Maspiro Triangle Redevelopment and Revitalization

Discipline : urban design
Location : Cairo, Egypt
Period : 2015 -
Credit : IAA
Perhaps Maspero Triangle Project is a most obvious example of the complexities and contradictions facing urban renewal projects in the metropolitan area of Cairo, as well as in other administrative capitals of the Nile Delta and the Valley. Maspero Triangle is a hybrid of multi-layered historical transformations which responded to the changing roles of the site along decades of changing functions and activities. The site first claimed its vital role as a coastal neighbor to the capital’s main trade port that connected the North of Egypt to its South via the River Nile transportation route; during Mohammad Aly’s reign. Maspero district then functioned as a pivotal urban link that joined the Classical Cairo Center of la belle epoche to the Zamalek residential district for expatriates. This unique urban link evolved into an important administrative civic center where different Ministries, Municipalities, the Arab League, National TV and Radio Broadcast Station, etc are located. The Maspero district is a melting pot that has witnessed different cultures and events over the years and currently occupies the most strategic location overlooking the river Nile and neighboring an exclusive high-end commercial, recreational and business center accessed by different transport systems.
Nevertheless, pockets of historically deteriorating areas in this prime location reflect apparent contradictions expressed in the form of degenerative services surrounding the illustrious TV and Radio Building and the Foreign Affairs Ministry building. Contradictions are visually mediated in the city-scape of modern facades of high rise buildings reflecting images of shacks crumbling over their informal residential settlement of Maspero. Contradictions are expressed by the high-end five stars hotels’ tourists residing adjacent to poverty-stricken slum dwellers. Exclusive and expensive real estate plots border deteriorating worthless informal structures. A magnificent and unprecedented Nile panorama is the foreground of inaccessible informal settlement.
Despite the fact that such pockets of contradictions suffer from degenerative deterioration due to years of additive neglect, yet historical layers of ingenuity and authenticity within the site represent the main provider of its additive values.
Having deciphered the meanings and potentials of such complexities and contradictions; the urban upgrading and renewal project faces three distinct approaches. The first option aspires to relocate all inhabitants, clearing the way for unrestricted high-end urban development worthy of the exclusive location; thus generating maximum profitability. An approach that risks concluding in the gentrification of the life form existing in Maspero Triangle as we know it.
The second approach adopts the conservative trait represented by minimum urban intervention with the objective of upgrading the existing infrastructure and urban fabric; while maintaining the continuity of the population. Such an option naturally bears a high economic burden on the developer; it brings minimum revenue and cannot guarantee the sustainability of the district or prevent its future deterioration that has already, evidently, started.
The third option represents what we call the reconciliation approach; which is the selected approach by this design scheme and is based on understanding the complexities and resolving the contradictions of the Maspero Triangle.
This objective is achieved by clearly identifying the historical districts with their significant value in order to preserve, upgrade and sustain it, with the employment of suitable functions and additional economic activities that generate revenue from within the district thus guaranteeing its sustainability. This goal is followed by another objective that responds to the current residential needs; which are fulfilled by identifying and selecting plots in Maspero district suitable for relocating the inhabitants. The informal settlers would move into new housing schemes and continue living in the same neighborhood of Maspero Triangle only in a regenerated project and upgraded quality of life. Finally, this approach identifies the areas of the site suitable for high-end economic and mixed-use development, taking advantage of the Nile panorama, site accessibility, and the historic Cairo location; and at the same time providing jobs and business opportunities for the original dwellers. In a Reconciliation Approach all stakeholders/participants are winners; the residents; the government, and the investors.
The architecture of the project and its urban design language express the philosophy behind its concept. In such a manner the main three components (the historic district, the new housing scheme, and the high-end mixed-use development) complement each other.
The architectural response of the proposed design scheme tackles the notion of complexity and contradiction from a perspective of urban reconciliation. Stitching the fragmented informal settlement into a more coherent and harmonious urban setup. Thus reducing social tension and increasing economic gain. The high-end mixed-use development subtly transforms itself from within the historic site to reach the peripheries, thus growing from the inside out. Two high rise gateways point towards the directions of the city and the Riverfront. The design scheme emphasizes the notion of connectivity with the city and opens up towards its significant landmarks. The facade intentionally avoids enforcing iconic and fashionable expression; it provides a rather authentic morphological interpretation and mediation to such historic richness.