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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Stone Towers, Cairo, Egypt

Cairo set for new wave of monolithic architecture
For generations people have visited the sandy plains of Cairo to marvel at one of the 7 wonders of the world, the truly awe-inspiring Egyptian Pyramids. Generating over 11 million visitors a year, the structures mean big business for the North African country's tourist trade. Egypt is certainly no stranger to statement architecture, so designs released by Zaha Hadid Architects showing a new wave of monoliths set for Cairo should come as no surprise, should it?

Egyptian commerce is on the up. One element in its rise is a collaboration with the US. In January 1983 the American Chamber of Commerce Egypt elected its first Board of Governors and has successfully helped to expand commerce in the region since with over 1,000 members of both US companies working in Egypt and Egyptian companies working in the US. So when business is big, why should business parks not reflect this? Perhaps this is what Hadid had in mind when she designed Stone Towers, a business center for Rooya Group located in the Stone Park district of Cairo.

The towers are rather more opulent than your traditional business center, and traditional is most likely not one of the words you would use to describe them. Providing 525,000 sq m of space, the towers comprise of office and retail facilities, a five-star business hotel with serviced apartments, retail with food and beverage facilities and an area called the 'Delta' consisting of sunken landscaped gardens and a plaza. But as usual with Hadid, it is the form which proves awesome, any typically requires explanation:

“I am delighted to be working in Cairo," states Hadid. “I have visited Egypt many times and I have always been fascinated by the mathematics and arts of the Arab world. In our office we have always researched the formal concepts of geometry - which relates a great deal to the region’s art traditions and sciences in terms of algebra, geometry and mathematics. This research has informed the design for Stone Towers.

“With a large-scale project such as the Stone Towers, care must be taken to balance a necessary requirement for repetitive elements whilst avoiding an uncompromising repetition of static building masses," she adds. “The architecture of Stone Towers pursues a geometric rhythm of similar, interlocking, yet individually differentiated building forms that creates a cohesive composition.”

The towers are designed to harness the power of Egypt's intense sunlight as an architectural feature, illuminating and casting shadow over these geometric forms and enhancing the textures created by 'Ancient Egyptian stonework'.

Hisham Shoukri, CEO of Rooya Group said "There is a overwhelming need in Egypt for developments of the highest international standards required by the serious and growing investment climate of the country - ultimately contributing to making it a hub for multinationals in the region. The Stone Towers needed an architect with daring ideas, innovation, international expertise and experience…it needed Zaha Hadid."

We can only hope the 16 million people living in Cairo are as welcoming to the daring talents of Hadid, perhaps as the fruits of her labour produce the city's latest architectural tourist attraction?

Niki May Young
News Editor
architecture NOW

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