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Egypt Campaigns to Save Architectural Heritage

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

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With historic Egyptian buildings being destroyed under private ownership, a campaign has been launched to raise awareness of the country's threatened structural heritage and put pressure on the government to expand protections for structures that are less than 100 years old.

“The Country's Architecture: An Identity Worth Saving” campaign was run by award-winning media production and advertising firm Welad al-Balad from Feb. 11 to March 11. According to Fatima Farag, manager of Welad al-Balad, the project is based around the concept of citizen journalism.

Preservation Campaign

To get the campaign together, the company trained volunteers in writing, editing and photography, with some writing articles and other volunteers taking pictures. Over the course of a month, the volunteers generated 130 articles ranging from press reports about building history to investigative reports.

Architectural designer Ahmad Sedqi, who specializes in development for deteriorating historical areas, told Al-Monitor that most 20th-century buildings in Egypt were threatening to collapse due to poor maintenance. This can be partially attributed to current law not deeming a building historic unless it’s over 100 years old. Many palaces and villas are around 70 to 90 years old, and these, too, must be preserved because of their architectural value, Sedqi noted.

As it stands, a number of buildings are in danger of being torn down and replaced under private ownership; one of these was Villa Ambron, where English writer Lawrence Durrel, author of the The Alexandria Quartet, lived in the 1940s. Villa Ambron was demolished in September 2017, despite attempts to preserve it.

Sedqi has called for the state to consider new legislation that would protect these structures as well as compensate the owners. According to reports, the new law is being discussed by legislators.

France Desmarais, program and partnerships director at the International Council of Museums, noted that she hoped the campaign would receive funding from international associations. Among these is the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas, which receives $100 million in yearly funding.

A number of state and civil organizations are reportedly interested in the campaign.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Maintenance + Renovation; Middle East; Project Management; Urban Planning

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