Hassan Fathy (1900-1989): Arquitectura, Tradição e Consciência Social
Hassan Fathy. Empreendimento na costa Norte, Sidi Krier, Egipto.
Completaram-se no passado dia 23 de Março, 110 anos sobre o nascimento de Hassan Fathy, arquitecto egípcio com uma longa carreira dedicada à procura de soluções de habitação socialmente acessível, baseadas na arquitectura tradicional egípcia. Os seus edifícios poderão não ser muito exuberantes mas são inegavelmente humanos quer na sua ligação à tradição ancestral dos métodos de construção, quer pela preocupação em criar uma construção de qualidade, integrada no meio ambiente e, sobretudo, económica e acessível aos mais desfavorecidos.
“Hassan Fathy (1900-1989) era um homem notável: artista, músico e reformador social para os pobres do mundo. Com uma figura frágil, envolto por um ar de virtuosidade, projectava com vigor intelectual, tranquilidade e calma interior.
Hassan Fathy foi talvez o arquitecto egípcio mais importante do séc. XX. Licenciado pela Universidade de King Fuad I em 1926 (actual Universidade do Cairo), foi docente na Faculdade de Belas Artes do Cairo, onde chegou a ocupar o cargo de Director do Departamento de Arquitectura. Membro do Comité de Direcção do “Aga Khan Award for Architecture”, foi galardoado, em 1980, com os prémios “Balzan Prize for Architecture and Urban Planning” e ”Right Livelihood Award”.
As suas ideias, registos arquitectónicos e sociais têm como base a sua educação colonial e um profundo conhecimento “moldado” pela longa história do seu país, em especial da arquitectura, frequentemente controlada pela matemática e geometria mística. Seis princípios gerais guiaram-no durante toda a sua carreira: a primazia dos valores humanos no domínio da arquitectura; a importância de uma abordagem universal; o uso de tecnologia apropriada; a necessidade de um cunho social; a co-relação das técnicas de construção; o papel essencial da tradição e do restabelecimento do orgulho nacional através da construção. Fathy dedicou a sua carreira ao estudo da habitação dos “pobres” nos países em desenvolvimento. Utilizava métodos antigos de concepção e de materiais, ensinava os habitantes locais a fazerem os seus próprios materiais e a construírem as suas próprias habitações.
O livro mais emblemático de Hassan Fathy, “Arquitectura para os Pobres”, lembra a Nova Gourna, projecto onde culmina o seu empenho com a construção de uma cidade a partir de 1946 na localidade de Nova Gourna, perto de Luxor, no caminho da estrada que leva ao Vale dos Reis, um projecto destinado a albergar 7.000 pessoas. O projecto previa quatro bairros em torno de equipamentos urbanos colectivos, cada um organizado ao redor de uma praça rectangular cruzada por estreitas ruelas e por edifícios de dois pavimentos, todos diferentes. Uma cidade construída em tijolo de barro que falhou em grande parte devido à inércia burocrática e às rivalidades…”
Hassan Fathy. Empreendimento na costa Norte, Sidi Krier, Egipto.
“Architecture and environment” por Hassan Fathy
Since antiquity, man has reacted to his environment, using his faculties to develop techniques and technologies, whether to bake bread or make brick, in such internal psychological balance with nature that humanity historically lived attuned to the environment. Man’s creations were natural when built of the materials offered by the landscape.
Learning to manipulate clay, stone, marble, and wood, man penetrated their properties, and his techniques gave expression to his aspirations toward the divine. In architecture, environmental harmony was known to the Chinese, the Indians, the Greeks, and others. It produced the temples of Karnak, the great mosques of Islam, and the cathedral of Chartres in France.
With the advent of the industrial revolution, the inherited techniques and perfected knowledge of creating, using handmade tools, were lost and are now forgotten. Energy-intensive mechanized tools have diminished man’s personal, cellular contribution to the fabrication of objects, the building of structures, and the growing of food. The lesser the challenge for man to imprint his genius, the less artistic is the product.
The resulting economic and political disturbances are visible today. Production of beauty, once the prerogative of millions, is replaced by industrialization, even of bread, under the control of a minority of owners. The negative consequences of the industrial revolution have disturbed the natural organization of the divine concept for humanity.
Sixty years of experience have shown me that industrialization and mechanization of the building trade have caused vast changes in building methods with varying applications in different parts of the world. Constant upheaval results when industrially developed societies weaken the craft-developed cultures through increased communications. As they interact, mutations create societal and ecological imbalance and economic inequities which are documented to be increasing in type and number.
