And what about Ravioli?

There is a point where the UNESCO concept of Intangible Cultural Heritage can get a bit ridiculous– moving from protection of traditions to market branding, and ultimately a cultural competition between nations over who can get more items included on the UNESCO list.  That’s what happened to the World Heritage Convention with its yearly beauty contest and winners and losers to be inscribed on the World Heritage list.

But now we have moved on to the Intangible.  The Convention itself was visionary in its emphasis of dynamic process over fossilized product (asserting that Intangible Cultural Heritage “transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity”).  But now it looks like the old ideas of unchanging cultural “icons” and static objects have shouldered aside the process of people making, changing, transforming, adopting, borrowing, and lending that lies at the heart of cultural creativity.

So thanks to yet another failure of UNESCO to go beyond slogans and good intentions, let’s sit back and watch the spectacle of cultural stereotypes being packaged, branded, and declared “authentic” by the experts– while little or nothing is done to protect the distinctive ways of life that created– and still continues to create new forms of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

From The Guardian  27 March 2011:

Italy seeks Unesco protection for Neapolitan pizza

Dish voted by Italians as one that helps sum up nation could be placed on cultural heritage list

Tom Kington in Rome

Neapolitan pizza

Neapolitan pizza could be added to Unesco's cultural heritage list. Photograph: Ciro Fusco/EPA

On a roll after securing Unesco status for the Mediterranean diet, Italy is mulling over an attempt to place the Neapolitan pizza in the pantheon of cultural icons drawn up by the United Nations.

After years of lobbying, Unesco added the Mediterranean diet to its “intangible” cultural heritage list – which recognises festivals, music and crafts alongside its better-known ranking of temples and castles – last year.

Now Italy has put together a shortlist of candidates for consideration in 2011, including pizza from Naples, Sienna’s Palio horse race, violin-making in Cremona, Viareggio’s extravagant carnival procession and ancient festivals in towns such as Nola and Viterbo, where locals carry huge statues on their shoulders and totter round tiny streets.

Also in the running are the small grapevines planted in depressions in the volcanic soil on the island of Pantelleria, where they are sheltered from the fierce sea wind and produce the nectar-like Passito dessert wine.

With only two candidates set to make the final list Italy sends to Unesco for consideration, Corriere della Sera claimed the smart money was on pizza and Cremona’s violin makers, who are fighting off Chinese competition four centuries after Antonio Stradivari opened his workshop there.

But the headlines in Italy have focused on pizza after it was this year voted by Italians as one of the dishes which best sums up their nation. It was narrowly outvoted by pasta with tomato sauce, but beat bruschetta with olive oil into a distant third.

The Unesco shortlist specifies pizza from Naples, where the dish was born in the 1700s, and where a pie topped with mozzarella, tomato and basil leaves – recreating the red, white and green of the Italian flag – was presented to Queen Margherita of Savoy in 1889 and named after her.

Naples’ pizzaioli, the skilled spinners of pizza dough, still insist those three ingredients are all that is required for a perfect pizza and opt for a softer, deeper crust than the thinner, crispier version favoured by Romans.

“A good pizzaiolo leaves the dough to rise for up to 24 hours before baking it in a wood-fired oven to ensure a light, digestible pizza,” the food writer Davide Paolini said.

As the dish edges towards Unesco status, the Italian farmers’ lobby group Coldiretti warned the UN that protection was urgently required.

“Consumers don’t know this, but at least half of all pizzas contain imported ingredients,” it said in a statement, adding that Italians were unwittingly tucking in to Margheritas made with Chinese tomatoes, Tunisian and Spanish olive oil “and even seed oil instead of Italian extra virgin”.

First they change the name… then the domain

Interesting signs of the times (and of the increasingly brand-named, officialized, and internetified Heritage World).  Just look at these two recent developments relating to the site of Auschwitz and ponder awhile:

1.)  In the summer of 2007, the World Heritage Committee approved official change of name of World Heritage Site from “The Auschwitz Concentration Camp” to “Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration Camp (1940-1945)” upon the request of the Polish government, seeking to distance itself as much as possible in time and responsibility from that very unlovely heritage attraction on their soil.

2.)  And, now in January 2011, as if the clear marking of extraterritorial status for unpleasant heritage sites (and acts!) in the real world were not enough, a similar move has been taken in cyberspace:

From Agence France Press,  February 2,2011

Poland asks Nazi camp museums to drop .pl websites

(AFP) – 3 days ago

WARSAW — Poland’s culture minister said Tuesday he had asked museums at former Nazi death camps to drop their Polish .pl Internet suffix to help counter the false impression they were Polish-run.

