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Forgotten Spaces; from Rust to Revival !
Cairo, Egypt
image: Hebatuallah Hendawy | © all rights reserved
Cairo, Egypt
meeting place
construction preparation
26 August 2021
Forgotten Spaces is a participatory design and construct project aiming to seek out redundant and neglected spaces across Istabl Antar,Cairo.

A ‘Forgotten Space’could be small or large, a vacant space,a scrubland,an abandoned area or tunnel or flyover.

The main objective of this project is to reveal how the forgotten spaces of Istabl Antar can be utilized in cost effective ways to act as catalysts for social,economic,and environmental regeneration.
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"Forgotten Spaces" is a participatory design and construct project aiming to seek out redundant and neglected spaces across self-built communities.Forgotten spaces present an ideal place for activities to emerge as a neglected potential for revival.

Looking around "self-built communities" in Cairo, At first it might seem packed and chaotic, but look a little closer and you’ll start to notice leftover spaces everywhere — overgrown backyards, empty pieces of land, deserted squares, flyovers fill of garbage, gloomy pedestrian tunnels and unused parking lots. There are so many forgotten corners  just begging for a makeover. 

‘Forgotten Spaces’ is an experimental “urban acupuncture” project that aims to turn many of the forgotten lots in self built communities into a network of usable and productive public spaces.

First implementation site:
Our first case study is an area called Istabl Antar, it is one of the remarkable Self-built communities in Cairo; currently it is the focus of the governmental institutes that aim to figure out a solution for its unsafe situation. It is considered within the development framework of ISDF to develop the informal areas in Egypt to achieve social justice. BUT Until this moment Istabl Antar is one of the least informal areas that no major intervention occurred in.
1/3 of the area of Istabl antar consists of an abandonment monument called el Gabakhana ( which is closed by the government). The residents have been practicing 100% activism as they were able to provide themselves with their basic needs through self organisation. They built their own houses, created non-governmental organisations and make sure to educate their children.
Kick off Workshop with the community

image: Forgotten Spaces | © all rights reserved
Social/community impact:
The implemented process focused on building a sustainable social infrastructure that stimulates the people to build networks in their communities. A sustainable social infrastructure included designing a space with the citizens that will have an assembly place, an inviting park, women-run education center and a shared playground. 
We believe that having a sustainable social infrastructure can result in having a strong social bond between the people which respectively increases the opportunity to maintain a productive social support
In order to make the people feel ownership for the new place, the design has developed according to the original/current "path study" of the people were the main corridor path mainly connects the footings of the houses together. 
After the "Forgotten Space" is revitalized, people will be able to do formal and informal activities (i.e. regular and spontaneous community meet-ups). Also the space will act as a socially and economically productive public space (i.e. due to cultural traditions men don't allow their wives to go to work  which made them have a lot of wasted time, that's why; we decided with them to build a small women-run education center )

Environmental impact:
Unfortunately, There is a popular perception in Egypt that environmental solutions are for the rich and high standard projects. But I am sure that these solutions are an essential need for poor urban areas (i.e needed solutions to protect the people against the sun in hot climate) . Forgotten spaces project provides a space for this to happen.

The selected site lies adjacent to a big cliff which represents many threats that harm the people.

For example, throwing the garbage on and from the cliff  which get accumulated on daily bases (Mostly organic waste). Moreover the gravel attracts many insects as well as snakes and scorpions that harm the people, threaten them and spread diseases.

We investigated the site with our partner ( Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment - RISE) and accordingly we decided the exact safe intervention spot. Also, came out with the conclusion that the soil is good to be used for any activity that excludes the use of water that is directly pored from the cliff. 
Accordingly, the environmental impact includes:
1. Making the space cleaner and greener, through cleaning it as a first step and creating a green park afterwards which will help in decreasing the risk of diseases in the area
2. Solving the problem of garbage by making use of the waste via biogas units
3. Using the "women-run education center" for doing environmental educational campaigns for the residents
4. Securing the cliff by stabilizing the soil and by putting protection barrier.
5. Green roofing for the education center will be done by (RISE)
6. its is planned that during construction we are going to use the usable onsite materials for earth construction (i.e. building with rammed earth).
Core team
“YOU-Design” process depends on a set of core values, one of which is the power of collaboration for sustaining the project's impact. Respectively the team is consists of representatives from the community, local partners, international partners. This team is led by the project's architect (Hebatuallah Hendawy) which we call the maestro of the process.

The team representatives include:
1. “Open Architecture Collaborative”
It is a nonprofit design services firm founded in 1999. They are building a more sustainable future through the power of professional design. By tapping a network of more than 75,000 professionals willing to lend time and expertise to help those who would not otherwise be able to afford their services, we bring design, construction and development services where they are most critically needed.

2. Handover:
Hand Over is an independent egyptian enterprise. Their main aim is to provide humane, resilient
and affordable housing conditions for unprivileged communities.

3. "Takafol Social Responsibility"
It is an NGO located inside the selected informal settlement that focuses on helping needy people who need support to get their basic needs fulfilled.

4. "Research Institute for a Sustainable EnvironmenT "
RISE serves as a multidisciplinary institute dedicated to promoting research in sustainable environment in Egypt, the Middle East and North Africa.

5. in addition to representations from 3 selected community based organizations inside Istabl Antar
Technical drawings
Design implementation Plan - Developed on site with the community

image: Hebatuallah Hendawy | © all rights reserved
Design made as a conclusion of the series of workshops with the community

image: Forgotten Spaces | © all rights reserved
Help bring our project to life!

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Where are we now
What we have already done:

1. Mapping of forgotten spaces in the area and selected the space of intervention
2. Built Partnerships to form the team of collaborators
3. Implemented the "YOU-design Porocess with the community to come up with the proposed design
4. Lastly and most importantly we have built an enormous trust with the community over the past years. Now we have full access to the area which is a slum (guetto) in greater cairo region
5. We have helped selected women of istabl antar to  create sustained innovations that are truly human-centered i.e. income generating projects for multiple families in the neighborhood. The project’s goal was to drive social change by building enterprises in their own low-income urban community. 
An indication of our team’s capacity:
20% funding already raised
70% expertise already found
80% materials / equipment already found
80% builders already found
Finance: € 6,500
We want to create a productive public space in at least 3 forgotten spaces within Istabl Antar
  • 3 Public Space creation
  • Website to document the revival processes
Skills: Planning & Management, Design, Technique, PR & Marketing, Financial advice, Law & Politics
We are interested to have open discussions with mentors with different expertise including:
1.Planning and Management: We need to learn how to widen the project's scale and ensure its sustainability
2. Design and Technique: We are interested to learn more about impelmeneting earth techniques in the revival of the seleceted forgotten space i.e. doing playscapes for the kids from earth matherials 
3. PR and Marketing : We want to learn how to use social media in our benefit
4. Financial Advice: We want to learn how to sustain an income to ensure its sustainability i.e. continious maintainance to the space after we leave
5. Law and politics: We want to understand the political dimension with informal settlements i.e. Land ownership of the spaces when it officially belongs to the government but tottally run bu the community
Help bring our project to life!
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