Graduate Architecture

Partnership with Egyptian Ministry of Culture

The Department of Architecture at PennDesign has renewed its ongoing collaboration with the Ministry of Culture in Cairo, Egypt. The collaboration was initiated in 2016 by the 704 research design studio Real Fictions: Maspero Triangle, Cairo, Egypt, led by Associate Professor of Practice Ferda Kolatan, which resulted in a PennDesign exhibit in the Egyptian Pavilion in the 2016 Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. The studio also earned a 2017 Studio Prize from the American Institute of Architects. Again in 2018, PennDesign students’ work will be exhibited at the Pavilion.

The Real Fictions studio’s design strategy responded directly to the Aravena’s biennale concept. As Kolatan states, "Post-humanist theories are strongly concerned with the perception of the 'real.' These theories posit that the real is just another cultural construction controlled by the powers in charge. As such, the title of the studio 'Real Fictions' aims to set the stage for projects, which challenge the categorical 'real' as a defunct concept of late-capitalist ideologies and an expression of human-centric tunnel vision. The studio will examine this type of work and use it as an apparatus through which to address some of the issues in the Informal Settlements. The urban and architectural conditions of the site will be viewed both as real and fictional, leading to proposals that are speculative in nature but concrete in design."

Kolatan's studio has most recently tackled the bridge landings in Cairo, and is currently focusing on the complexity of highway overpasses in the city center. 'The studio is an exemplary model for the new directions the Architecture Department is taking, and the more direct involvement with the 'real," says Miller Professor and Chair Winka Dubbeldam. "We aim to participate in the international dialogue concerning these urban conditions, and see this as only the start of where we are going in the next few years. We are extremely thankful to recent alumnus Aly Abouzeid and his family for their introduction to the Ministry of Culture of Egypt, and for the support of the studio."