This conversation is the first of three recorded in Cairo about Cairo. Beth Stryker and Omar Nagati, through the description of their research and design work, introduce us to the post-revolution city and its multiple forms of informal architectures. We begin by evoking tbe numerous passage ways of Downtown and the work of Cluster to rehabilitate two of them. We then describe these forms of informality, the danger in romanticizing them — by systematically assuming that they advance the common good — and what can be learn from them. We then conclude by problematizing the act of cartographying what was not meant to be mapped, its challenges and the role of architects/cartographers in the politics of the city.
CLUSTER — Cairo Lab for Urban Studies, Training and Environmental Research — was founded in 2011 in downtown Cairo, as a platform for urban research, architecture, art, and design initiatives. CLUSTER engages critical theorization while being grounded in professional practice, with an emphasis on participatory design processes.
Omar Nagati is a practicing architect/urban planner with over 25 years’ experience working in Cairo. He has been the recipient of a number of honors and awards, including representing Egypt in the 6th Architectural Design Exhibition, Venice Biennale. A graduate of Cairo University, he studied and taught at the University of British Columbia and University of California, Berkeley, with a specific focus on informal urbanism. Nagati adopts an interdisciplinary approach to questions of urban history and design, and engages in a comparative analysis of urbanization processes in developing countries. Nagati’s practice spans projects in housing, institutional and interior design within Egypt and regionally, having particular emphasis on urban planning and community development. Nagati has lectured widely on Cairo both locally and internationally. In Cairo he has taught architecture and urban design studios at the Modern Sciences and Arts University and Cairo University, and is a frequent contributor to design reviews and juries.
Beth Stryker is an architect and curator. Stryker has curated exhibitions and programs for the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival in Cairo, Beirut Art Center, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, the American Institute of Architects/Center for Architecture in New York (where she held the position of Director of Programs), and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, among other venues. Her works have been exhibited widely, including shows at the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Walker Art Center, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Stryker received her B.A from Columbia University, and her M.Arch from Princeton University.