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International Collaboration on Urban Development in Alexandria

by Rebecka Gordan

Nine months after the Egyptian revolution last year, the Stockholm-based Färgfabriken Center for Contemporary Art and Architecture organized a three-day workshop in Alexandria with Gudran Association for Art and Development, the local Swedish Institute and the department of architecture at Alexandria University. Participants included municipal administrators, architects, artists, urban planners and students, from Alexandria, Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Istanbul, Damascus and Stockholm. The program was part of a larger project called New Urban Topologies.

The aim of the workshop was to create a holistic view of the city based on a shared platform for discussing its identity, history and future possibilities. A number of themes emerged gradually, revolving around collaborative planning, public space, infrastructure and industrial renewal. These themes became chapters of a new book called "Alexandria. City of Layers," for which I served as editor.

The layers in the title refer to physical and mental traces left throughout the city by people of diverse cultures who have come together there for thousands of years. The book documents the New Urban Topologies project with summaries of workshop presentations and interviews with participants. It also includes essays on Alexandria, and a rich assortment of images. Translated into English and Arabic, the book was launched this month in Alexandria. The Swedish release takes place on Nov. 27 at Färgfabriken in Stockholm. The electronic version is now available for free.

Inspired by the results from the workshop, the director of the urban planning department in Alexandria has initiated a second New Urban Topologies meeting in Feb. 2013, with a focus on dialogue, transparency and participation in planning processes. The industrial area and old cotton district Minet el-Bassal will serve as a case study, and the findings will inform a new plan for the area.

Participants in the New Urban Typologies project hope the book will lead to sustained collaboration between Egypt and Sweden in fostering creative approaches to urban development.

Credits: Images from "Alexandria. City of Layers."

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