It’s forty years since Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy published his first book on working with the rural poor to build beautiful and environmentally friendly mud-brick homes back in 1946. Originally titled ‘To Build With The People’ and published in 1972, the book was later taken up by the University of Chicago Press and published with the catchier title ‘Architecture for the Poor’.
Through his work he championed decent housing for all Egyptians and especially the poorest who lived outside the cash economy. Fathy (which is pronounced ‘fat-hy’) was also keen to preserve Egypt’s particular brand of vernacular architecture which he felt worked much better the poor than the concrete matchboxes that the inhabitants of Cairo now live in.
Years later, his model village ‘New Gourna’ near Luxor is falling into disrepair. And for all its faults those who still live there want to see it better preserved. In 2010, World Monument Fund visited the village and documented all the repairs that would be needed. What’s happened since then is not so clear. I’ve emailed them asking them for an update, which I will happily share if/when I get it. Whilst the WMF were in Gourna they made this stunning little film about the village.