Thursday, November 25, 2010

CONTRAST Designs Talk About New Cities in Egypt

CONTRAST Designs will talk about their ongoing research on the planning of the Egyptian New Cities program. The lecture called "The Architecture of Refuge" will take place at the Syndicate of Engineers, Ramses St.
next Thursday the 2nd of December from 7.30-9.30pm. Other renowned presenters such as Salah Hegab will also present their thoughts in this round Table discussion hosted by the Egyptian Society for Physical Planning. The presentation will coincide with the official launch of the IABR 2009 publication on Cairo called 'Diwan Cairo'. CONTRAST Designs participated among others in this publication that was edited by Dina Shehayeb and Shahira Eissa, and curated by Philip Misselwitz and Can Atlay.

Join us for an interesting evening..!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sednaoui Al Khazendar Rehabilitation Competition, Honorable Mention Entry

Here is our complete entry for the Sednaoui ElKhazendar Rehabilitation competition that won us an honorable mention.

“Sednaoui Al Khazendar” building and its surrounding square are interwoven in the diversity of interrelations that are produced by the two historical faces of Cairo. On one hand there is the building itself, comfortably situated in one of the capital’s oldest quarters, thus standing as a silent souvenir of Egypt’s rich history; on the other hand, in the shadows of that very same building, countless numbers of street sellers and buyers, pedestrians, cyclists, bikers, all embodied in the symphony of flowing cars and their horns, have found the dynamic universe of life patterns that we were willing to investigate in our project.
Starting with a long analysis process of the situation we were able to formulate three conceptual lines of intervention that would eventually enable us to give new birth to the Sednaoui Al Khazendar Building and its surrounding area.

Al Khazendar existing situation

Urban Intervention
1. Al Khazendar Urban Walk

In order to improve the accessibility of the building, the project is used as an opportunity to put forward a new model that mostly responds to the needs of the pedestrians. In that sense, the project proposes a solution where traffic is re-routed, thus generating a significant urban territory where the car traffic is prohibited and pedestrian activity promoted. This solution will eliminate existing intersections between the two directions occurring at several points surrounding the square, namely that in front of the Sednaoui building. Thus, the new traffic plan is viewed as a continuous loop that gravitates around the new pedestrian area and continues the traffic flow to and from Attaba square. The new ‘Khazendar Urban Walk’ will provide a vibrant commercial, cultural and recreational pedestrian axis that will accommodate numerous activities and allow for different permanent and temporary festivities.

Al Khazendar Urban Walk

2. Al Khazendar Market

In order to further develop the concept of extension of the pedestrian space, the front square in front of the Al Khazendar building is elevated, extending its surface to an underground plaza that is about to become an interim space, something between an entrance foyer, an event space, and eventually a micro climatic cocoon. Within this space a number of activities become possible, but most importantly to house a vendor market for part of the existing vendors in the area as well as temporary events. This large open space covered by an elevated perforated carpet hovering seamlessly on slender steel columns, becomes an extension to the Khazendar square existing plaza and a representation of the continuous dialogue between the building and its urban surrounding.

Al Khazendar Market

Following the same logic, the redesigned surface that sits on top of this underground, the main ceremonial “plateau” when approaching the building, is intensively (re)developed using spatial elements that promote cultural exchanges in the open air landscape. We decided to construct a new, rather than conserving the present square landscape. The “exploited” square surface design comes from the narrative of self-reflection of the Sednaoui Al Khazendar building into its surrounding landscape. Achieving a certain type of continuity between the vertical and the horizontal, this new landscape endorses again the continuous dialogue between the building and the square. Because of their undoubted qualities, the main conceptual components of the present square, the water and the vegetation, are still present.

Al Khazendar Square

Architectural Intervention
3. Sednaoui House of Arts

The redesign of Sednaoui Al Khazendar building itself goes beyond the purely conservation and preservation issues of creating a frozenly protected built environment. On the contrary, we tried to think of the building more as an open setting that could be inhabited by different programmes that will eventually transform the space into a place where the city and the building are constructed as a single whole. In this newly established unity, the project proposes functional, technological and environmental solutions that would make the Sednaoui Al Khazendar building a very lively and active cultural heritage.

In the project design methodology and analysis, the evaluation of the building qualities came at the first place. What we were able to realize immediately is that the most specific element of the building itself is its structural system. For us, the steel columns and beams are much more than simple construction elements onto which the facades are erected as an envelope. Firstly, we would rather like to see this three-dimensional grid as a conceptual framework that provides every user with a familiar orientation in the overall space. Furthermore, in those abstractly formulated cubicles we were able to foresee a spatial model upon which we would be able to propose a new flexible programmatic content, responsible for the rehabilitation of the building.

While the initial brief called to transform the building into a commercial center (mall), it was our intention to rethink and challenge what it could really offer in terms of new programme. This new programme promotes a space for the craftsman artist, the one who once played an important role in the society but whose labour is now drowned in the tons of low quality goods that due to global economy arrive from China, filling over to the streets of Cairo in countless numbers. Rather than this, the Al Khazendar building will accommodate a variety of creative people, who will there work, exchange, exhibit, and certainly put on the market the high quality manufactured goods they produce.

