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About this collection

Hassan Fathy (1900-1989) is arguably the most widely known and influential Egyptian architect of the 20th century. His major contributions were to so-called vernacular architecture which, inspired by traditional Nubian and Islamic materials and styles, urged an approach to the built environment that was economically and ecologically sustainable and responded to contextual needs of the individuals and communities for whom it was intended.

Born in Alexandria, Fathy attended King Fuad I University, graduating in 1926 from the Architecture Section of the School of Engineering. He taught on the Faculty of Fine Arts at Cairo University from 1930-1946 and again from 1953-57. In 1966 he lectured in the Architecture Department at Al-Azhar University and from 1975-1977 at the Faculty of Agriculture at Cairo University. Fathy also held a number of government posts. From 1926 until 1930, he worked at the Department of Municipal Affairs in Cairo. In 1949 he was appointed as Director of the School Buildings Department in the Egyptian Ministry of Education. From 1963 until 1965, he was Director of Pilot Projects in Ministry of Scientific Research in Cairo.

Although he lived and worked for most of his life in Egypt, Fathy had frequent opportunities to travel and in the course of his career held several important international posts. In 1950 he was delegated to the United Nations Refugee World Assistance. In the late 1950s, he worked as a consultant in Greece and lectured on climate and architecture at the Athens Technological Institute. In 1976 he was a participant in the United Nations Habitat Conference.

Fathy’s experiments using mud brick, which could be used for construction and repaired with relatively little specialized training, date to the early 1930s. The use of this material -- along with the distinctive vaults, arches, and domes -- would become signature features of his style. His book Architecture for the Poor (1969/1973), which received significant international attention, develops his social, environmental and architectural theories of the context of the large-scale project at the Upper Egyptian village of New Gourna.

Although he encountered periodic resistance, both politically and aesthetically, to his work, Fathy achieved substantial recognition in his lifetime. He was awarded the Union of International Architects Gold Medal and the Egyptian National Prize for Arts and Letters. In 1980 he was the recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and in the same year was award the prestigious Right Livelihood Award (informally known as the “alternative Nobel Prize”). In his role as teacher, writer, and mentor he influenced a generation of architects to reconsider the nature and aim of their work.

This digital collection consists of architectural drawings spanning Fathy's career, ranging from the 1930s to 1970s.

 
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