The project began with an article written by Abdelbaki Mohamed Ibrahim -the architect/client- published in a leading Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram. In the article, Ibrahim made a plea for the return of Islamic values in contemporary architecture and planning. The article was wrongly interpreted by the architectural press as an appeal to abandon the present and retreat to the past. In fact, Ibrahim wished to suggest that contemporary architecture be developed to embrace the best of modern technology using both the dominant forms found in regional Islamic architecture of the recent past, and relevant values found in Islam. To prove this possible, Ibrahim sought to construct a building that would embody his philosophy. When no client could be identified, he answered critics with the design and construction of a villa for himself with attached apartments. A second phase added further apartments, and the final phase comprised the planning and architecture studios. The purchase of the land and all construction was financed from private sources
The building and its constituent parts are organised around the central courtyard. To one side, three levels of apartments sit astride the villa, while to the other side, the planning and architecture studios occupy a similar volume. In plan, the central courtyard adapts to the form of the site and allows for simple, rectangular built volumes. Access stairs and service accommodation are placed to either side to permit the more important spaces to benefit from openings on the façades. From the street, the building has an unobtrusive appearance- the height, construction, colours and horizontal layering resemble that of neighbouring constructions.
The façade, however, is distinguished from its neighbours by several interesting details. The two major blocks are articulated by a recessed, vertical plane, each floor level extends beyond that of the level below to offer shade and distinguish horizontal divisions, ground and first floors are held in retreat of the upper levels which stand on pilotis. Thc timber mashrabiyya are unique to the neighbourhood and are used to filter the strong sunlight. The central courtyard serves as an alternative source of light and permits cross ventilation the space draws fresh air at ground level, cools the air naturally and then distributes the air through openings in the courtyard façade.
Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture