NPJ Book Review: Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt By Hassan Fathy (1st US Printing 1973)
This is an older and valuable work. It is also an insightful book in which one has to read between the lines of technical wording. Like meditation, patience is required to achieve results. The author, an Egyptian architect, who came to be known as the Father of Architecture for the Poor, through trial and error began to look at the landscape of existing material rather than modern materials of his times available to him.
Thoughtfully he studied the local environment such as Luxor, e.g., Village of Gourna, and planned his design of dwellings utilizing such resources as mud and straw. The “recording” playing in the back of his mind was how could he help the impoverished. Those without the means to afford a home of their own. He looked to ancient craftsman.
A challenge for him was the expense. For example, the roof as many people have discovered building a home or a library or museum or other public and private dwelling tends to be quite expensive. That has been my experience with public library buildings. Costs are tied to local politics. He solved the issue – with patience, dignity and boldness.
Along with vaulted entrances and ceilings which meant research into ancient artisans and their craftsmanship – he envisioned places for the impoverished for the sake of human integrity and affirmation of which personal space provides.
Fathy chose, in creative ways, the sources available and not imported. Indirectly his ideas remind me of what others have tried using what was available from the “discarded” in creating sustainable living spaces.
Hassan’s plans delineated in the book are rather technical in places, yet the theme conveys a spiritual and familial appeal. That is, his design ideas effectuates an emotion that touches deep within about humanity’s search for that which transcends time – intimate spaces that touches the human soul and are not prefabricated.
Can one salvage the human soul with less financial profit? Ultimately for me this is a work upon which to meditate.