Whose Monument: Participatory Design Project for Monument-Street Buffer Zones
ATHAR LINA I
A collaboration between the Ministry of Antiquities and the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute. The project is a series of workshops, debates and meetings to discuss the relationship between the monument and the surrounding neighborhood, the entities responsible for it and those with a vested interest in it or even those inconvenienced by it. We discuss who owns it, who protects it and improves it and who puts it at risk. The objective is to provide a environment of communication of the different points of view of the three main stakeholders: residents, government and civil society.
In participatory design all stakeholders are involved in the decision making process in all its details and stages. This is to narrow the gap between the monument and the community and allow it to assume ownership of the monument and to protect it through use.
This general issue is discussed through a specific case-study; the monument-street buffer zone and in a specific area; al-Khalifa Street between the mosque of Ahmad ibn Tulun and the shrine of al-Sayyida Nafisa.
Phase I: Seminar inside Ibn Tulun Mosque to present idea and invite stakeholders to participate (June 2012)
Phase II: 3 workshops with a mix of stakeholders with different type as majority each time. The aim is to compare between the requirements of the different stakeholders and identify commonalities and differences. (July 2012)
Phase III: Seminar hosted during Ramadan to discuss and announce the outcome of the Phase II workshops.
Phase IV: Identification of 20 representative individuals from all the stakeholder groups to work on 5 particular case studies (Sayyida Nafisa; Umm al-Salih and al-Ashraf; Ruqayya; Vegetable Market; Tulun) to propose specific solutions for the monument-street interface. (September 2012)
Phase V: Synthesis and debate of findings through website and in the neighbourhood through a series of public meetings, then presentation of results through a second seminar in Ibn Tulun (October 2012)
Phase VI: Dissemination and discussion of results through a symposium to be held in collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities. (November 2012)
Phase I: a seminar in Ibn-Tulun mosque
The seminar in Ibn Tulun aimed at getting to know the residents and their perspective on the problems of this historical street, and whether they were interested in participating in the workshops.
Phase II: three participatory research workshops held in mid July
The purpose of the three workshops was three-fold:
- A candid discussion of the problems of Historic Cairo and proposals for their solution through the cooperation of the stakeholders.
- Preliminary field investigation of the monument clusters in the street.
- Role playing exercises aimed at achieving a higher degree of communication and understanding between the different stakeholder representatives.
- Steps taken to resolve the garbage problem in co-operation between the municipality and the residents.
- Steps taken to restart the children’s school in Gayer Anderson’s museum in co-operation between the Ministry of Antiquities and the Built Environment Collective (an Egyptian NGO).
- Identification of the main topic for participatory design workshop:
a) General needs assessment study of the street,
b) Rehabilitation of Shagaret el-Dur mausoleum cluster and neighboring mosque,
c) Development of Mohamed al Anwar cluster with empty plot and abandoned building adjacent.
Phase III: Ramadan seminar discussing the outcome of the Phase II workshops
A panel was arranged where each panel member gave a presentation dealing with issues in the area relevant to the issues raised during the phase II workshops. The session ended with a discussion involving the audience. The discussion delt with:
- Garbage issue solutions
- Challenging the issues presented for the children's museum program
- Monument awareness both locally and internationally, and the impact of the local on the international
Phase IV: Participatory Design Workshops
The day started with a presentation of the project and where it stood at that particular phase and that the participatory design phase of the project would concentrate on three case studies:
- A needs assessment for the street.
- Muhammad al-Anwar monument cluster
- Shagarat al-Durr / Sayyida Ruqayya monument cluster
The ensuing discussion was extremely positive with residents proposing potential avenues to explore such as liaising with a group of residents who had applied to MSA to restore the mosque of al-Anwar and were ready to fund it but lacked the technical expertise. They also proposed that existing NGOS be included in the discussion. They proceeded to call them and invite them to attend the meetings. They also called figures they felt were of significance such as a garbage collection sub contractor, also from the neighborhood. The general ambience was extremely proactive and it was in this spirit that groups were formed to address the three case studies. The groups invited more residents to the discussion at the end of the first day with the result that it became an impromptu public meeting.
