1997 ( translated into Arabic by the architect Omar Raouf).
NOW, the time has come for an initiative that revives his ideas and aims to place Gourna as a center for social architecture and sustainable development.
Ironically, although he was awarded the prize from Egypt in 1967, it was met with almost complete disregard by the Egyptian architectural establishment. On the other hand, Gourna , the village he designed to be a model of human architecture, suffered from dilapidation and disfigurement by the settlers and the absence of the state’s role in protecting this unique architectural heritage which should have been preserved, promoted as a model and example for architects and planners and as an inspiration for future generations of developers.
NOW, the time has come for an initiative that revives his ideas and aims to place Gourna as a center for social architecture and sustainable development. At the moment, many architects from all over the world come to the village on their own to discover what remains from this model village. However, the village is not on the tourism map, and No information or amenities are available to the visitors. In addition, and in spite of efforts by UNESCO to restore some of the Public buildings (the Khan, the Theater, and the Mosque), there are no plans to restore what remains from the domestic architecture or the revitalization of the village to become a tourist destination as a cultural village .
This initiative comes with governmental and presidential interest in developing and modernizing the Egyptian villages, and it was Hassan Fathi’s dream and his desire to be the nucleus of the project to develop all Egyptian villages.
The world is captivated by its merits, and so that the architecture of the Egyptian village is distinguished by its originality and compatibility with the environment, taking into account societal aspects and economic development, in order to reduce the cost of construction and to sustain the construction of these villages.