Profoundly affected is the mass of the population, which is pressured to consume industrially produced goods. The result is cultural, psychological, moral, and material havoc.
Yet it is this population that has an intimate knowledge of how to live in harmony with the local environment. Thousands of years of accumulated expertise has led to the development of economic building methods using locally available materials, climatization using energy derived from the local natural environment, and an arrangement of living and working spaces in consonance with their social requirements. This has been accomplished within the context of an architecture that has reached a very high degree of artistic expression.
At all costs, I have always wanted to avoid the attitude too often adopted by professional architects and planners: that the community has nothing worth the professionals’ consideration, that all its problems can be solved by the importation of the sophisticated urban approach to building. If possible, I want to bridge the gulf that separates folk architecture from architect’s architecture. I always wanted to provide some solid and visible link between these two architectures in the shape of features, common to both, in which the people could find a familiar point of reference from which to enlarge their understanding of the new, and which the architect could use to test the truth of his work in relation to the people and the place.
An architect is in a unique position to revive people’s faith in their own culture. If, as an authoritative critic, he shows what is admirable in local forms, and even goes so far as to use them himself, then the people at once begin to look on their own products with pride. What was formerly ignored or even despised becomes suddenly something to be proud of. It is important that this pride involves products and techniques of which the local people have full knowledge and mastery. Thus the village craftsman is stimulated to use and develop the traditional local forms, simply because he sees them respected by a professional architect, while the ordinary person, the client, is once more in a position to understand and appreciate the craftsman’s work.
In spite of this, we are witnessing a change that is now forcing a complete rupture with the past; every concept and every value has been reversed. For house design in the Middle East, the introverted plan wherein family life looked into the courtyard was changed to a plan with family life looking out upon the street. The cool, clean air, the serenity and reverence of the courtyard were shed, and the street was embraced with its heat, dust, and noise. Also, the qa’a [a central, high-ceilinged upper-story room for receiving guests, constructed so as to provide natural light and ensure ventilation] was supplanted by the ordinary salon, and all such delights as the fountain, the salsabil [a fountain or a basin of still water designed to increase air humidity], and the malqaf [wind catch] were discarded in the name of progress and modernity.
It may seem that, from the functional point of view, mechanical air-conditioning was made possible by modern technology; but we must recognize that such technologies also have a cultural role. In fact, this role may be even more important than the function it serves, considering the special place occupied by the decorative arts in many cultures.
Thus when the modern architect replaced these decorative elements with air-conditioning equipment, he created a large vacuum in his culture. He has become like a football player playing football with a cannon. If the purpose of the game is scoring goals, then assuredly he can score a goal with every shot. But the game itself will disappear, and so will any diversion for the spectators, except perhaps in the killing of the goalkeeper.
Every advance in technology has been directed toward man’s mastery of his environment. Until very recently, however, man always maintained a certain balance between his bodily and spiritual being and the external world. Disruption of this balance may have a detrimental effect on man, genetically, physiologically, or psychologically. And however fast technology advances, however radically the economy changes, all change must be related to the rate of change of man himself. The abstractions of the technologist and the economist must be continually pulled down to Earth by the gravitational force of human nature.
Unhappily, the modern architect of the Third World, suddenly released from this gravity, and unable to resist temptation, accepts every facility offered to him by modern technology, with no thought of its effect on the complex web of his culture. Unaware that civilization is measured by what one contributes to culture, not by what one takes from others, he continues to draw upon the works of Western architects in Europe and North America, without assessing the value of his own heritage.
In order to assess the value of our heritage in architecture and to judge the changes that it has undergone, there is a need to analyze scientifically the various concepts of design, and to clarify the meaning of many terms that the modern architect uses freely in his professional jargon, such as “contemporaneity.” The role architecture and town planning play in the progress of civilization and culture must be grasped. While change is a condition of life, it is not ethically neutral. Change that is not for the better is change for the worse, and we must continually judge its direction. Architecture concerns not technology alone but man and technology, and planning concerns man, society, and technology.
In architectural criticism, the concepts of past, present, and future are used capriciously, and the present is extended to mean the whole modern epoch. To avoid being arbitrary, we must establish some standards of reference that involve the concept of contemporaneity.
