Friday, October 08, 2010

Saving Heliopolis?

Al Ahram Weekly

Once the hallmark of architectural elegance and a rare example of a well-planned suburb, the Cairo district of Heliopolis is today under threat from property developers. When will the government act to save it, asks Mohamed Mursi

It's not so painful, perhaps, when a villa is pulled down in the Cairo district of Mohandessin and replaced by a high-rise. But when the same thing happens in Heliopolis, it is more distressing. Mohandessin is a new suburb, one that took shape in the 1970s with the resurgence of the luxury housing market. But Heliopolis is an older neighbourhood and an architectural treasure, and it is being ravaged.

The demolition of old villas built in the distinctive style of the beginning of the last century when Baron Edouard Empain created the suburb is nothing short of criminal, according to Mohamed Abdel-Baqi Ibrahim, a prominent architect who has recently carried out research on Heliopolis.

The architectural model on which Heliopolis was based offers a damning contrast to the random development to which we have since grown accustomed, Ibrahim says, pointing out that the suburb was built at the beginning of the 20th century to answer to the rising demand for housing in Cairo.

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