2.1 Ideology of Hassan Fathy

Hassan Fathy, who worked in Doxiadis Associates for five years from 1956 to 1961, is an Egyptian architect famous for his humanity approach towards modern architecture in the Middle East region.

His ultimate belief is “architecture is for human beings” and this is where he began and entailed his paradigms regarding how architecture should be. Fathy set great store by local cultures of a country and believe that vernacular architecture is evolve from a place’s culture, religion, climate and environment. Thus, he rejected architecture that is not indigenous rooted from the local area. He does not oppose international style simply because the western ideas are forcefully imply on the Arab region but rather the derivation of the modern style from the west is based on the common technology instead of common humanism. Technology in Fathy’s eye is ‘a method of serving man and increasing his hope in the comforts of the good life’ (Hamid, 2010), but should not be the dominating factor in designing architecture. The idea beneath the vernacular architecture he highly praised is Fathy’s belief that human is not interchangeable, and that architecture has to meet both the physical and psychological needs of human. What he finds wrong in the modernization of architecture is the mass production method that totally neglects the individuality of human, and the attempt to unify the world with a singular method of production. When elements that are not suit to a local culture are implanted, the traditional of a culture would inevitably erode and disappear, resulting a contradictory situation for the place.

Even though Fathy holds a strong stance in defending the authenticity of culture, he remains open in adapting technology for construction. However, when applying such technology, one must be very sensitive in handling the technology from the outside. Therefore, Fathy proposed a quantifying method to determine if the technology is suitable to adopt by the means of sustainability. That is, to judge the appropriateness of the idea from outside through the measure of thermal and energy efficiency, cost, etc. He has done an experiment in the 1970s in Egypt to test out the building techniques in seven chambers to identify the suitable construction method for the Egyptian climate condition.

Another reason that Fathy’s enthusiasm in promoting sustainability is due to the influence of his friend, E.F. Schumacher, an economist who proposed “small is beautiful”. Fathy believes that craftsmanship work is an important part in human life, because it does not only provide pleasure for an individual and that artistry as a way to ennoble man but also can help a society to regenerate itself in line with its own traditions. Whilst mass consumption is doing the total opposite, Fathy hoped to stop the wash away of architectural artifact. Fathy’s sense of social responsibility is reflected on his insistence that it is the obligation of architect to secure jobs of the craftsmen. Different from the approach of William Morris’ art and craft movement, Fathy’s approach incorporated the massing production of copies of windows, stained glass and etc. However, the factory-production method in a larger sense of architecture is still inappropriate in Fathy’s eye, where he thinks prototyping is being inconsiderate and the meaning of an architect’s work is lost. Hence, he reprimanded architects not to take up projects that involve design more than 20 units, as he insisted that architects should remain true to the human dimension.

 

Bibilography:

  1. Hamid, Ahmad. Hassan Fathy and Continuity in Islamic Arts and Architecture. 1st ed. American University in Cairo Press, 2010. 206.
  2. Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997.
  3. Pyla, Panayiota I. “Hassan Fathy Revisited.” Journal of Architectural Education: 28-39.
  4. Serageldin, Ismail. “Hassan Fathy.” 2007.

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