The second day concentrated on field investigation. The Muhammad al-Anwar group concentrated on phasing the conservation project and setting up a technical team to prepare a proposal ready for implementation. It also looked at ownership and potential uses of the empty plots and property around the site. The Shagarat al-Durr / Sayyida Ruqayya group concentrated on a general analysis of the issues and ideas for the adaptive reuse of Shagarat al-Durr and the unfinished mosque next to it. The street group organized a quick survey to identify the places with potentials and problems and mark them on the map. It included the following:
- Top 3 problems
- Top 3 advantages or positive points
- Worst 3 places
- Best 3 places
- Top 3 needs
They then compared their observations to those of residents they had polled. The result was that mosques and shrines were perceived as positive if they were in use. Disused monuments such as al-Ashraf Khalil and Fatima Khatun were seen as negative, as was Shagarat al-Durr.
The street group also recommended that the Shagarat al-Durr group should extend its scope to the rear of the monument, a street, which many of the interviewees found problematic. It also saw that the Ashraf Khalil / Fatima Khatun zone should be included in the scope of the work and that the empty slope in front of it has great potential as a seating area for recreation.
The core group took the week to prepare an interactive exhibition to be set up for an hour after Friday prayer in the ziyada of the mosque of Ibn Tulun, and then to be moved to the front yard of the mosque of al-Sayyida Sukayna. The aim of the exhibition was threefold:
- To attract attention and open the discussion through provocative visuals that show the potential of the street for better or for worse. So for the vacant areas around al- Sayyida Ruqayya, fantastic (and not so fantastic) proposals including an amusement park, a garbage dump, a huge park, an informal settlement, a huge mosque were created using collage and people were asked to put a star in front of their favourite use. Needless to say, the amusement park was a great hit with the children – another variation on the theme of the first day of the first workshop in which it was clear that the street was in dire need of play areas for children.
- To get feedback on our findings, particularly the solutions or rehabilitation of disused spaces and adaptive reuse of monuments in our study zone – this is in addition to more feedback on the survey conducted by the street group and the best and worst aspects of the street and how to improve them.
- To engage children – this was done by distributing two colouring sheets designed especially for the project, the first of a historic house in the neighbourhood with some of the features missing – for children to complete and colour – and the second was strip with the story of Shagarat al-Durr, which our survey indicated was not know to the people of the street.
People’s response was extremely encouraging and positive, the groups then went back to Shagarat al-Durr school and briefed each other about the feedback they got.
The next day, the three groups worked on the proposals. The Muhammad al-Anwar group also met with the private donors willing to fund the restoration and arranged to follow up later with a technical proposal and budget. Another development happening in tandem was an initiative from the municipality to clean two of the vacant lots we were investigating and which were government owned. The workshop thus ended in a positive and urgent tone.
Phase V: Presentation of the results through a Final Seminar in Ibn Tulun mosque
The final seminar was on the 10th of November in Ibn Tulun mosque. Dr.May al Ibrashy briefly explained the priject's idea for new attendees and moved on to explaining the process and events leading the project to result in 4 different proposed ideas for a couple of nodes in the street. Then representatives from the residents and the teams each explained the proposals they arrived at through the workshops. A package of documents elaborating the proposals was disseminated among the attendees (check the package out from here) and after the presentations of the residents, a discussion was open for feedback and suggestions. The seminar acts as an end to the workshops and designs phase and a start for the "What's next" phase to follow up on the proposed ideas' progress towards implementation.
Please check out the short documentary about the project and its phases:
ATHAR LINA II
Athar Lina Children's Heritage School
As a result of the participatory design project, many of the proposals were targeting activities for children, as there was an evident void in that area. From there, originated the idea for a children’s heritage school.
