Monday, August 21, 2017

News: The Fight to Preserve Architectural Heritage of Egypt's Alexandria

Confronting the demolition of Alexandria’s historical building is a multi-layered task, argues prominent architect and founder of the Alexandria Preservation Trust Mohamed Awad. Written By/ Dina Ezzat.

The Zogheb palace, which was originally owned by a Syrian-Italian family and built
in 1877, and is one of the oldest buildings on Fouad street, is pictured in
Alexandria, Egypt Feb. 22, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)
A beautiful four-floor early 20th century apartment building is being knocked down on Fouad Street at the heart of Alexandria, much to the consternation of inhabitants who have lived through what was arguably the city’s belle époque.

Another apartment building overlooking the corniche of Alexandria, in El-Shatby neighbourhood, has also been evacuated in anticipation of a demolition that architectural heritage preservation activists are campaigning against on social media.

“I am not sure if the campaign will succeed,” lamented Mohamed Awad, the prominent architect who has dedicated years to the preservation and documentation of the architectural heritage of Alexandria’s city centre.

Awad told Ahram Online that the problem is that neither building had ever been put on the list of historic buildings that he helped compose during his days as the head of the Alexandria Preservation Trust (APT).

The list includes 1,135 buildings – 33 of which have exquisite architectural decoration – 63 zones, and 38 streets. Fouad Street, at the very heart of the city centre, is obviously on the list.

However, in the technical sense, preserving a historic street would not necessarily involve a prohibition on knocking down all its old buildings – especially if the owners of the building manage to provide municipal authorities with a valid reason for the demolition.

According to Awad, this reason could be a technical argument, such as fears about the building's possible collapse, or just a "sufficiently convincing argument" that the owner needs to replace a four-floor building that has two apartments on each floor with a higher structure that can accommodate more apartments.

Since he started his work as head of the APT over 40 years ago, Awad has seen the demolition of numerous historic buildings in Alexandria, notable for their architectural value, the events they witnessed or the inhabitants they had accommodated.

Awad particularly laments the demolition of Villa Aghion in 2014. The villa was constructed in the early 1920s by prominent French architect Auguste Perret, “whose gems in France are protected by UNESCO.”

Awad also grieves over the fate of the Villa Cicurel, which was demolished in 2015 and carried the name of one of the most prominent Jewish families of early 20th century Egypt, who owned an elegant department store chain. The villa was constructed in the early 1930s by two prominent French architects; Leon Azema and Jacques Hardy.

“These are just two examples, but we have seen other historic buildings demolished despite being included on the preservation list and despite elementary court rulings [against the demolition],” Awad said..... READ MORE.

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