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NEW GOURNA VILLAGE
Luxor, West Bank, Egypt
New Gourna Village, an experimental earthen village on the West Bank of the Nile, is a testament to how the relationship between heritage and society is often fraught with multiple meanings and conflicting values.
In 1945, the Egyptian Department of Antiquities commissioned the renowned architect Hassan Fathy to design and construct a new settlement to which the inhabitants of Old Gourna were to be relocated, in an effort to curtail suspected looting at the nearby Pharaonic sites and facilitate tourism development. Fathy’s philosophy and vision derived from humanistic values about the connections between people and places and the use of traditional knowledge and resources in designing the built environment.
New Gourna was at once his greatest achievement and most profound disappointment. Though Fathy's project was meant to shelter 20,000 inhabitants, only part of the plan was realized due to political and financial complications and opposition on the part of the residents to relocation. The constructed New Gourna included housing and many public facilities. Today, it remains a dynamic living settlement; however, nearly 40 percent of the original buildings have been lost.
HOW WE HELPED
After New Gourna was included on the 2010 Watch, WMF joined forces with UNESCO to assess current conditions. UNESCO surveyed buildings and documented conservation needs.WMF complemented these efforts with a community assessment to integrate social and economic concerns into planning and decision-making about the future of the village and its preservation.
WMF’s team surveyed and interviewed more than a third of New Gourna’s 174 households, analyzing conditions, identifying changes in the environment, and examining the use of space and adaptations to the buildings over time. To view a film about the New Gourna community, click here.
The assessment findings are summarized in the report, New Gourna Village: Conservation and Community.
WHY IT MATTERS
Fathy inspired a new generation of architects and planners worldwide through his integration of traditional materials with modern architectural principles. He is largely credited as a pioneer of sustainable architecture. Fathy also the inclusion and empowerment of society’s less fortunate through participation in design and building processes, a signature theme in his seminal publication, Architecture for the Poor. His innovative mixed-use plan for New Gourna, incorporating schools and other public buildings, remains a powerful and well preserved element of the village.
New Gourna is the icon of Fathy’s legacy. The ideas he engendered and the evolution of this community are very relevant to today’s challenges of environmental protection and urban growth.
Hassan Fathy's New Gourna: Past, Present, Future
As part of its assessment efforts at New Gourna, the WMF team engaged the local community in a dialogue about the history of village and its conservation, and produced the film: Hassan Fathy's New Gourna: Past - Present - Future.