Hassan Fathy: An Early Visionary of Sustainable Architecture

Born in Alexandra on the 23rd of March, 1900, Hassan Fathy passed away in 1989, but not before leaving his mark on the world.

Fathy was an architect and the very first Egyptian that did not incorporate western ideologies into his architectural techniques. Instead he dug into the past and brought back old techniques and mingled them with new ones.

He brought back the use of mud brick, also known as Adobe. It involves the molding of clay bricks in such a way that it does not crack when dried. Structures made with these techniques are known to capture solar heat, making buildings cooler during the day and warmer during the night.

As you can imagine this is helpful in the deserts of Egypt where temperatures are high during the day and cooler during the night

His first design was that of a building for the elderly, but his most notable work was done in 1946. During this year he worked on the Gourna Village project where he incorporated new designs and urban planning with older, more sustainable building techniques.

For him it was not only about sustainability, but culture as well. He believed that architecture was about bridging the gap between new architectural techniques and older techniques that actually worked.

During this project, he brought building techniques back to the people, allowing them to take control of their own futures. Older techniques, like the Adobe technique, were efficient and, by implementing it again, the needs for things such as air conditioners to keep homes cool, was not needed. This is to say if the people of the village could afford it.

He implemented sustainable urban planning so that the communities can benefit to the fullest and believed that culture should always be kept in the loop when architectural designs were made.

There are many that have their criticism towards Fathy and his methods and many others supported him. During 1949 and 1952, he worked in the building department of the Ministry of Education. He later acted as the head of the Architectural Department at the Fine Arts College.

Hassan has been honored on more than one occasion, receiving the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Balzan Prize for Architecture and Urban Planning as well as the Right Livelihood Award.

Hassan Fathy, truly an architect for the people.

Looking at Hassan Fathy and his work, you can see that he not only brought back efficient and sustainable building techniques, but also trained ordinary citizens to make their own building materials and even construct their own homes.

These older techniques are sustainable and energy efficient, helping those living in smaller villages to reduce their reliance on modern technologies, which are not only expensive, but have negative influences on their culture and environment. -ANNABEL SCHOEMAN

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