Off Seams

Exploring the Urban Fabric in Cairo


In February 2020, a Winter School entitled “Off-Seams” was organized in Cairo by the Architecture and Urban Design Program at Nile University, under the aegis of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture's (AKTC) Education Programme. The event was also supported by the European Union’s “Integrative Multidisciplinary People-centred Architectural Qualification & Training (IMPAQT)” project. Young graduate architects, senior architecture students as well as younger 2nd-year students from the Nile University program took part. The 25 participants spent a week working intensively with national and international faculty and an Aga Khan Award for Architecture winner. 

Key learnings from AKTC’s work were introduced to the participants on the first day of the Winter School, before they went on to explore two significant Cairo public spaces, the Opera and Attaba squares, both located at urban seams that are temporal as well as spatial and have evolved within the urban fabric on multiple scales. Students were introduced to the rich “organised complexity” of this urban fabric, enabling them to build conceptual bridges between such understanding and possible actions, policies, and interventions. The outputs of the Winter School were twofold.  Site sketches, mapping of activities, and identification of flows were part of the analysis carried out in teams.

Each team produced posters that represented their strategy of intervention and its components and also developed one aspect of its strategy into concrete detail.  An exhibition of this work was presented to academic visitors, students, and faculty from other Egyptian universities. A panel discussion with the international mentors and invited jurors closed the event. The Winter School was documented through a video and a recently published booklet.  


Abdulrahman, Ameer, Omar Aboutaleb, and Dina Shehayeb, editors. Off Seams. Cairo: Nile University, 2022.


Nile University / Aga Khan Trust for Culture

134 pages
urban planning
urban history
urban development
urban design