by Shraddha NairJan 18, 2021
A team of five architects from Cairo has bagged the Rifat Chadirji Prize 2020, declared by the Tamayouz Excellence Award. The annual international thematic competition, named after Iraqi architect and academic Rifat Chadirji, sought designs responsible for local challenges from architects, designers, and planners to deliver uncompromising concepts that are meaningful, sustainable, and creative. The winning team includes Ali Khaled Elewa, Mostafa Ahmed Zakaria, Sherif Khaled Abdelkhaleq, Ebtisam Mohamed Ahmed Elgizawy and Hoda Essam Abdelmawla.
The topography of Egypt is highly influenced by the Nile river, which runs approximately 750 miles, and Cairo becomes the entry to the Nile delta. The site background includes the district of Al Zamalek housing lavish homes and streets, known for its cosmopolitan culture, cuisine and art scene. The neighbourhood of Maspero features European style architecture with wide boulevards and traffic circles. Al Tahrir Square, a major public town square in downtown Cairo, serves as a background for public demonstrations. And the Egyptian museum, a landmark structure designed by a French architect in 1901 that houses nearly 120,000 items.
Due to the present development of Egypt’s administrative capital to the east of Cairo, there exists an inevitable scope for regeneration in the area. The competition challenged the participants firstly to design a living pedestrian bridge over the Nile, connecting Midan Al-Tahrir area to Al-Zamalek, and secondly to re-imagine the public space on the east bank of the Nile, which once accommodated the NDP building. Therefore, the challenge becomes a global response to deal with the highly motorised cities of the 21st century by proposing an ‘alternative living’ agenda.
A pedestrianised bridge or access in Cairo then mainly focussed on addressing the areas of concern like pollution due to noise, air, light, and the areas of opportunities like recognising and highlighting the historical legacies of the region. The resulting bridge would serve as a catalyst for embracing and experiencing the multiple layers of the city and its ecosystem as the present issue is that most of the experiences are arranged in a fragmented spatial setting, leading to loss of intimacy and connection between the different communities and citizens.
The winning design therefore attempts to stitch the urban fabric of the two banks together, which resulted in a massive form, firstly connecting an unobstructed linear path (between the Egyptian Museum and Cairo Tower) and secondly, a semi-elliptical path housing the Cultural Nile Plaza and the Elevated Garden acting as a socio-economic hub. The main intervention plan is that of creating a tunnel system for vehicular traffic and relocation of the exit of the 6th October Bridge while the concept impactfully facilitates space for an urban park blended into the land on both sides with two concealed floor levels above the Nile.
Out of the 177 entries from 42 countries, the winning idea by the Cairo team of architects truly re-imagines and reflects the historical landscapes of Egypt for a future heading towards promoting green cities and sustainable environments. The team has also been accoladed with the ‘People’s Choice Award’ and the international jury, headed by Rasem Badran (Jury Chair), noted that: “This design appears to be hugging its own piece of the river and fostering life within its boundaries. The starting plaza of the bridge at the eastern side is larger and more spacious to assure the relative importance of this side (the location of the former National Democratic Party), while on the western bank, the plaza is small and conforms to the realistic properties of this area.
Under the Rifat Chadirji Prize 2020, the winning team will receive a trophy, USD 5000, a certificate and a trip to the 2020 award ceremony. As the same team won the People’s Choice Award as well, they will also receive USD 500 and a certificate.
The winners and finalists will be celebrated and awarded during Tamayouz Excellence Award’s annual ceremony to be held in 2021.