Toward the Fortified City: Geopolitics of Urban Design in Al-Sisi's Cairo

Authors: Robert Flahive*,
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: Urban Design, Urban Planning, Spatial Politics, Cairo, Egypt
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 4:30 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Ambassador Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper argues the urban design interventions under the Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi regime amount to fortifications without walls. I analyze the strategic spatial design interventions that have reorganized Cairo since al-Sisi came to power in July, 2013. I draw upon the “complex political agenda” of colonial urban planning as a theoretical scaffolding to unpack the convergence of strategic military, economic, and aesthetic imperatives “curb resistance” and limit the possibilities of popular mobilization through urban design interventions (Wright, 1991: 8). I map the regime’s adaptation of the infamous Cairo 2050 master plan (2008) as a guide to expropriate and develop strategic areas of the city. These urban design interventions find consonance with strategic military fortifications in that they partition, regulate access, and consolidate spatial control for the regime, yet paradoxically without walls typically associated with fortifications. I identify two urban design tools to render these fortifications. First, the regime commissions flashy designs from international and regional architecture firms, such as Foster + Partners and Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, that justify interventions to expropriate “unplanned” neighborhoods, such as Maspero Triangle. These interventions contribute to gentrification that radiates out from each intervention. Second, the regime mobilizes colonial urbanism tools, such as what French colonial planners referred to as “sanitary corridors” in parks and high-volume traffic routes that partition and limit growth of existing “unplanned’ areas.

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