Block 36 is a concept design for a peculiar housing development located in the raw desert between Cairo-Alexandria desert road and Sheikh Zayed City in West Cairo. The idea developed by Shahira Fahmy Architects, seeks to intermingle solid and void forms in a bid to merge functional spaces with green, semi-outdoor space.
The unique juxtaposition of volumes creates a welcoming atmosphere within the core of the building mass. Open-air courts and garden spaces overlap with functional living spaces, while cross ventilation and natural lighting flood virtually all the spaces within. Its an intriguing concept that lends itself to high density tropical housing that is able to provide security and privacy without sacrificing architecture or design.
SFA’s design has been conceptualized on two levels. First, the urban massing drew inspiration from the patterns and forms of the urbanized plots of agricultural land which have been translated to integrated units with alternating patches of green/open spaces/patios/solid/void on the different floors of the design. Secondly, the architectural language expressed in the irregular elevations- characteristic, of most parts of Cairo provide a reference for the design of the block’s skyline.
Security and the separation between public and private areas are important social and cultural issues that have been taken into consideration for the layout of gates and boundaries. A central courtyard, characteristic of Islamic architectural layouts, together with patios on other floors and balconies create a pleasant flow of open spaces with different levels of opacity, and allows airflow through the building, which is an important consideration in view of sustainability and the climatic context.
Projections are used for shading, and creating irregularities that maximize the use of living space, surface area and open spaces. The stairs or their inclines are protruding and apparent to create a feeling of dynamic flow and livelihood. The color code is mainly earthy keeping in harmony with the surroundings, and a range of textures is used with rougher stone textures closer to the ground, to more refined textures towards the top. Surveys of typical building elements such as gateways, projections, stairs, screens, in between spaces, colors and textures have contributed to defining and refining the identity of block 36.