CAIRO: The American University in Cairo s Rare Books and Special Collections Library has received a grant of $127,450 (just over LE 731,500) from the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities to preserve and improve access to the archives of Hassan Fathy and Ramses Wissa Wassef, two of Egypt s most prominent 20th century architects.
The architectural drawings, photographs, publications and correspondence contained in these collections are an important resource for studying the innovative buildings of Fathy and Wissa Wassef.
Both architects incorporated styles and methods of traditional Egyptian and regional architecture such as domes, wooden mashribiyya screens and mud brick construction into their designs. Two of their better-known projects are Wissa Wassef s Harraniya weaver s village near Cairo and Fathy s New Gourna village near Luxor, which he discussed in his influential 1973 book Architecture for the Poor.
Fathy and Wissa Wassef were both recognized internationally for their ideas and work, receiving numerous awards, among them the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
The grant awarded to the library will involve cleaning and repairing items in the Rare Books Library s conservation laboratory and transferring materials to archival storage containers to ensure that they are preserved for future generations. In addition, detailed descriptions will be created to promote awareness of the collections and to enhance researchers ability to locate materials of interest.
The collection includes a record of indigenous Egyptian building styles, such as Fathy s photographs of Nubian houses that were submerged later by the waters rising behind the Aswan High Dam in the early 1960s. The preservation project will increase access to AUC’s Fathy and Wissa Wassef collections to expand knowledge of the architects work and their efforts to apply traditional solutions to modern issues of housing in Egypt and other countries with desert climates.