The minister, Bogdan Zdrojewski, told Polish news agency PAP he had written to the directors of three museums in Poland asking them to use other suffixes for their websites, such as the more neutral, pan-European .eu.

The three memorial museums, run and largely financed by the Polish state, are Auschwitz-Birkenau (www.auschwitz.org.pl), Majdanek (www.majdanek.pl) and Stutthof (www.stutthof.pl).

“I’ve asked them to use the appropriate term systematically,” Zdrojewski said.

Warsaw keenly watches the global media for descriptions of such camps as “Polish” because it says the term — even if used simply as a geographical indicator — can give the impression that Poland bore responsibility for Nazi Germany’s World War II genocide…

For full article, click here.

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Do nation-states have the sovereign right to externalize unpleasant heritage and exclude it from their national internet domains?  At least they seem to have the means…

A Deal With the Devil, West African Style

From Wikipedia:

A deal with the Devil, pact with the Devil, or Faustian bargain is a cultural motif widespread in the West, best exemplified by the legend of Faust and the figure of Mephistopheles, but elemental to many Christian folktales. In the Aarne-Thompson typological catalog, it lies in category AT 756B – “The devil’s contract.”

According to traditional Christian belief in witchcraft, the pact is between a person and Satan or any other demon (or demons); the person offers his or her soul in exchange for diabolical favors. Those favors vary by the tale, but tend to include youth, knowledge, wealth, or power. It was also believed that some persons made this type of pact just as a sign of recognizing the Devil as their master, in exchange for nothing. Regardless, the bargain is a dangerous one, as the price of the Fiend’s service is the wagerer’s soul. The tale may have a moralizing end, with eternal damnation for the foolhardy venturer. Conversely it may have a comic twist, in which a wily peasant outwits the Devil, characteristically on a technical point.

But who’s making the deal here?  And who’s paying the price?

As a World Heritage site, Djenné, Mali, must preserve its mud-brick buildings, from the Great Mosque, in the background, to individual homes. Photo: Tyler Hicks/New York Times

From the New York Times  January 9, 2011

Mali City Rankled by Rules for Life in Spotlight

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

DJENNÉ , Mali — Abba Maiga stood in his dirt courtyard, smoking and seething over the fact that his 150-year-old mud-brick house is so culturally precious he is not allowed to update it — no tile floors, no screen doors, no shower.

Who wants to live in a house with a mud floor?” groused Mr. Maiga, a retired riverboat captain.

With its cone-shaped crenellations and palm wood drainage spouts, the grand facade seems outside time and helps illustrate why this ancient city in eastern Mali is an official World Heritage site.

But the guidelines established by Unesco, the cultural arm of the United Nations, which compiles the heritage list, demand that any reconstruction not substantially alter the original.

“When a town is put on the heritage list, it means nothing should change,” Mr. Maiga said. “But we want development, more space, new appliances — things that are much more modern. We are angry about all that.”

It is a cultural clash echoed at World Heritage sites across Africa and around the world. While it may be good for tourism, residents complain of being frozen in time like pieces in a museum — their lives proscribed so visitors can gawk.

“The issue in Djenné is about people getting comfort, using the right materials without compromising the architectural values,” said Lazare Eloundou Assomo, the chief of the African unit of Unesco’s World Heritage Center.

Mr. Assomo ticked off a list of sites facing similar tension, including the island of St.-Louis in neighboring Senegal, the island of Lamu in Kenya, the entire island of Mozambique off the coast of the nation by the same name, or Asian and European cities like Lyon, France.

Here in Djenné, the striking Great Mosque is what put the town on the map. It is the largest mud-brick structure in the world, so unique that it looks as if it might have landed from another planet, an imposing sand castle looming over the main square. The architectural style, known as Sudanese, is native to the Sahel.

A trio of unique minarets — square, tapering towers topped by pointed pillars and crowned by an ostrich egg — dominate the facade. Palm tree boards poked into the mosque in rows like toothpicks create a permanent scaffolding that allows residents to swarm over the building to replaster the mud, an annual February ritual involving the entire town.

Djenné is the less famous but better preserved sister city to Timbuktu. Both reached their zenith of wealth and power in the 16th century by sitting at the crossroads of Sahara trade routes for goods like gold, ivory and slaves.

