In a recent article for The National, journalist Razmig Bedirian “identified some of the most beautiful sites designed by Arab architects.” Among them features the American University in Cairo (AUC) campus in New Cairo, one of the “7 stunning buildings from around the world,” and designed by Abdelhalim Ibrahim Abdelhalim, one of Egypt’s foremost contemporary architects, about the vast and complex project.
The journalist points out that the AUC New Cairo campus “has design elements that are unique to Egyptian architectural traditions but also employs contemporary approaches.”
In 2008, AUC moved from its downtown location, in Tahrir Square, out to the southeastern edge of the capital. “We were moving the roots of life from one city to another,” said Abdelhalim.
In the book Abdelhalim Ibrahim Abdelhalim: An Architecture of Collective Memory (AUC Press, 2020), the first comprehensive study of the work and career of Abdelhalim, distinguished professor of architecture at the University of Southern California James Steele studies Abdelhalims’s deep belief in the power of rituals as a guiding force behind various human behaviors and the spaces in which they are enacted and designed to play out. Steele analyzes how Abdelhalim integrates the rituals of possession, reverence, order, the transmission of knowledge, procession, human institutions, geometry, light, the sense of place, materiality, and the ritual of color, into his designs.
Built on what was once barren land on the outskirts of Cairo, “Abdlehalim has transformed [the New Cairo campus] into an oasis [. . .] a desirable destination,” writes Steele.
As architectural trends have evolved throughout the years – going from the lavish styles of the 19th century to the more subdued and minimal approaches of today – Arab architects have drawn inspiration from the culture and adapted it to contemporary tastes and needs.sd f