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Mogasam: The Project Documenting Cairo’s Heritage Through Virtual Art

From chairs to architectural facades, this architect is turning photographs of Cairo and the objects that fill it with character into 3D models that aim at preserving Cairene heritage.

Navigating Cairo with utmost curiosity toward its bizarre intricacies, Architect Karim Fouad is attempting to preserve the city’s remains and fading heritage through Mogasam, a digital archive documenting buildings and cultural aesthetics through 3D art. Relying on photogrammetry, a method of recording and interpreting photographs into models, Fouad gives elements from Cairo’s streets a new life in the virtual realm.

“I started walking around the city taking hundreds of images and turned them into 3D models,” Fouad tells #SceneHome after stumbling upon photogrammetry during his graduation studies on environmental erasure, climate change and preserving monuments in the Nile Delta. “I didn’t study photogrammetry, I was just interested in how it democratised heritage by presenting it in an accessible medium.”

Fouad would photograph everything from doors and foul carts to Cairene spaces and buildings, and create playful models that present heritage in a new light, one that considers historical sites as much as it does quirky everyday objects. “I approached the complexity of the city by making these models available for everyone,” Fouad adds. “Despite my admiration for the documentation efforts done through photography, I believe that viewing animated objects unlocks something new.”

Considering the humorous tone of rising social media archives, Fouad took note of how the public was reacting to his work. “Chairs are one of the most fun objects to model, they appear randomly in the streets and their owners are always curious about my incessant photography of a seemingly mundane object,” he recalls. Fouad faced a similar experience in Al-Darb Al-Ahmar, when a stranger told him to capture a mosque as a whole rather than the details in its corner. But photogrammetry requires detailed imagery to create accurate models.

Mogasam could be the start of a communal effort to turn architecture, historical sites and objects that embody the essence of Cairo into 3D models. Fouad hopes that gradually it grows into a team that uses modern tools to voice an artistic expression that preserves our history into the future.