Written by: Ali Dagher
Tamayouz Excellence Award has announced the winners of its Rifat Chadirji Prize 2020, an annual thematic prize named after the prolific Iraqi architect and academic Dr. Rifat Chadirji.
The first-place winner for the Rifat Chadirji Prize 2020 and the People’s Choice Award is a team of five from Cairo, Egypt: Ali Khaled Elewa, Mostafa Ahmed Zakaria, Sherif Khaled Abdel khalek, Ebtisam Mohamed Ahmed Elgizawy and Hoda Essam Abdelmawla. The winning team was selected out of 177 submissions from 42 countries received this year. The second prize goes to a team of four comprising members from both the US and Iraq. And third place goes to a team of three from Istanbul, Turkey.
Part of Tamayouz’s seven-category awards programme, the prize this year was themed ‘A living pedestrian bridge over the Nile’ and sought proposals for a bridge that connected Tahrir Square area (East Bank) to Zamalek area (West Bank) in Cairo.
Human and Place Bias
The Egyptian architect, Ebtisam Elgizawy, one of the award-winning team, recalls the beginnings of the design work, explaining that choosing the competition site in Egypt was one of the pillars that helped her team win the award.
She says: "We started planning the design by being at the site of the proposed bridge, and we conducted several interviews with a large number of visitors to the place, as well as vendors and photographers, and we listened to everyone who practices a real life on the Nile, and in the end we asked everyone what they aspire to see in this place. So, the main objective of the project was to preserve people's lifestyle and culture in a more civilized and organized way."
She adds: "In addition to preserving the culture of the community, we also made sure that the design takes into account the removal of visual obstacles between the Egyptian Museum and the Cairo Tower. The aim of the bridge is to be an addition that facilitates people’s daily life, in addition to preserving the surrounding landmarks. The bridge also aims to provide commercial and entertainment projects suitable for all classes of society. "
Elgizawy describes the teamwork spirit that accompanied the team’s design period as more important than the award itself, indicating that every person of the team had a sense that what he does is not a personal achievement, as much as it is a work he does for the homeland and the Egyptian people. "Here, the sense of self-victory is gone, and the beautiful spirit that prompted us to pledge to continue as a team forever remains."
"Elgizawy", a lecturer of architecture at the Faculty of Fine Arts, explains that the moral value of the award was important for their team, especially as it is an international award and it is the first time that Egyptians have achieved first place, and reveals that the prize value is $ 5,000, and the honoring ceremony was scheduled to be held in Jordan, but the ceremony has been postponed.
Idea and Design Details
Ali Khaled, one of the five award-winning architects, explains the details of the bridge's design and the architectural style to which it belongs, explaining that the bridge's style is contemporary and it belongs to the modern age, meaning that it reflects the time in which we live, and the use of glass surfaces as much as possible came to provide a panoramic view of the Nile River and the existing cultural landmarks with a view to showing the various features in the vicinity of the bridge. Its aim is to highlight those landmarks of various styles, such as the Egyptian Museum, which belonged to the neo-classical style, the Cairo Tower, which was unique in its design, and also the Tahrir complex. "The aim of the project is to highlight the surrounding features, and in a more precise sense the design is modest to what is surrounding it."
Entertainment, Culture and Green Spaces
Architect Hoda Essam, one of the team members, explains the benefits that the community reaps from the project, explaining that the bridge consists of the roof, which is a walkway, green spaces, and public seats for visitors, while there are two other floors, which are exhibitions concerned with heritage and culture, providing entertainment and services such as restaurants, shops, etc., that yield an economic return.
She adds that the height of the bridge does not impede the river traffic, as they have adhered to the code for establishing bridges on the Nile, which stipulates that the height should not be less than 13 meters, while the height of their design is 14 meters, and in addition to taking into account the engineering and architectural aspect. The design provides large green areas in the vicinity, including the land of the "old National Party" building, in addition to including the Egyptian Museum garden in the green areas.
The international jury, headed by Rasem badran (Jury Chair), Jury members noted that: "This design appears to be hugging its own piece of the river and fostering life within its boundaries.
The starting plaza of the bridge at the eastern side is larger and more spacious to assure the relative importance of this side (the location of the former National Democratic Party), while on the western bank, the plaza is small and conforms to the realistic properties of this area. The bridge design is clear, dynamic, and successful, and the structural system complies with the requirements of river navigation."
"This project has a very successful composition and is quite elegant in its composition."
In this context, the architect Sherif Khaled says that the finalists were selected out of 177 submissions from 42 countries received this year. Selection of the finalists was done by the Tamayouz Award shortlisting panel based on the criteria set in the competition’s brief. Commendable designs are those that contextualize Cairo’s history and cultural identity in a contemporary manner, and that are informed by environmental conditions.
Sherif, one of the team members, added to Sky News Arabia that the design did not conflict with the Egyptian Museum, or the Cairo Tower. This is what distinguished the design from its competitors, stressing that the repeated visits to the site helped reach this result, realizing the actual problems and reaching practical solutions to them.
The Egyptian architect points out that the bridge does not receive cars, but bicycles. In addition to that there is a possibility of horse-driven carriages popularly used in this area, but he confirms that he does not prefer their presence, in order to preserve the safety of the bridge's goers, especially children. As the design philosophy is fundamentally biased towards people and their comfort.
Experience of international competitions
For his part, Mustafa Zakaria says that their team won the award due to several reasons, including: the experience that he and his colleagues gained from participating in more than one international competition, and identifying the strengths of designs that win the first prize, as the experience of participation was an important factor in understanding how they reach a design that wins the first prize.
Zakaria added to Sky News Arabia that the designs that win the first prize are always distinguished by simple ideas, and respect the environment and the local community. "This encourages us to participate in Tamayouz Excellence competition 2020 after we learned that the project idea is directed to an Egypt."
On the backstage of the work, the Egyptian architect explains that the team members devoted one day of the week to the design, starting from February until November, "We used to meet at all times, even on feasts to finish the design."
Zakaria returns to the design, stressing that it integrates with the "Walkway of Egypt's people" and never conflicts with it. Whereas, the team visited the walkway that is currently being constructed by the Egyptian government, noting that they took into account in the design all aspects of the walkway to achieve integration between them.
Feasibility of implementation
Engineer Mohamed Abu Saada, head of Egypt's National Authority for Civil Coordination, explains to Sky News Arabia the steps that must be taken in order to implement this project; Pointing out the need for these young people to go to Cairo governorate that owns the land.
Abu Saada clarifies that the governorate will study the project, to see the extent to which it has achieved the goals of development in the governorate. After taking the implementation decision, it will be presented to us in the Civil Coordination Authority to question the technical opinion.
In conclusion of his speech to Sky Arabia, Abu Saada expressed his keenness to see this project, and to provide technical advice to young architects, so that there is a possibility to implement the design in reality.