Feb 28, 2011

Egyptian Architecture and Jan25 Revolution

I’d like to thank all those who participated in the Jan25 events in Egypt, either physically or even by heart.

All revolutions that happened in the world throughout history has their pros and cons, here I’ll tell you about one of the shortcomings of Jan25. How Jan25 altered our architecture (from my point of view)

Through my personal experience in this revolution and as an architect I can tell that Jan25 has a negative profound effect on architecture in Egypt (so far). This can be ascribed to many reasons; first and most important is: fear, the absence of the police from the streets, while thugs and criminal escaped prisons and attacked people and properties.

Not just the lack of security but also the architectural ignorance among Egyptians, inefficiency of future planning, and unsustainable development. Many negative Egyptians (and they are the majority) limited their minds to think of protecting themselves without even thinking of the future and how to build our devastated country.

Since the police disappeared from streets and people started to protect themselves on their own; those who stood by their homes, lands, or properties barehanded, or with tree branches, baseball bats, or even guns. This has generated more fear between civilians not just from thugs but also of the vague future. Hence, they started building very ugly and inefficient iron gates in front of their existing securit-glass doors. And if you are going to build a new home, the first things they insist on are; no big windows, no glass doors, and must be surrounded by a high fence!! On the other hand, elegant and inelegant shops, markets, and shopping malls built ugly walls to hide their displays and goods from the eyes of thugs. Is this what we are really looking for? Fear, and hiding behind walls and inside holes? Do you call this liberating Egypt?

Of course NOT, we need more freedom and democracy and this requires changing the mindset of people who lived in oppression and fear for more than 30 years to start thinking freely and with no fear to hinder them from developing.

People have to be aware of architecture and the building materials in order to choose the right ones to enhance their surroundings and its reflect on their behavior. The physical and behavioral effects between people and their physical environments became quite complex when elements of light and color (shade or tint, warm or cool), texture (materials and surfaces), acoustical characteristics (noise) are taken into account. “Our surroundings influence not only the way we think but our intellectual development.” Salingaros, N. A.

Environmental psychology would surely, but not completely, confirm why people might behave in awe at the sight of the awesome buildings either contemporary or medieval full of details and ornaments, and the varied materials and textures on the floors, walls and ceilings with fine detailing. Given these factors one would have to take into account the physical surroundings that assail the senses in any environment.

This, illustrating that people naturally seeks out places where they will feel competent, confident, where they will feel comfort or enjoyment. Thus the creation and preservation of a preferred environment is believed to increase the sense of well-being and behavioral effectiveness in people. (Like building walls and iron gates at the time being)

Space, form, building materials and light are elements that are often incorporated either purposefully of unconsciously for aesthetic or practical reasons but more pointedly give creatures meaning, purpose and stability amidst an ever changing physical universe of seeming chaos.

To conclude this, if we are really looking for freedom and democracy we have to be well-aware of these psychological effects that reflects on our architecture. Using the right materials, the colors and forms are the best way to enhance our sense-of-being and promote sustainable freedom!