The town was also a gateway that helped spread Islam regionally. When the king converted in the 13th century, he leveled his palace and built a mosque. Mali’s French colonizers eventually oversaw its reconstruction in 1907.

The Grand Mosque was again near collapse when the Agha Khan Foundation arrived to begin a $900,000 restoration project, said Josephine Dilario, one of two supervising architects. The annual replastering had more than doubled the width of the walls and added a yard of mud to the roof. It was too heavy, even with the forest of thick pillars inside the mosque supporting the high ceiling — one for each of the 99 names of God.

In 2006, the initial restoration survey ignited a riot. Protesters sacked the mosque’s interior, attacked city buildings and destroyed cars. The uprising was apparently rooted in the simmering tension among the 12,000 townsfolk, particularly the young, who felt forced to live in squalor while the mosque imam and a few prominent families raked in the benefits from tourism.

The frustration seems to have lingered. While the mosque graces the national seal, residents here appear markedly more sullen about tourism than in many other Malian cities. They often glower rather than smile, and they tend to either ask for money or stomp off when cameras are pointed in their direction.

With the mosque restoration nearing completion, the town is focusing attention on other critical problems — raw sewage and the restoration of the nearly 2,000 houses.

“There is a kind of tension, a difficulty that has to be resolved by not locking people into the traditional and authentic architecture,” said Samuel Sidibé, the director of Mali’s National Museum in Bamako, the capital…

For full story, click here.

Disney Leads the Way! Again!

Traditional heritage professionals are fond of expressing disdain for the Walt Disney Corporation, convinced that they and only they are the appropriate stewards of heritage.  They despise the idea of heritage “theme parks,” and cherish the ideal of preserving something they call “authenticity.”  The reality is rather less clear-cut. Heritage, in particular World Heritage sites, are becoming ever more like theme parks, especially when their contemporary function is “economic development.”  Indeed the theme of the upcoming 2011 ICOMOS general assembly in Paris, hosted by ICOMOS France, is “Heritage: Driver of Development.” The development being of course primarily economic in this stubbornly neo-liberal, Sarkozyist time.

It is enlightening in that respect that one of the main themes (indeed the only one dealing with the actual CONTENT (as opposed to material forms) of heritage is entitled “Development as Tourism.”

The call for abstracts reads:

“Heritage is a major part of the tourist industry, but at the same time, because of the mass consumption to which it is increasingly subject, it runs the risk of becoming meaningless, by fluctuating between preservation of museum pieces and theme-park caricatures. Cut off from its context, the real significance of heritage risks being drowned out by a feeble reflection, and its very nature is altered by excessive numbers of visitors and the facilities installed for them.”

We must move towards the development of “sustainable tourism” which will protect and reveal the values of the heritage. Several courses of action are available, among other:

–       Controlling visitor flow, so as both to limit physical erosion and to ensure the comfort of visitors and provide the best conditions for them to understand and appreciate the value of heritage. Some preliminary reports on trials successfully undertaken at a number of buildings and ‘Grands Sites’ [designated French cultural landscapes] may help in developing guidelines.

–       But also, and above all, by means of an effective cultural programme, make the richness of the heritage and the spirit of the place perceptible, in both its tangible and intangible dimensions, by fully revealing and interpreting its elements and wider context, and by encouraging public awareness of history through education and the wider media.

–       Fully re-integrate tourism activity within the local socio-economic context, and bringing the values of cultural identity to the fore.

Now I’m not exactly sure what the third of those recommendations means, but the first two are clear.  The key to “sustainable tourism,” which is presumably seen as more or less the only public outlet for “heritage” has been boiled down to a matter of crowd control and increasingly satisfying “visitor experiences.”

There is no question that heritage sites, especially the most highly visited are being rapidly trivialized and physically destroyed but the ever-growing crush of visitors.  The Valley of the Kings in Egypt is only one horrible example of how nations have chosen to see heritage as a readily strip-mineable resource.

Tourists queuing to enter the Tomb of King Tutankhamun, Valley of the Kings

How ironic that this turn to seeing heritage as exclusively a matter of tourism (and benign neglect of other uses for the past for collective memory, community activities, and local identity formulation and reformulation) must undoubtedly force the traditional heritage authorities– now the self-appointed drivers and planners of profitable heritage tourism– to look to the proven source of skills at the place they most despise:

From the New York Times December 28, 2010:

Disney Tackles Major Theme Park Problem: Lines

By Brooks Barnes

ORLANDO, Fla. — Deep in the bowels of Walt Disney World, inside an underground bunker called the Disney Operational Command Center, technicians know that you are standing in line and that you are most likely annoyed about it. Their clandestine mission: to get you to the fun faster.

