Contemporary Architecture

Hassan Fathy – Monastirli House


  • Born to a wealthy family on the 23 March 1900 in Alexandria, Egypt.
  • He moved to Cairo with his family when he was eight years old, and settled in Helwan.
  • He was talented in drawing which was to stand him in good stead when he joined the King Fuad I University (presently Cairo University) to study architecture.
  • In 1930 he was appointed as instructor at the Faculty of Fine Arts where he remained until 1946. In 1953 he became Head of the Architecture Department.
  • He was appointed Director of the Educational Buildings Department of the Ministry of Education between 1949 and 1952.
  • Amongst his awards are : The Aga Khan Award for Architecture Chairman’s Award (1980), Balzan Prize for Architecture and Urban Planning (1980), Right Livelihood Award (1980)


  • Fathy  recognized that architecture is for human beings. He believed that architecture must be shaped by factors like the wind, sun, nature and the individuality and culture of the people involved.
  • He rejected architecture that was not indigenous rooted in the location and the culture of the area, which in his mind found its truest expression in the vernacular architecture of a society.
  • His rejection was of internationalism itself as a homogenizing concept that stripped human beings of their individuality
  • “You must start right from the beginning, letting your buildings grow from the daily lives of the people who live in them, shaping the houses to the measure of the peoples songs, weaving the patterns of a village as if on the village looms, mindful of the trees and the crops that will grow there, respectful to the skyline and humble before the seasons.
  • There must be neither faked tradition nor faked modernity, but an architecture that will be the visible and permanent expression of the character of the community.
  • But this would mean nothing less than a whole new architecture.”

Monastirli House, Giza, Egypt:

  • The house is on an oddly shaped, triangular piece of land with utilitarian functions at a right angle to the main body of the house, along the base of the triangle.
  • The house gradually expands towards a large sitting room that is cantilevered out over the river.
  • The entry sequence into the house, for guests, is carefully controlled.
  • The spaces related to guests are equally graced with views of the river.
  • Such personal touches continue, culminating in an upper internal court that uses the apex of the plaster dome directly below as a fountainhead, and mirrors it in an open lattice pergola of extraordinary delicacy above.

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