In a city where self-built has turn out to be the norm, though till now neglected. This photo series focus on my discovery journey of a marginalized community in Cairo called Istabl Antar. A journey that focuses on empowering the neglected inhabitants by introducing and testing a new participatory design model called; YOU-Design.
“YOU-Design” advocates that it is our obligation; as architects; to make a process that guides self-built communities to resolve their unmet needs without losing their liveliness. This is achieved by neutralizing the role of the architect to be the Maestro of change while empowering the inhabitants as a reflection of the notion “Power to the People” in practice.
Many self-built communities like Istabl Antar strive for constructive opportunities for improving their quality of life. The “YOU-Design” model which is proposed in this thesis and the interdisciplinary team involved in its application fulfills this vision.
YOU-Design is similar to how self-built communities are being built; as Lydon describes it: “step-by-step, piece-by-piece” process. This supports the fact that self-built areas are not built based on the traditional ways of practice, but rather built by the inhabitants themselves. The empirical work of this case study assures that such communities do have big potentials. They only lack the appropriate opportunities.
Istabl Antar is a vital informal settlements in Cairo. It is constructed on desert land owned by the state and developed based solely on the efforts of its residents. The case of Istabl Antar reflects “A long story filled with struggle” as one of the inhabitants described the situation of the area as a self-built and self-developed community. The area had been highlighted in the media for a couple of times talking about its children labor and the kids’ status of education in comparison to their potential.
Istabl Antar; as part of Ezbet Khairallah; is deliberated as a self-developed area created by its own occupants who initially made the basic needs that permits them to stay. The self-built notion of the area was created through an informal way that is not indorsed by the government. Afterwards, when the area started to develop, CBOs started to play a vital role in providing the area with services. At this point, the authority started to care for the issue of land tenure. Respectively, diverse stakeholders started to get involved in developing Istabl Antar including the government, CBOs and the inhabitants.
Based on the empirical experience, there are always opportunities and difficulties that arise along the process. Honestly speaking, there is no template of difficulties or opportunities that we meet along the way. Yet there are a couple of recommendations that can aid in easing the process and making it as productive as possible. These recommendations can be considered as the architect’s guide towards empowering self-built communities.