The word “contemporary” is defined as meaning “existing, living, occurring at the same time as.” The word implies a comparison between at least two things, and it conveys no hint of approval or disapproval. But as used by many architects, the word does carry a value judgment. It means something like “relevant to its time” and hence to be approved, while “anachronistic” means “irrelevant to its time” and is a term of disapproval. This raises the two questions of what we mean by time and what we mean by relevance, and to what.
Now, if we are to reconcile chronological time with the artist’s definition of contemporaneity, we may say that to be relevant to its time, to be contemporary, a work of architecture must be part of the bustle and turmoil, the ebb and flow of everyday life; it must relate harmoniously to the rhythm of the universe, and it must be consonant with man’s current stage of knowledge in the human and the mechanical sciences, and in their inseparable relationship within planning and architectural design.
To judge the criterion of contemporaneity, we must sense the forces that are working for change, and must not passively follow them but rather control and direct them where we think they should aim. Physical and aerodynamic analysis has shown that many of the concepts embodied in the design of houses of the past remain as valid today as they were yesterday and that, judged by the same standards, much of what is called modern is in fact anachronistic. We must determine what is basic and constant and thus worth keeping, and what is ephemeral and transient and can be discarded.
Looking to the future, we see that the situation at any given time largely determines the coming stage in development and change. Thus there would be no problem were the present situation of architecture normal, that is to say, truly contemporary. The future would then take care of itself. But unfortunately that is not the case, and it is the responsibility of the modern architect to find a remedy. He must renew architecture from the moment when it was abandoned; and he must try to bridge the existing gap in its development by analyzing the elements of change, applying modern techniques to modify the valid methods established by our ancestors, and then developing new solutions that satisfy modern needs.”
Artigo publicado pela” The United Nations University” in 1986; copyright 1986 by Hassan Fathy. All rights reserved
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Hassan Fathy. Casa Casaroni, Giza, Egipto.
Hassan Fathy, who was born in Alexandria in 1900 and died in Cairo in 1989, is Egypt’s best known architect since Imhotep. In the course of a long career with a crescendo of acclaim sustaining his later decades, the cosmopolitan trilingual professor-engineer-architect, amateur musician, dramatist, and inventor, designed nearly 160 separate projects, from modest country retreats to fully planned communities with police, fire, and medical services, with markets, schools and theatres, with places for worship and others for recreation, including many, like laundry facilities, ovens, and wells that planners less attuned to sociability might call workstations.
Although the importance of Fathy’s contribution to world architecture became clear only as the twentieth century waned, his contribution to Egypt was obvious decades before, at least to outside observers. As early as halfway through his three building seasons at New Gourna (a town for the resettlement of tomb robbers, designed for beauty and built with mud) the project was being admired abroad. In March 1947 it was applauded in a popular British weekly, half a year later in a British professional journal, and praise from Spanish professionals followed the next year. A year of silence (1949, when Fathy published a literary fable) was followed by attention in one French and two Dutch periodicals, one of which made it the lead story.
Fathy’s next major engagement, designing and supervising school construction for Egypt’s Ministry of Education, further extended his leave from the College of Fine Arts, where he had begun teaching in 1930. In 1953 he returned, heading the architecture section the next year. In 1957, frustrated with bureaucracy and convinced that buildings would speak louder than words, he moved to Athens to collaborate with international planners evolving the principles of ekistical design under the direction of Constantinos Doxiadis. He served as the advocate of traditional natural-energy solutions in major community projects for Iraq and Pakistan and undertook, under related auspices, extended travel and research for “Cities of the Future” program in Africa.
Returning to Cairo in 1963, he moved to Darb al-Labbana, near the Citadel, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life in the intervals between speaking and consulting engagements. As a man with a riveting message in an era searching for alternatives, in fuel, in personal interactions, in economic supports, he moved from his first major international appearance at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston in 1969, to multiple trips per year as a leading critical member of the architectural profession. His book on Gourna, published in a limited edition in 1969, became even more influential in 1973 with its new English title Architecture for the Poor. His professional mission increasingly took him abroad. His participation in the U.N. Habitat conference in 1976 in Vancouver was followed shortly by two events that significantly shaped the rest of his activities: he began to serve on the steering committee for the nascent Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and he founded and set guiding principles for his Institute of Appropriate Technology. In 1980, he was awarded the Balzan Prize for Architecture and Urban Planning and the Right Livelihood Award.
Briefly married to Aziza Hassanein, he left no direct descendants, but the children of his five brothers and sisters, aware of the obligation to preserve the heritage of their uncle tried to make sure that the materials transmitting his ideals and his art will remain available in Egypt, for the future benefit that country.