Visitors wait in line at the Space Mountain attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Disney has installed game stations along the way to entertain visitors while they wait. Photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel

To handle over 30 million annual visitors — many of them during this busiest time of year for the megaresort — Disney World long ago turned the art of crowd control into a science. But the putative Happiest Place on Earth has decided it must figure out how to quicken the pace even more. A cultural shift toward impatience — fed by video games and smartphones — is demanding it, park managers say. To stay relevant to the entertain-me-right-this-second generation, Disney must evolve.

And so it has spent the last year outfitting an underground, nerve center to address that most low-tech of problems, the wait. Located under Cinderella Castle, the new center uses video cameras, computer programs, digital park maps and other whiz-bang tools to spot gridlock before it forms and deploy countermeasures in real time.

In one corner, employees watch flat-screen televisions that depict various attractions in green, yellow and red outlines, with the colors representing wait-time gradations.

If Pirates of the Caribbean, the ride that sends people on a spirited voyage through the Spanish Main, suddenly blinks from green to yellow, the center might respond by alerting managers to launch more boats.

[…]

Disney, which is periodically criticized for overreaching in the name of cultural dominance (and profits), does not see any of this monitoring as the slightest bit invasive. Rather, the company regards it as just another part of its efforts to pull every possible lever in the name of a better guest experience.

The primary goal of the command center, as stated by Disney, is to make guests happier — because to increase revenue in its $10.7 billion theme park business, which includes resorts in Paris and Hong Kong, Disney needs its current customers to return more often. “Giving our guests faster and better access to the fun,” said Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, “is at the heart of our investment in technology.”

Disney also wants to raise per-capita spending. “If we can also increase the average number of shop or restaurant visits, that’s a huge win for us,” Mr. Holmes said.

Disney has long been a leader in technological innovation, whether that means inventing cameras to make animated films or creating the audio animatronic robots for the attraction It’s a Small World.

Behind-the-scenes systems — typically kept top secret by the company as it strives to create an environment where things happen as if by magic — are also highly computerized. Ride capacity is determined in part by analyzing hotel reservations, flight bookings and historic attendance data. Satellites provide minute-by-minute weather analysis. A system called FastPass allows people to skip lines for popular rides like the Jungle Cruise.

But the command center reflects how Disney is deepening its reliance on technology as it thinks about adapting decades-old parks, which are primarily built around nostalgia for an America gone by, for 21st century expectations. “It’s not about us needing to keep pace with technological change,” Mr. Staggs said. “We need to set the pace for that kind of change.”

For instance, Disney has been experimenting with smartphones to help guide people more efficiently. Mobile Magic, a $1.99 app, allows visitors to type in “Sleeping Beauty” and receive directions to where that princess (or at least a costumed stand-in) is signing autographs. In the future, typing in “hamburger” might reveal the nearest restaurant with the shortest wait…

For full article, chick here.

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Development as Tourism indeed!  In “official,” “development-oriented” Heritage, Disney leads the way!  Again!

There just has to be a different way to deal with the past…


Collective Memories

Interesting and worthwhile!  Better than biblical archaeological chimeras. But should the Kibbutz be commemorated via UNESCO as tangible heritage in need of physical conservation or intangible heritage in urgent need of social safeguarding?

Farming the kibbutz land. Photo Credit: Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem

from Haaretz December 23, 2010

Israel to push UNESCO to declare the kibbutz a world heritage site

The project is being advanced as the year-long centennial celebrations of the Kibbutz Movement come to a close.

By Noam Dvir

The Israel National Commission for UNESCO is set to promote the kibbutz and its heritage as a World Heritage Site, Haaretz has learned.

The initiative, which will focus on the unique social, cultural and architectural aspects of the kibbutz, is being promoted by a group of Israeli scholars led by architects Yuval Yaski, Shmuel Groag and Galia Bar-Or, of the architecture department of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Yaski and Bar-Or, who is also the director of the Kibbutz Ein Harod Art Museum, recently curated the exhibition “Kibbutz – Architecture Without Precedent” at the International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale.

The project is being advanced as the year-long centennial celebrations of the Kibbutz Movement come to a close.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, inscribes sites as World Heritage if it deems them uniquely important to human culture. The inscription has special significance in terms of image for the country in which the site is located, as well as economic importance; the chosen site may also be granted special funding by the World Heritage Fund.

