All images courtesy of Ahmed Hossam Saafan

A cultural centre in Cairo sits inside a new colourful landmark

Designed by Ahmed Hossam Saafan, the Dawar el Ezba Cultural Centre is located in the heart of Ezbet Khairallah.

A newly completed cultural centre in Cairo’s Ezbet Khairallah area provides a space for community arts and social interaction, as well as offers a colourful landmark for the surrounding informal living settlement. With an estimated population of over 700,000 people, Ezbet Khairallah is one of the capital’s largest and densest slums, yet it only has one school. The new centre, designed by Egyptian architect Ahmed Hossam Saafan, intends to alleviate the pressure on the school, and offer the community a valuable place for cultural activities.

Constructed for the independent organisation, Dawar Arts, the centre maintains a vertical extension to the existing Dawar Arts kitchen, and contains an art studio, gathering space, administration office and a theatre/workshop area. Its design reconsiders the use of locally-available building resources, and serves as a ‘living agent’ within its context.

Working with local metal and wood workshops, Saafan devised a timber structure with corrugated metal cladding. According to the architect, this strategy establishes the community’s ownership of the building, while also showcasing the potential of locally available materials. The metal cladding was also painted bright yellow, effectively making the centre a landmark, while a series of variously sized windows allows for views onto the street below.

Inside, Saafan attempted to create a space that connects with the environment while celebrating diversity — an important pillar of Dawar Arts, which uses art-based processes for healing, dialogue and social change.

Consisting of artists, educators, community organisaers, physicians and health workers, Dawar Arts facilitates psychosocial interventions for traumatised individuals and communities, as well as offers workshops, classes and professional training programmes for a multitude of disciplines. The kitchen, which is attached to the new centre, further provides employment and vocational training for migrant, refugee and Egyptian women.