The great Utopias by Hassan Fathy, badly managed by governments, renovated under the lens of Hannah Collins

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Carles Guerra
Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Carrer d’Aragó 255. 08007 Barcelona. Spain

Hannah Collins

Hannah Collins (b. London, 1956). From 1989 to 2010, she lived and worked in Barcelona, exhibiting at Galeria Joan Prats since 1992, and today lives between London and Almeria, Spain. In addition to having obtained the Fulbright scholarship and having been nominated for the 1993 Turner Prize, she has recently received the SPECTRUM 2015 International Photography Prize, awarded by the Foundation of the Lower Saxony, which included an exhibition at the Sprengel Museum, travelling to the Camden Art Centre in London and the Baltic Centre in Newcastle. Among other museums and art centres, she has exhibited at Centre Pompidou Paris; FRAC Bretagne; Fotomuseum Winterthur; Museo UNAL, Bogotá; Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna; MUDAM Luxembourg; Tate Modern, London; Seoul Museum of Art; VOX image contemporaine, Montreal; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Fundació La Caixa, Madrid and Barcelona; La Laboral, Gijón; Artium, Vitoria; CAC, Málaga.

Hassan Fathy

Hassan Fathy was born in 1900 in Alexandria, Egypt. He was an Egyptian architect, artist and poet who had a lifelong commitment to architecture in the Muslim world. Early in his career he began to study the pre-industrial building systems of Egypt to understand their aesthetic qualities, to learn what they had to teach about climate control and economical construction techniques and to find ways to put them to contemporary use.

Two such systems dominated his thinking: the climatically efficient houses of Mamluk and Ottoman Cairo, ingeniously shaded and ventilated by means of their two-storey halls, mashrabiyyas and courtyards; and the indigenous mud brick construction still to be found in rural areas. The latter consists of inclined arches and vaults, built without shuttering, domes on squinches built over square rooms in a continuing spiral, semi-domed alcoves and other related forms. The urban housing forms of Cairo could not serve Fathy directly as a replicable source because of the disappearance of the building traditions that created them. These fine old houses enriched his imagination, however, and were to become models for later large-scale work. The ancient mud brick forms, in contrast, were still being produced by rural masons unchanged. Stimulated by what he had learned, Fathy had what was then a revolutionary idea. He perceived that a connection could be made between the continuing viability of mud brick construction and the desperate need of Egypt's poor to be taught once again to build shelter for themselves.

Hassan Fathy devoted himself to housing the poor in developing nations and deserves study by anyone involved in rural improvement. Fathy worked to create an indigenous environment at a minimal cost, and in so doing to improve the economy and the standard of living in rural areas. Fathy utilized ancient design methods and materials. He integrated a knowledge of the rural Egyptian economic situation with a wide knowledge of ancient architectural and town design techniques. He trained local inhabitants to make their own materials and build their own buildings. Climatic conditions, public health considerations, and ancient craft skills also affected his design decisions. Based on the structural massing of ancient buildings, Fathy incorporated dense brick walls and traditional courtyard forms to provide passive cooling.

1959.- Encouragement Prize for Fine Arts and Gold Medal.
1967.- National Prize for Fine Arts and Republic Decoration.
1980.- Chairman's Award, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
1984.- Union Internationale des Architectes, Gold Medal.



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