The inscription process involves two stages. Each of the member countries in the United Nations can prepare a list of tentative sites for inscription, and during the annual meeting of UNESCO they may be put to a vote. The current initiative seeks to include the beginnings of the kibbutz or a group of kibbutzim on Israel’s tentative list and to then promote inscription through international institutions.

Only one kibbutz, Israel’s first – Degania – is now included in the group. However, Yaski said they will not be inscribing only one kibbutz, such as Degania or Ein Harod, “because each of them represents a different phase in the development of the kibbutz. We think we may need to promote a group of kibbutzim, each of which expresses the physical and historical importance, or a group of kibbutzim in a particular geographic region, like the Jezreel Valley or the Menashe plateau,” Yaski said.

Either way, Yaski said they will not be seeking recognition of all 274 kibbutzim.

He added that inscription is important particularly in light of the significant changes made to the kibbutzim in recent years, including the abandonment of public buildings.

“I believe the move will increase the importance of the kibbutz, both among decision makers as well as among members of the movement,” Yaski said…

For the full article, click here.

Selling Venice?

Is the situation described below:

a.)  A crime against World Heritage?

b.) A clever (if presently mismanaged) way of funding architectural restorations?

c.) A cultural mold spore infection from The Venetian in Las Vegas?

c.) The inevitable surface eruption of consumer desire that has animated mass cultural tourism over the years?

From The Art News issue 217, October 2010

Ads of Sighs

The huge ads proliferating in Venice, now also lit up by night, are not bringing in huge money and stretch the application of the law to the point of illegality

By Enrico Tantucci

Since 2008, more and more huge advertisements have appeared in Venice, on palaces up and down the Grand Canal and on the façades of St Mark’s Square, the Biblioteca Marciana, and the Doge’s Palace. Now they are also lit up at night to give the advertisers a bigger bang for their bucks. The price, however, is not high; it costs about €40,000 a month for three years to cover part of Doge’s Palace overlooking the lagoon and connecting with the Bridge of Sighs—less than two pages of advertising in a daily paper. And even with this money coming in, the restoration is still €600,000 short of the €2.8m needed to finish the job.

The Doges' Palace, Venice

The city council and the superintendency of architecture for Venice, which has given permission for these ads, are adamant that this is the only way to finance the restoration of historic public buildings in the city as public funds have been very short since the special financing Venice used to get has been diverted to build the barriers between the Adriatic and the lagoon (due to be completed in 2014), and the restoration budget of the ministry of culture has been cut. Despite protests by amenity groups such as Fondo Ambiente Italiano and the Association of Private Committees for Venice, mayor Giorgio Orsoni and superintendent Renata Codello announced last month that they intended to carry on with this method of raising money. The ad spaces on the Biblioteca Marciana and in St Mark’s Square have been granted in return for €3.5m to Plakativ Media, a German company that rents out spaces to agencies and here the ads are already up yet some of the restoration has not even begun…

For entire article, click here

 

Why Even Bother With the Empty Slogans?

Anyone who knows the whole story about the quixotic and ultimately unsuccessful resettlement plan of the Egyptian government for the residents of Gourna (Qurna) on Luxor’s West Bank would have to laugh at the following story if it weren’t so infuriating

 

Hassan Fathy's Plans for New Gourna (with fanciful ancient motifs), c. 1945

Certainly Hassan Fathy’s design for New Gourna was a creative modernist-orientalist design.  But its historical significance does not lie in its creativity alone.  It lies in the authoritarian social aims of demographic engineering that did not work out the way they were expected to.

Have we gotten to the stage where old buildings (however artificial and socially corrosive)–have become heritage just for being officially commemorated in a strange parallel to our celebrity culture’s tendency to make people into celebrities just for being well-known?

The references in the following article to “helping the community” are utterly empty rhetoric.  What indication is there that the second New Gourna Project will be any more successful than the first?  Would, could, should are all conditional promises, not integral parts of the plan.  There is no need to suspect that there is anything behind the slogans but bait for positive PR by credulous journalists and cover for the lucrative contracts for consultants and construction firms that this project will undoubtedly spawn.

