Residential neighborhoods of New Desert Cities in Egypt: an urban landscape model for inclusive and productive urban space?

Monique Jüttner

Since the last century new extension or satellite cities in the desert are the paradigm of urban planning adopted in urban areas all over Egypt. Following principles of modernist functional planning the ’new urban communities‘ (NUC) strictly separate functions, show large shares of open space, favour low or medium densities which prioritize the car for mobility. A lack of efficient public transportation and services limit the livelihood opportunities in the NUC for large parts of the Egyptian population.
A highly porous urban tissue showing extensive public open spaces conceptualized as ornamental green contradicts local urban tradition, harsh desert climate and water scarcity. Managing abundant green open spaces is a challenge for authorities struggling with limited means and limited water. Open spaces fall idle, receive less care and also mark socio-economic disparities amongst residential neighbourhoods. Emerging open space appropriation recognizes idle or unused open space as collective resource and adopt spatial practices of beautification, agriculture or small sized businesses. As nucleus of individual or collective social/economic efforts these practices induce a process of city- and place making.
Drawing from case studies in the NUC`s around Cairo the research seeks to reveal productive open space practices and their economic, social or environmental benefits. Understanding existing productive practices as elements of a larger systemic urban landscape model, values deriving from lifestyle or livelihood motives can become integrative parts of that model. It is argued that from this perspective, great potential unfolds to transform an unsustainable urban model towards more social integration and a better economic and environmental performance.

Monique Jüttner (MA. Arch, phd candidate) is an architect and urban designer. She studied Architecture in Cottbus(D) and in Mendrisio (CH) and worked in various architectural offices in Switzerland, the US, and Germany where she gained broad practical expertise in housing and urban design projects. Her teaching and research activities at TUM Munich, GUC Cairo, and currently at b-tu Cottbus encompass urban challenges resulting from structural transformation, climate change, water scarcity and social justice in scenarios of urban growth as well as shrinkage.

thesis supervisors: Undine Giseke (TUB), Silke Weidner (b-tu)