Athar Lina Initiative: Heritage as a Community Resource
Egyptian architect May al-Ibrashy presents her people-driven approach to architectural conservation.
May 2, 2023
Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.
The 2022–23 Current Work series examines projects and firms enacting new modes of architectural practice, collaboration, and community engagement.
Cairo’s Al-Khalifa neighborhood houses an extraordinary density of historic sites, from mosques and cemeteries to museums and public space. Since 2012, Megawra, an Egyptian nonprofit architectural office, has partnered with the Built Environment Collective (BEC), a local cultural and urban development organization, to conserve and revitalize this district.
Named the Athar Lina Initiative (“the monument is ours”), this place-based project envisions historic sites as a resource, not a burden. Under the leadership of architect May al-Ibrashy, Megawra – BEC has implemented a wide range of programs oriented not only toward research and architectural conservation, but also toward citizen participation, community education, and the revival of traditional crafts.
Alongside this work, the practice produces Megawra Papers, a series of publications documenting Megawra – BEC’s applied research and its wider implications for the fields of historic conservation and urban revitalization.
Recent projects include:
- Al-Imam al-Shafi’i Mausoleum Conservation Project and Visitors’ Centre, the structural and aesthetic conservation of a historic mausoleum and the addition of an onsite visitors’ center
- Al-Khalifa Park, a public park whose irrigation system reuses groundwater from two local thirteenth-century domes
- Al-Hattaba Development Project, a community-driven master plan for a historic neighborhood previously slated for demolition.
May al-Ibrashy is chair of the Built Environment Collective (BEC) and principal of Megawra. She holds a bachelor’s in architectural engineering from Ain Shams University in Cairo, a master’s in the history of Islamic art and architecture from the University of London (UoL), and a PhD in archaeology, also from UoL. She is an honorary professor of practice at the UoL’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and received a 2022 Prince Claus Impact Award.
This program will be moderated by Randall Mason. Mason is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design and the founding director of the school’s Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites. He formerly served as the executive director of PennPraxis and chair of Penn’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.
The event is co-presented by The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union.