Foster selected to transform Cairo slum without mass eviction

UK-based architecture practice Foster + Partners has won a competition to masterplan the transformation of a notorious slum in downtown Cairo, Egypt.

The architect says its plan for the Maspero Triangle district, where around 12,000 people are thought to be living in informal settlements tucked in among high-end real estate, will bring commercial development to the area without a mass eviction of the standing residents.

We believe this is an exciting opportunity to transform the lives of the people that live in this neighbourhood– Grant Brooker, Foster + Partners

It claimed its plan would be a benchmark for urban regeneration in the rest of Egypt, where, according to officials, 40 million people live in informal settlements – just under half of Egypt’s population of 90 million.

The competition was run by Egypt’s new Egyptian Ministry of State for Urban Renewal and Informal Settlements (MURIS), which was created only in 2014.

The minister in charge of MURIS, Laila Rashed Iskandar, told a UN conference in March that the Maspero transformation was part of a new government policy of regenerating urban areas without the mass evictions of the past.

"It’s a rights-based approach," she said, adding that in return for receiving property rights, residents are brought into a new property tax system, thereby helping offset part of the costs of building new homes and amenities.

Foster + Partners said that Maspero Triangle, on the banks of the River Nile, is characterised by its dense urban fabric.

The spatial attributes, including narrow, shaded streets, will be retained (Foster + Partners)

The 35ha masterplan will introduce new residential, commercial and retail spaces, while rehousing the majority low income population in the same area and retaining its character and spatial attributes.

The project is envisaged as a combination of public initiative with private investment support to produce a viable urban regeneration scheme.

Based on estimated land values, the masterplan places commercial and residential spaces along the river edge and main street frontages, while mixed-use buildings and open community spaces occupy the more private, central core.

Foster + Partners said this will allow people living and working there now to keep doing so, while new office and retail spaces on the edges of the site will create employment opportunities for the rest of Cairo.

The first phase will fill the empty spaces in the district with greenery. Then the parts of the residential and commercial areas will be built according to a sustainable model of development, Foster + Partners said.

A central open space at the heart of the neighbourhood will be provided for community events.

This space links to the food market serving visitors and locals, and to a retail spine and hospital.

A footbridge will cross the Nile to the exclusive neighbourhood of Zamalek (Foster + Partners)

The settlement prioritises pedestrian traffic with narrow, shaded streets. It also connects across the Nile to the exclusive neighbourhood of Zamalek via a footbridge.

At the foot of the bridge, there is the ‘Lagoon’, lined with a cafés, restaurants and shops that, Foster + Partners said, "will make this a highly desirable leisure destination".

Grant Brooker, senior executive partner at Foster + Partners, said the masterplan would "set the benchmark for urban regeneration throughout the country".

"We believe this is an exciting opportunity to transform the lives of the people that live in this neighbourhood," he said, "supporting the vibrant public realm by giving them greener community spaces, and a better place to live and work, while creating new spaces for offices, retail and residences."

Top image: The plan will bring commercial development to the area without a mass eviction of the standing residents (Foster + Partners)

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