Metanavigation

Industrial architecture in Egypt in the 19th and 20th centuries

A survey project

Location

Cairo, Alexandria, Delta, Middle Egypt, Upper Egypt, Suez Canal, Red Sea

Background

Arsenal in the Citadel of Cairo: workshop hall with timber roof construction and wind catcher (malqaf). © DAIArsenal in the Citadel of Cairo (1820s and after): the former gun foundry. © DAIThis survey project was begun in April 2009 with the aim of studying the development of industrial architecture in Egypt from the beginning of the 19th century until the 1970s.
Egypt was the first country in the Middle East to develop modern factory industries on a larger scale already in the early 19th century. Since then, a rich and diversified heritage of industrial architecture has come into being which bears witness to the making of modern Egypt in the context of intensifying global interconnections. In research and conservation efforts, however, this heritage has largely been neglected.

Egypt was the first country in the Middle East to develop modern factory industries on a larger scale in the early 19th century, during the rule of Muhammad Ali Pasha (1805-1848). Since then, a rich and diversified heritage of industrial architecture has come into being which bears witness to technical, economic and social change, and the making of modern Egypt in the context of intensifying global interconnections. While there is a rich body of literature on the economic history and industrial development of Egypt, industrial architecture remained largely neglected in documentation, research, and conservation efforts. Mohamed Scharabi's Industrie und Industriebau in Ägypten (Tübingen: Wasmuth 1992) remained for a long time the only available monograph on the subject. Of recent, some master and doctoral theses from Egyptian universities and a few publications have at least taken into account some of the very few remaining structures from the Muhammad Ali period. Still, industrial archaeology in Egypt is only in its very beginnings. As economic restructuring and urban development pressure lead the increasing demolition of industrial buildings dating from all periods between the early 19th and the mid-20th century, documenting and researching this impressive architectural heritage has become a matter of urgency.

Objectives

Qanatir al-Khayriyya: Gate and administrative buildings of the cotton ginning factory Salvago, built 1895 by the architect Antonio Lasciac. © DAIFuwwa: Gates of the old Fez (or Tarbush) Factory (built 1824). © DAIAim of the survey is the recording of an illustrative sample of historical industrial buildings from the various periods under study, covering the whole of Egypt. Extant buildings are documented in photographs and partly in plan, and source material is explored to identify structures that have since disappeared. This sample serves to gain a first coherent overview of the developments of industrial architecture in Egypt, and study them in their local and global context.
Main research questions are: how did Egypt's industrial architecture develop in terms of functions, typologies, building techniques and materials, and architectural style? How do these developments relate to more general architectural trends, both on the local and global level? Who were the builders, engineers, architects, and patrons? What was their background and role? Which models and sources of inspiration can be identified, inside and outside of Egypt? Which specific solutions were developed for the local context? Did industrial architecture in Egypt play a role as trendsetter, technically or stylistically? Due to the wide range of building types involved, from workshop buildings to infrastructure buildings to facilities for administration, training, housing, and health, also socio-historical implications of industrial architecture have to be taken into consideration.

Methodology

Giza, Cairo: Brewery buildings of the former Brasserie des Pyramides (later al-Ahram Beverages Company), built around 1899. © DAIDamanhur: Interior view of the cotton ginning factory Barakat, dating back to the late 19th century. © DAILocalization and identification of industrial sites and buildings through field exploration campaigns and hints from oral and written sources;
visits and photographic documentation of accessible sites and buildings;
localization of, and research in, plan collections, company archives, various published and unpublished sources;
oral history interviews with employees, engineers, architects etc.;
building survey, measuring, and building-archaeological research for selected case studies.

Current research

Giza, Cairo: Brewery buildings of the former Brasserie des Pyramides, interior view of the brewhouse, with historical reinforced-concrete construction. © DAIGiza, Cairo: Pump building of the Giza Waterworks, 1890s. © DAIDuring the campaigns of 2009 and 2010 so far, 36 extant buildings/sites were visited and documented in photos. Areas explored so far include Greater Cairo, Alexandria, the Western and Central Delta regions, and the Red Sea coast. Relevant source collections (including plan collections, company archives etc.) were located, and a substantial bibliography of literature and published sources compiled and partly evaluated. First results are published in autumn 2010
A building survey and documentation is being conducted at the former al-Ahram brewery in Giza between August and December 2010.

During the campaigns of 2009 and 2010 so far, 36 extant buildings/sites were visited and documented in photos. Areas explored so far include Greater Cairo, Alexandria, the Western and Central Delta regions, and the Red Sea coast. For these and other buildings, relevant source collections (including plan collections, company archives etc.) were located, and a substantial bibliography of literature and published sources compiled and partly evaluated.
The surveyed buildings comprise a wide variation of types, from the large arsenal complex at the Citadel of Cairo dating from the time of Muhammad Ali (1805-1848), to the cotton ginning mills of the later 19th century, to the giant textile works in Alexandria and Mahalla el-Kubra from the 1930s to 1960s. Waterworks, electricity works, railway and tramway buildings, printing houses, Alexandria: STIA textile factories, view of the southern facades of the workshop buildings of 1946, following the curve of the street. Architect: Ferdinand Debbané. © DAITanta: Former electrical generator building of the Tanta Waterworks, built in 1931. © DAIpaper mills, sugar refineries, food and beverage factories, tobacco factories, leather tanneries count among the surveyed sites. Architectural styles range from the „Rumi style“ (the local variation of Ottoman baroque) of the earlier 19th century to a variety of historicist styles from the later 19th and early 20th centuries, to Art-Deco and International Style from the 1930s to 60s. The architectural diversity, quality, and idiosynchrasies of industrial buildings in Egypt are impressive also in global comparison, and make industrial archaeology in Egypt a worthwhile endeavor.

First results of the survey are published in autumn 2010 as a book chapter: Ralph Bodenstein: "Industrial Architecture in Egypt from Muhammad 'Ali to Sadat: A Field Survey", in: Mohammad al-Asad (ed.): Workplaces: The Transformation of Places of Production: Industrialization and the Built Environment in the Islamic World, Istanbul: Bilgi University Press (in print).

Alexandria: Textile factories of the Filature Nationale/al-Shirka al-Ahliyya, yarn dyeing works built in the early 1960s by the Egyptian concrete construction firm SPICO. © DAIBetween August and December 2010, a building survey and building-archaeological study is being conducted at the former brewery of Brasserie des Pyramides in Giza – a landmark building erected ca. 1899, and later renamed into al-Ahram Beverages Company. The survey work is conducted by Justina Czerwinsky und Stefanie Hünitzsch, students at the Master program for Conservation Studies (Masterstudium Denkmalpflege) at Berlin Institute of Technology (TU Berlin), in cooperation with the Faculty of Archaeology at Cairo University.

 Kafr el-Zayyat: Main entrance of the Egyptian Salt & Soda Company, approximately 1930s. © DAI  Alexandria: STIA textile factories, main administration building, built 1946. Architect: Ferdinand Debbané. © DAI  Alexandria: STIA textile factories, block for wool spinning and weaving built in the mid-1950s. Architect: Ferdinand Debbané. © DAI

Bibliography

Ralph Bodenstein: "Industrial Architecture in Egypt from Muhammad 'Ali to Sadat: A Field Survey", in: Mohammad al-Asad (ed.): Workplaces: The Transformation of Places of Production: Industrialization and the Built Environment in the Islamic World, Istanbul: Bilgi University Press (in print, autumn 2010)

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