Architecture firm Foster and Partners revealed that it has won a competition to design plans for the contested Maspero Triangle in downtown Cairo, held under the auspices of the Ministry of Urban Renewal and Informal Settlements.
The Maspero Triangle, which lies behind the Maspero state TV building, is largely informal and houses around 4,000 families.
The images on Foster and Partners website show minimalist, modern buildings with roof gardens and shining skyscrapers in the distance.
The company’s press release states that the redesign, “aims to introduce new residential, commercial and retail spaces, while rehousing the majority low income population in the same area and retaining its unique character and spatial attributes.”
The Maspero Triangle has long been a site of contention, as various government plans have been proposed to redevelop the area, often without the consent of the residents. In July, residents complained that while their buildings remained in poor repair with cracks and other damages, the government’s solution was to demolish buildings rather than renovate them.
Residents, speaking to Mada Masr at the time, were worried that they would be evicted from their homes under the guise of renovation or demolition and would be unable to return. Their fears are based in municipal authority’s desire to transform the area into an administrative and shopping district.
Ahmed Zaazaa, an architect and urban researcher who has been involved in the Maspero Triangle, says he is happy that Foster and Partners won the competition because their plan takes into account residents’ desires.
“I was surprised [they won]. I thought one of the Egyptian offices would win for political reasons, but they did and they did a great job,” he said. He explained that, of all the architecture firms, Foster and Partners gave the residents the most space and weight in their plan for the area.
“[Foster and Partners] sent a clear statement that they don’t want to intervene with people’s lifestyles and that’s why the images included the man with the bread,” he explained.
One of the images Foster and Partners included showed a man bicycling with bread balanced on his head.
Yahia Shawkat, co-founder of 10 Tooba, is also optimistic about plans to re-design the Maspero Triangle saying, “They seem to respect the areas where people are already living, it’s not gentrification. The houses will be redone, but on the same scale as before, the street fabric will be similar.”
Zaazaa also stated that there were residents from the Maspero Triangle on the competition’s jury and that they gave Foster and Partners’ plan a perfect score. He added that he and others involved in developing the Maspero Triangle will be giving a public presentation on Foster and Partners’ proposal to make residents aware of the project.
Part of the plan includes constructing a footbridge to Zamalek, an affluent neighborhood on an island in the Nile. The architecture firm also plans to introduce retail outlets in a place they have termed the “Lagoon,” near the proposed footbridge.
Grant Brooker, the senior executive partner at Foster and Partners, stated via the press release that, “We believe this is an exciting opportunity to transform the lives of the people that live in this neighborhood – supporting the vibrant public realm by giving them greener community spaces and a better place to live and work, while creating new spaces for offices, retail and residences.”
“On the banks of the river Nile, the future of Maspero burns bright,” Brooker added.
Past attempts to develop the area include the Cairo2050 project, which was widely criticized for its intention to evacuate poor residents and sell real estate to rich investors. The current minister of housing played a crucial role in Cairo 2050, in his capacity as head of the General Agency for Urban Planning at the time.