 

New Gourna today. Photo: Chant Avedissian, Aga Khan Trust

 

Why is an utter social failure like New Gourna more worthy of preserving than the fabric of 19th-century Luxor?  Egypt is in the process of ruthlessly exploiting and stripmining its material heritage.  No opportunity for a press conference is declined.  But this doesn’t even have the advantage of a lost pharaoh or buried treasure.  It is a willful misrepresentation of a grim social reality.

Isn’t the Heritage Establishment itself the only thing being lavishly funded and celebrated and commemorated here?

*   *   *

Via Nigel Herrington

From Al-Aharam 14 October 2010

Architecture for the poor

Nevine El-Aref reports on a UNESCO scheme to conserve and revive architect Hassan Fathy’s New Gourna village on the west bank at Luxor

Although the heat makes work in Luxor over the summer difficult, a committee of international architects gathered early last week on Luxor’s west bank in order to inspect Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy’s New Gourna village, launching a comprehensive scheme to help preserve this village consisting of mud-brick domiciles for the poor.

Constructed between 1946 and 1952 by pioneering architect Fathy, New Gourna aimed to provide housing for the population of the village of Old Gourna. Villagers from the latter had lived for generations above ancient Egyptian tombs, and they were moved in order to prevent damage to the tombs and to provide a model for low-cost and sustainable housing.

[…]

However, since then time has taken its toll on the village, and some people from Old Gourna always refused to be relocated to the new setting. As a result, parts of New Gourna were sparsely populated, and the village as a whole has been subject to a lack of maintenance and environmental problems, leading to the loss of some dwellings.

Cracks have spread in the walls of some buildings, and concrete buildings commissioned by the local authorities are even being constructed just a few metres away from the magnificent mud-brick theatre designed and built by Fathy.

[…]

International efforts have been made to safeguard New Gourna, but few concrete measures have been taken. Since the village is a key reference for architects, engineers and specialists in earthen architecture worldwide, an international association was set up in 2008 in Geneva in order to try to safeguard Fathy’s architectural work.

However, little work took place until 2009, when the village was declared a protected heritage site by prime ministerial decree, and a committee from the Ministry of Culture, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), the National Organisation for Urban Harmony and the Luxor governorate was formed to identify the perimeters of the village and the legal measures that could be taken to protect the site.

It was in this context that UNESCO set up a committee of experts in the field of sustainable and earthen architecture to help efforts to safeguard New Gourna. Last week, some two dozen international experts met in Luxor in order to make recommendations on a project aiming to safeguard New Gourna.

[…]

“We are here to begin a new adventure that fulfils the dream of a great man, Hassan Fathy, that his life did not see,” Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO assistant director-general for culture, told reporters at a press conference held to launch the $1 million rehabilitation project for New Gourna, which will last two years.

New Gourna Project Press Conference, Oct. 2, 2010

New Gourna Project Press Conference, Oct. 2, 2010

Bandarin said that Fathy had seen the future shape of architecture before others, a future that he had made concrete at New Gourna. “We are here to make this project a flagship for Luxor, Egypt and the world as a whole,” Bandarin said, explaining that the planned International Centre for Sustainable Architecture (ICSA) aimed to provide training and research facilities for Egyptian and international students in order to promote Fathy’s humanistic vision.

The project would have shorter and longer-term components, Bandarin said. The short-term component would last for a year and would include a geotechnical and infrastructural assessment of the site, its sewage system and road network, as well as documentation of the village’s history. A project master plan would be drawn up, and this would include a management map and details of the architectural task force.

The shorter-term activity would also seek urgently to consolidate the most-threatened buildings and restore the empty houses in order to set an example for later interventions.

“We are here to help the local community,” Bandarin added, explaining that buildings built in concrete in the village would be demolished under the plan and replaced by new ones similar to those in Fathy’s original design. The inhabitants of the demolished houses would be given new ones under the project, he said.

In the longer term, the project would include the construction of the proposed international centre in a central position in the village. The mosque would be restored, as would Fathy’s former residence. The centre would include a guesthouse for teachers, scholars and students, and the project as a whole would include an important environmental component and sewage-treatment scheme.

Overall, those living in New Gourna would benefit from the plan in the form of better housing conditions, and they would be able to capitalise on the national and international attention focussed on the village.

Local businesses could develop as a result of the new emphasis on mud-brick conservation, and villages could become entrepreneurs renting out rooms, running local eateries and shops and setting an example to surrounding communities of the social and economic gains to be made through the conservation and adaptive reuse of their own heritage.

For the full article, click here.

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Would, would, could, could, could…  but who will be there to report if the project funding just disappears into the same old pockets?