New Gourna was a housing project masterminded by Hassan Fathy with the objective of re-housing the Seven Thousand people of Gourna, a village built on the site of the Tomb of the Nobles, part of the ancient cemetery of Thebes (now Luxor, Egypt). The project incorporated traditional techniques and materials and vernacular styles with the benefit of contemporary know-how, generating an economically and ecologically sustainable building ethos that was integral to the community that would occupy the village.
Gourna was a village grown out of tomb raiding, a community of people who lived off of the proceeds of artifacts supplied by the ancient graveyard, on and around which their settlement had established itself, as well as work connected with official excavations. The time came when the tombs were not as fruitful as they once were, tourism died down and the authorities became less and less tolerant of raiders. Inevitably the Egyptian government eventually decided it was time to evict the Gournis from the historically significant site of the established home.
New Gourna showcases the potential of traditional techniques as genuine solutions to some contemporary problems. All of the buildings here are built from the earth of which they stand, in the form of either adobe or, as in most cases, baked mud bricks. A huge brick production yard was setup on site to supply the build with adjacent water supply, established using the holes the generated by the excavation of mud for bricks.
New Gourna is in Upper Egypt, the region occupying the south of the country. Water is plentiful, even for the further reaches of the settlement that are not directly on the Nile, as a network of waterways has been developed over the centuries, carrying water inland to help sustain life. However, rainfall is scarce and temperatures reach 50 degrees in the summer so most of the land itself is dry and much of daily life for the inhabitants revolves around water.
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Description: Pioneering project in sustainable human settlement.
Design: Hassan Fathy
Building status: in use
Construction period: built between 1945-1948
Location: Luxor, Egypt
Coordinates: 25°44'3'' N, 32°38'2.7'' E
Tags: community practice, big ideas, earth, traditional technique, low tech, mud brick
Project ID: 30
Published: 29 May 2011
Last updated: 12 October 2011
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