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Gendered spaces in the traditional urban community: the Harah in Cairo Kwan, Carman 1998

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GENDERED SPACES IN THE TRADITIONAL URBAN COMMUNITY: THE HARAH IN CAIRO by CARMAN KWAN B.A. The University of British Columbia, 1994 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARCHITECTURE in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES School of Architecture We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 1998 © Carman Kwan, 1998 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of A r c h i t e c t u r e The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date 23 A p r i l , 1998 DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT Housing patterns and developments of the traditional urban areas are a source of rich and complicated social networks. The complexities of these social relationships are reflected in the physical spaces of the community and in many cases are activated and shaped by gender relationships. The link between gender and space is culture specific and is reinforced by norms of social behavior. Over time, repetition and familiarity, this space becomes a symbol which has meaning and a gender association. These signs are integral to a community and are maintained in both informal and formal communities. For example, in Cairo's community of traditional urban people, main portals and intimate doorways function in a hierarchy of surveillance. The man is responsible for the main portal, or the larger community while the woman oversees the activities of the intimate doorway, or the local residence. In the dense and often dilapidated structural conditions of the urban poor it is easy to miss these deep-rooted patterns and relationships between people and architectural form. The medieval core of Cairo consists of these rich communities but each are threatened by the frequent collapse and deterioration of buildings and infrastructure. The challenge is to provide appropriate housing forms that respond, preserve and build on these social symbols. Each year the demands on Cairo's insufficient affordable housing supply increases, adding only more dwellings to the informal settlements. The draw into the economic center of Egypt remains strong with informal settlements thrive in and around the city center. Many of those migrating into the city come from the villages and are called baladi (from the country). The baladi bring with them the traditions that are practiced and preserved by the traditional urban population who are originally "from the country." Appropriate housing for the urban poor is not a simple task consisting of four walls and a roof with sanitation systems. It includes people with complicated family and community networks. The family unit is a central building block of Egyptian culture. Daily activities, routines and life events shape the spaces which are part of life. Over years and sometimes generations of inhabitation communities and housing patterns reflect the social organism that Fathy describes. The form of the harah (alley community) of Medieval Cairo is an urban representation of men and women's participation in the public and private spheres. The built environment is an expression of gender defined activities that appear in the community, the street and the home. The home functions as an important node for women, men and children but in very different ways. The focus of this investigation is to explore and record spatial patterns of the harah family home within the discourse of gender issues. A list of design guidelines will summarize and interpret the findings with architectural implications inseperable from Egyptian culture. 1 T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Figures iv Acknowledgement v 111 List of Figures The Site Information Site Model 1 Circulation Hierarchy 2 Site Aerial 3 Ground Plan 4 Second Floor and Third Floor Plan 5 Social Wall Elevation 6 Throughway Crossection 7 The Elements Inhabited Platforms and Edges 8 Activated Throughways 10 Sequence of Social Filters 12 Internalized Rooflife 14 Living Social Wall 16 Visual Community Participation 18 Women' s Presence of Place 19 Men's Refuge 20 iv Acknowledgement This research project would not have been possible without all the families I met in my travels and the friends that supported me, took interest and helped bring valuable insight to this part of the world. 6 7 18 20 


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