The Athar Lina Children’s Heritage School is a volunteer-led project, a follow-up project to Athar Lina I. Based in Shagarat al-Durr Primary School, a public school located in the area covered by Athar Lina, ALCHS is a series of sessions that aim at developing children’s awareness to the vast heritage in their immediate neighbourhood.
An opening event took place where a mural was designed and painted on the school wall with help of the school’s children.
The sessions were aimed at two classes - 5th & 6th grade classes - and took place every Thursday from 8am to 1pm for a period of two months. The activities were themed around specific monuments located within the street; they are:
- Drama > Shagarat al-Durr
- Arts > Gayer-Anderson
- Crafts > Ibn Tulun, Ruqayya, Ja`fari & `Atika
- Field Visits > Ibn Tulun, Gayer-Anderson
The school kicked off with a drama class given to a 5th grade class at Shagarat al-Durr Primary School. Led by Mohamed El-Ghawy of AFCA, the children were shown how to get comfortable with their bodies by starting off with “actor’s workshop” exercises. After a couple of hours of exercising, the 5th graders gained courage and were ready for the second activity on the programme; the play.
Using the story of Shagarat al-Durr, an Ayyubid queen upon which the school is named after and whose monument is down the street, students started by first sharing their own versions of the story. Then, they were told the story in full and thus started planning for the play. Dividing the story up into main events, or Acts, main characters - a storyboard started appearing. The students selected the characters amongst themselves and presented a preliminary rehearsal that was in turn fine-tuned into a 7-minute narrated play directed by El-Ghawy.
During the arts sessions, the children were encouraged to use a wide range of media: pencil colours, colour markers, poster paints, spray paints and stencils, beads, buttons, BBQ stick, toothpicks, etc. A large number of volunteers were present to help them use and guide them through the different activities.
In the first activity, the students were divided into groups of 5. Each group was presented with a coloured poster with small abstracted drawings inspired by the legends of Gayer-Anderson. Interpretation of these drawings were left to their imaginations as they were encouraged to draw/paint whatever they’d like in the poster space right in front of them. Then, each group was asked to link their drawings together and come up with a holistic story representing the poster.
The students were then told the different legends of Gayer-Anderson; this led to the second activity. The students were shown a plate commissioned by Gayer-Anderson and each was asked to interpret it in his own way using the given media.
Gypsum was the material selected for the 5th and 6th grade crafts sessions. Accompanied by Amr, a craftsman with specialised experience in dealing with historical buildings, Mariam Ahmad led these sessions. Students were first introduced to the material by Amr who showed them how gypsum is mixed then poured into a mould. Then, they were shown images of different ornamented elements decorated by gypsum in nearby monuments.
The programme was themed around the mosque of Ibn Tulun - located directly opposite the school. Blocks of gypsum, with elements derived from the mosque, i.e doors, windows, crenellations, were prepared so students were able to start carving right away.
Students also pour their own moulds of the mosque’s crenellations, extract them, and draw and paint on them.
Field Visits sessions
Students, divided into four groups, were taken across the street to the awe-inspiring mosque of Ibn Tulun. The programme, designed and led by May al-Ibrashy, started off with a treasure hunt. In this leg of the game, the children were tipped off with clues on where to find their treasures.
Colour-coded, the groups took off searching for a series of 5 packs that held goods that will be used in the second leg. Looking for the packs, the students learnt the names of the main features of the mosque, e.g. mihrab, dikka, etc., were shown how to read a building plan, guided to N-S-E-W directions from the direction of the Quibla, and developed a keen eye for looking for distinctive patterns and decorations.
The packs held puzzle pieces that, when solved, tell a piece of the story of Ibn Tulun and show an image related to the mosque. After solving the puzzle pieces, all students gathered and told the complete story.
The final leg involved each group creating a poster, with facts from the story they just heard, their drawings, and the colouring and laying out of images found in the pack, and presenting it.