It is with great sadness that AUC Press learned of the passing of Abdelhalim Ibrahim Abdelhalim, one of Egypt’s foremost contemporary architects, urban planner, and professor, who died on October 16 at the age of 80.
Abdelhalim was the designer of over one hundred cultural, institutional, administrative, residential, and rehabilitation projects worldwide, such as the Egyptian Embassy in Amman, the Uthman Ibn Affan Mosque in Qatar, and the Cultural Park for Children in Cairo, for which he received an Aga Khan Award for Architecture. He was the architectural brainchild behind the master plan for the American University in Cairo (AUC) campus in New Cairo.
“I was mesmerized by the idea of liberal arts as a vision or framework for the design of the campus,” Abdelhalim told AUC in a 2019 interview, reflecting on the site built on 260 acres of desert land. “The campus was a result of a rational realization of the liberal arts concepts and ideas in space.”
Last year, the acclaimed architect was the 2020 laureate of the Tamayouz Excellence Award’s highest accolade, the Tamayouz Lifetime Achievement Award, which “celebrates the achievements of individuals who have made significant contributions towards humanity and the advancement of architecture and the built environment in the Near East and North Africa.”
James Steele, the world-renown authority on the history and theory of architecture, author of Abdelhalim Ibrahim Abdelhalim: An Architecture of Collective Memory (AUC Press, 2020) writes in the book’s introduction entitled ‘A Commitment to Resistance’: “Abdelhalim Ibrahim Abdelhalim was born in Egypt in 1941, in the small town of Sornaga, just south of Cairo, and has tried to retain the values of his youth. He has intentionally resisted those forces of contemporary life that he has seen as threatening to them, and his entire career as an architect may be seen as his personal quest to do so.”
Abdelhalim firmly believed that rituals serve to connect people to their surroundings and to nature. “While they may change according to a particular culture, they invariably mark rites of passage such as birth, graduation, marriage, and death or are connected to the mysterious relationship between people and their natural surroundings,” Steele writes in his book, the first comprehensive analysis and study of the work and career of the late Egyptian architect.
Abdelhalim received his PhD in architecture from the University of California, Berkley, in 1978, a master’s in architecture from the University of Oregon in 1968, a graduate diploma in housing and building technology from Cairo University in 1967, and a bachelor’s degree in architecture, also from Cairo University in 1963.
He was a professor of architectural design and theory at Cairo University and the principal of Community Design Collaborative Abdelhalim (CDC Abdelhalim), a private architectural planning and development consultancy firm he established in 1978.
AUC Press extends its deepest condolences to Abdelhalim’s family and friends at this difficult time.