Context

Egypt has one of the most rapidly transforming urban scenes; it experiences a unique ‘informal’, self-help urbanism with inherent spatial patterns that can be considered a neo-vernacular. With only 1% of informal areas conforming to the global perception of ‘slums’ Egypt’s informal housing rises up to 20-storey reinforced concrete buildings, creating a unique landscape of magnanimous challenges and potentials. Community participation is an essential pillar in this everyday life dynamic, although deemed ‘informal,’ the engagement of local is a potential to learn from and built-upon. Egyptian cities and towns also include a wide range of diversity in population, urban form and patterns. Egypt is a transcontinental country characterized by its central location and multi-cultural heritage reflected in its cities and neighbourhoods as well as in people’s lifestyles.

Cairo is a megacity with a population of an estimated 20+ millions offering a ripe example of fast growing mega cities with diverse urban experiences and a vibrant social life that becomes part of the learning experience of any student. For the spatial design and urban planning fields, from architecture to urban management, the city of Cairo alone offers a highly complex laboratory. The rate of urban development and transformation, the underlying socio-cultural and economic patterns, the tensions and linkages between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’, the social resilience and potential for adaptability, the continuous experimentation and ad-hoc enforcement of laws and regulations, makes studying it a fascinating and challenging endeavour and requires heuristic frameworks that are at the same time integrative, multidisciplinary, socio-culturally sensitive, and technically agile.