Rehabilitation Diagrams

The spatio-programmatic modules are about to be integrated in the previously mentioned, structural and orientation grid that is actually the milestone of identity of the Al Khazendar building. The distribution of these flexible modules is done according to the logic of compatibility and balance of the solid and void spaces. In that sense, the modules are not only populated in the building in order to create the highest possible programmatic density, but instead, the “empty” space that has been left between them is equally important as in public space the void is the active part. While this empty space acts as a catalyst for artistic innovation and creativity, providing new possibilities for exhibition and display areas into a larger volume, the voids between the artisan modules are inhabited with some supporting programmes such as meeting spaces, cafes, rentable display areas, musical performance areas, etc. Maintaining its significance as the central volumetric element of the building, the Sednaoui atrium will be place for continuous temporary events and exhibitions, and shall remain in a state of constant flux and transformation. On the other hand, the roof of the building is to become glazed, a concept of materiality that will provide much higher quality of natural lighting in the interior of the building, simultaneously providing a greater energetic efficiency but also an unprecedented atmosphere. This roof is then complimented by several recreational activities taking place on it, from temporary exhibition opening and events to permanent restaurants and cafes.

Al Khazendar Building interior

Al Khazendar Building interior

Site Layout

Basement Floor Plan

Ground Floor Plan

Mezzanine Floor Plan

First Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan

Third Floor Plan

Lomgitudinal Section A-A

Cross Section B-B

Front Elevation

Project Team:
Tamer Nader
Kareem Hammouda
Mazin A.Karim
Jovan Ivanovski
Radwa Al Fayoumi
Sayed A.Mohsen
Loai Nabil
Hussein Farid
Mahmoud Al Fadali

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CONTRAST Designs wins Honorable mention in 'Sednaoui Al Khazendar' Competition

We just received the news that we won an honorable mention in the ‘Sednaoui Al khazendar’ Rehabilitation Competition in Cairo organized by the NOUH. Our proposal was based on a careful analysis of the site restrictions, realization of its potentials and problems, and a contemporary interpretation of new programmatic elements.

More details about the project soon. For now here are some images.

Project Team:
Tamer Nader
Kareem Hammouda
Mazin A.Karim
Jovan Ivanovski
Radwa Al Fayoumi
Sayed A.Mohsen
Loai Nabil
Hussein Farid
Mahmoud Al Fadali

Monday, August 16, 2010


CONTRAST Designs is featured in the new edition of MAGAZ magazine for August 2010 with their interior design for ALEF Bookstores - Mirghany Branch. For more info about this project check our previous post

AA City Cultures

CONTRAST Designs partner, Mazin A.Karim, was recently featured in the new publication by the AA City Cultures Research Cluster, edited by Marina Lathouri and Ryan Dillon. His 'position' on the city discusses several ideas on the 'new city'. The publication also contains 'positions' by Theo Spyropoulos from the DRL, Chris Lee & Sam Jacoby also from the AA, and renowned professor and historian Peter Carl.

For more information and to get a copy of these articles visit

Saturday, June 5, 2010

+20 Egypt Design opens in the historic district of Cairo

The +20 Egypt Design event launched last night with an unexpected success. The official opening of the 1st design week event was conducted by ministers of culture and industry (below with Contrast Designs' '2ashayer'). Contrast's lighting units are showing at Sabil El-Selehdar under the 'Crafting Light' exhibition organized by Rhimal. The two lighting units, '2ashayer' and 'linea', investiagate the potential of reusing waste building materials, and challenge misconceptions about what we are capable of contributing to a sustainable future.

The event continues from 3-7 June from 6-10 pm. If you are visiting, make sure you dont miss Dina Shoukry @ suhaymi house, our friend Daniel Dendra @ suhaymi house, Nedal Badr's 'muqarnasat', Leila Selim's 'dispute you label' installation, and the 2nd KYME exhibition @ Moheb Hall.

And finally, thanx to our dedicated project team : Kareem Shoukry & Meral Omar.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Alef Bookstores in Zamalek opens its doors...

Alef Bookstores celebrated the soft opening of their most recent branch in Zamalek (the heart of arts and culture), Cairo. The interior design theme is a continuation of the andalusian style that characterizes the bookstore chain. The branch, designed by CONTRAST Designs, stretches over 2 floors connected together with a central wooden staircase spiraling inside an illuminated glass cube. Thebranch includes new experiences for Alef's lovers, Alef Cafe, internet corner, and a big section for art books.

Project: Alef Bookstores Zamalek
Address: 2 Taha Hussein St., Zamalek
Construction Completed: May 2010
Project Team:
Kareem Hammouda
Mazin Abdulkarim
Tamer Nader
Meral Omar
Nermeen Elazzami

CONTRAST Designs exhibits @ +20 Design Week

Accompanying the upcoming Furnex exhibition (3-7 June), the first Cairo design week will be held under the title (+20). CONTRAST Designs will exhibit their new lighting unit series named "RADě┤".

More details about the opening soon !

Monday, February 15, 2010

Think Geometry

Alef Bookstores launched its second branch inside the campus of Ain Shams University college of law. The small book outlet, designed by CONTRAST Designs, is a continuation of the collaboration with alef bookstores team and an extension to the design ideas and concepts that distinguish alef.

In the ASU branch, we worked extensively with the idea of treating the space as a 3d geometrical volume. Axis of movement, lines of sight, and organization of display units all follow a clear geometrically balanced heirarchy.

Project: Alef Bookstores Ain Shams University
Client: Alef Bookstores
Construction Completed: December 2009
Kareem Hammouda
Mazin A.Karim
Tamer Nader
Marwa Gamal