Urban harmony for Cairo

Robert van Kats
Tuesday 27 Oct 2009

Ramses Square to be transformed by French-Egyptian Design

Cairo is undergoing a modern 'facelift'. With projects such as the Cairo Expo City, recently awarded to Zaha Hadid, and Sorouh City commuter district currently in design development by Callison, the ancient city is swiftly changing shape, expanding as a centre of business. With the expansion the centre of the city suffers from traffic congestion, population increase and the confusionof uses and functions. Invited by the Cairo Governate, a competition was held via the UIA to develop an 'urban harmony' in Ramses Square in the centre of Cairo which could address these problems.

The winning design was produced in a collaborative effort by The Egyptian Architectural Bureau (BECT) and the French Architectural Bureau (AREP), taking the US$ 100,000 prize. A design by Irish firm Quilligan Architects won the second prize of $75,000 and a Turkish Group represented by Nimat Aydin won the third prize of $50,000.

While from the image released from the winning entry it is currently unclear how the 'harmony' has been reached, the winning design had to address the square's urban and traffic problems whilst delivering an urban design plan for the square, which is considered the focal point of major transport in Cairo, within a comprehensive vision for the city centre.

Jury President Prof. Dr. Abdallah Abdel Aziz said the projects have varied in presenting different solutions for the Square’s problems especially the traffic and the 6th of October Flyover and highlighting its important landmarks such as the Railway Station and the Heritage Buildings.

One of the more drastic designs submitted was a collaboration between Maissa Architecture and Blok Kats van Veen Architects, which aimed to bring a green heart to Cairo. Their design took advantage of surprisingly good soil in the city created by its location at the base of the Nile delta, to build parkland. The project, named Ramses Park, was to act as a central transport node where a modern railway station, electric metrobus lines and an elevated bridge road would have been integrated within the scenery. A panoramatower was to allow views across to the pyramids.

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