The revival of Luxor’s New Gourna Village immortalises the sustainable ideals of a legendary Egyptian architect.
When the mission of protecting the royal necropolis of Luxor clashed with the issue of a local community who lived directly above them during the 1940s (and were known to frequently plumb its depths for its hidden treasures), the Egyptian Department of Antiquities decided to move forward with a solution: to commission renowned Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy to design a new settlement in which the population may be relocated. As a pioneer in sustainable architecture, Fathy saw an opportunity to put his ideas into practice on a larger scale, and drew up New Gourna Village as a prototype in construction for poorer communities, using materials and techniques that were native to the area - an environmental edge that was mostly absent in his contemporaries.
Fathy hoped that the village would serve as a model for sustainable settlement throughout Egypt’s rural areas. The work stalled due to financial and political complications, as well as sabotage by the local people who refused to relocate, and Fathy passed away before he was able to see it complete. In the seven decades since it was built, New Gouna Village slowly festered, losing nearly 40% of its original infrastructure.
Now, UNESCO, Egypt’s Ministry of Culture and the National Organization for Civilization Coordination are embarking on a restoration project to revive this lost village and finally realise Fathy’s dream. The first phase of the project began in February 2020 and was completed after 24 months of work by Environmental Quality International (EQI), a regional force in sustainable development. All restoration work was carried out in compliance with UNESCO’s directives as well as the 1972 Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Protection, and exclusively utilised traditional mud-brick construction methods, staying true to Fathy’s architectural principles.
The fruits of the project’s efforts thus far will be unveiled at the end of 2021 during the annual Al-Tahteeb Festival, which celebrates the traditional martial art of ‘tahteeb’, a style of stick-fighting that had been practiced by Egyptians since the time of the Pharaohs.
Work on New Gourna Village is far from over, and will include much of the village’s important sites, such as the Al-Khan Building, Dar Al-Amoudeya, Hassan Fathy Residence, the historic Al-Tahteeb Square, the Village Crafts Gallery, and the Old Market. The village is set to be a cultural and tourist hub featuring art shows and galleries, while pioneering eco-friendly architectural solutions to immortalise Fathy’s ideals and aspirations, cementing his legacy and upholding his standing as one of Egypt's most influential architects.