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Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt (Phoenix Books) Paperback – December 15, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0226239163 ISBN-10: 0226239160

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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Books
  • Paperback: 366 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226239160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226239163
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #626,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Architecture for the Poor describes Hassan Fathy's plan for building the village of New Gourna, near Luxor, Egypt, without the use of more modern and expensive materials such as steel and concrete. Using mud bricks, the native technique that Fathy learned in Nubia, and such traditional Egyptian architectural designs as enclosed courtyards and vaulted roofing, Fathy worked with the villagers to tailor his designs to their needs. He taught them how to work with the bricks, supervised the erection of the buildings, and encouraged the revival of such ancient crafts as claustra (lattice designs in the mudwork) to adorn the buildings.

About the Author

Hassan Fathy, an Egyptian architect, has taught on the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo and served as head of its architectural section. He has received numerous awards including the 1970 French Literary Prize for this book, which originally appeared in a French edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Sue Wilcox on April 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
'Architecture for the Poor' by Dr Hassan Fathy
Sometimes a book is so ahead of its time it can sink beneath the waves before it's appreciated. Such a book was 'Architecture for the Poor', written in 1969 and originally published by the Ministry of Culture in Cairo. Written with the help of a fellowship from the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs it was published in America by the University of Chicago in 1973 and in a second impression in 1976. But even then it was only taken up by the fringes of the solar energy movement as a neat idea for a different culture and climate. Currently its out of print. The author died in 1989 having received some praise in his home country of Egypt but having seen no actions to take up his ideas for helping peasants take control of their lives by taking charge of the creation of their homes and communities.
Dr Fathy was officially an architect but his talents as an amateur anthropologist, sociologist, psychologist, inventor, and economist are what make him great. His holistic approach to solving the housing problems of a poverty level community (and his vision to see how they could be applied to a whole country) takes in the gamut from reviving the craft of mud brick making (along with the traditional masonry building of vaults and domes to roof simple mud structures) through to solving the problems of parasitic worm infections that debilitate entire populations infected through their water supply systems.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book should be required reading to obtain an Architect's license. Mr Fathy is far from perfect, but his message of democratic economy is desperately needed and eloquently stated, and his mixture of respect for and scientific evaluation of traditional building techniques is inspiring.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book sets a new theory in architecture by the famouce Egyptian architect Hasan Fathy. Fathy argues that you can build fancy buildings without using expensive materials. He practiced his theory in Upper Egypt, Mexico, and many other countries.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Scott Knudsen on March 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
For those of you looking for a book on how to build a house cheaply this is not for you. This book is on how to give poor people the means to build homes, and communities, get educated, and develop careers all at the same time. All this can be orchestrated by an architect who understands the needs of the people he is designing for. Every architectural student should be required to read this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book provides a good look at how very poor rural peoples can have agreeable housing made with materials literally dug up from their surroundings. Truly, these good houses are "dirt cheap!"
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Format: Paperback
My girlfriend Niti (now my wife) had given me this book almost two years ago, mentioning that this was her favorite book. I'll admit, I couldn't make it through the first fifty pages, since the technical details were lost on me, being an accountant. However, the book struck a chord with her, since she is an architect and felt drawn to the topic of helping the poor with affordable housing. So, as a Christmas gift to her, I decided to give this another go.

Mr. Fathy's journey through Egypt starts off with one endeavor - how do you build a sustainable home for a poor peasant family? As he answers that question with the rediscovery of ancient building techniques (using mud bricks) he realizes that the peasant's plight is not a monolithic problem with housing, but also one that is tied to education, employment, and public health. Fathy courageously takes on all of these issues, realizing that he must not simply view himself as an architect of homes.

His main focus is on the village of Gourna, and building a sustainable village for the Gournis, where they will have schools for their children, a vibrant apprenticeship program for enabling employment, and access to clean water (the part on Bilharzia was especially fascinating). Through his journey, he meets obstacles and allies in this process. The most baffling aspect of this book is the government bureaucracy that hobbles Mr. Fathy's experiment from its inception.

I recommend this read for anyone seeking to work internationally in foreign aid or disaster relief. It speaks volumes about the good and bad roles that a government can play in speeding up a well-intentioned project.
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