Cairo Invisible City

MSc Studio

Year:

2009-2012

Studio participants

Author(s):

NON-LINEARITY AND THE CAIRO SPRAWL

The BC Cairo studio engaged the problem of the illegibility of the contemporary city, using photography and film to trace phenomena invisible to conventional means of viewing the urban fabric. Cairo’s territory, having evolved over some five thousand years, has been the locus of major historical events and transformations, the icons of which continue to exert a dominating influence on the collective image of the city, particular in mass media depictions. The sprawling Cairo of today, however, is known to its inhabitants as ‘the city without a manual’, an appellation reflecting the lack of clear order in its unregulated, heterogeneous expanse, with an estimated 92% of Egypt’s urban properties informally held. The BC Cairo oligopticons employ a specialized vocabulary, avoiding simplistic binary distinctions in favor of subtle gradations. Rather than foregrounding either the unintelligible physical fabric of Cairo or specific interpretations as the definitive nature of the city, these layers are presented as necessary elements that constantly interact to form shifting, multiple versions of the city. An interactive, non-linear exploration through a database of open material is much more suited to understand the contemporary city than a traditional sequence. It recasts the city itself as a database, a field of disparate phenomena, in which various translations operate, without any narrative ever fully accessing the whole. With the contemporary city itself as a new media form, the two layers can exist freely and independently. This allows for continual expansion and addition of interpretations on both levels. Architectural and urban designs based on static conventions – whether historicizing or modernist – lose all relevance in the face of the changes occurring in cities today that it is unable to register. These invisible processes involve no designers, no discourse. Their forms are frequently the border of what is traditionally considered ‘architecture.’

MSc studio BC, semester 15, 2009-12

Participants: Alexandru Belenyi, Bas van der Horst, Hans Larsson, Melina Mezari, Jelle van der Neut, Soran Park, Joost Pauwelussen, Simon Rochowski, Jiri van Ulden.

Mentors: Henriette Bier, Oscar Rommens, Freerk Hoekstra.

Cairo Invisible City