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Contemporary Interventions in Dar El Kotob by Arch...

Contemporary Interventions in Dar El Kotob by Architect Mito

Dar El Kotob Cairo Egypt contemporary architecture islamic heritage

When khedive Abbas inaugurated Dar El Kotob (which literally means “Books Home”) in 1904, he was clueless about all the changes that will set in the building. From terrorist attacks to high tech renovations, the building has undergone a lot of changes. Even the institution moved its main location to a different building on Nile corniche. Yet, Dar El Kotob in Bab El Khalq in Egypt remains as the foundation for the National Library and Archive.

dar el kotob historical building architecture in bab el khalq cairo downtown
Photo Source:

Its rather a very interesting complex that accommodates 2 main entities: The National books institution, and the Museum of Islamic Art. Both entities were the first of their kinds in the region that are specific to both Arabic art and books. Their main goal was to conserve and showcase these beauties to serve as a reference for future generations.

dar el kotob in bab el khalq contemporary architecture islamic design modernism Egypt
Dar El Kotob
Museum of Islamic art Cairo
Museum of Islamic art

Dar El Kotob

high technologies in dar el kotob islamic architecture contemporary post modern
Photo Courtesy: Dr. Greiche Glass

In the upper-level, Dar El Kotob contains a library and research space. Furthermore, It has a Museum of Islamic Literature. In addition to an up-to-date research technologies available for those interested in Islamic history and literature.

dar el kotob exhibits quran caligraphy historical monuments

The Architecture of Dar El Kotob 

Dar El Kotob style shows a strong Islamic identity through its opening styles, materials, skyline, and proportions. The building has a wall bearing structure. Moreover, Its stone material exposes its iconic color that is strongly related to the historical buildings of the region.

dar elkotob historical building white painting islamic eclectic design
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The white color of the original building in 1903 arguably shows that it was an eclectic design. The exterior features combined Islamic elements with the local Khedival era’s style at that time. Even the building function and floor plannings relate more to the Khedival era’s Downtown architecture.

The building was destroyed a few times throughout the ages. Yet, the institution showed its strength and its great power of restoration and conservation, especially in its most recent restoration.

Dar El Kotob showed a very high level of renovation, which was made possible by the donoShaikh Sultan Ebn Mohamed al Kassem, Ruler of al Sharqa in the U.A.E. He was the original funder of the new building in corniche street. And after the terrorist attack of 2014, he supported the restoration by funding the project.

The new design features a really nice contemporary atmosphere. The interior gives the feeling of the Islamic vibes and the functionality and space qualities of the current era’s architectural approaches in design.

islamic arch combined with post modern styles contemporar archiecture in dar el kotob
Photo Courtesy: Dr. Greiche Glass

Contemporary Intervention

The most iconic feature of the new restoration is the contemporary intervention designed by the late Architect Ahmed Mito that hovers through the skies of Dar el Kotob.

It features a futuristic bridge and pathways that transport visitors to different platforms and spaces and provides visual continuity and link.

The addition goes very well with its sleek design in contrast with the massive halls and massive stone columns of the building. 

dar el kotob bab el khalq post modern architecture steel structure floating in stone space islamic arch
Photo Courtesy: Shady Maher

Spatial Experience 

atrium design contemporar architecture old heritage historical building restoration

The building makes a lot of use of natural daylighting. Consequently, it has a really nice lighting atmosphere. As it takes you between light spaces, to dim ones, according to the mood set for this room.

Restoration of old buildings 

dar el kotob entrance hall historical building chandelier big space stone wall bearing structure

We understand that not everyone would agree on such futuristic interventions in historical buildings, But we are leaving this point for another debate. there is no doubt that the newest interventions are really well executed both in design details and functionality, which, for us, is a very important aspect about the design, because, in the end, styles and tastes will always differ from one person to another.

historical vs contemporary architecture heritage conservation post modern intervention futuristic desing
Photo Courtesy: Shady Maher

Honestly, the idea of renovating a historic building with a contemporary style makes perfect sense, in my opinion, yet in some extreme cases, it will be radically odd. But here is the dilemma, who can define here what is extreme? 

Here is another way to put it, imagine if the great pyramids for some reason broke down into pieces. Would it be suitable to rebuild it again? Or then we could replace it with a high rise steel structure that resembles the pyramids?

Museum Of Islamic Art

Attached to Dar El Kotob is the Museum of Islamic Art that contains a museum with an amazing outdoor courtyard. The yard features an Islamic style full of beautiful decorations and motifs. Workshops and events take place in this yard, especially for school excursions.

Museum of Islamic art Cairo Arcade and open Hall

Take a trip to the Bab El-Khalq to see this magnificent building by yourself. We assure you an amazing tour, not only by the architecture but also by the amazing Exhibits Of the Museum of Islamic Art.

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An architect with a growing passion for music and art. Abdelbary is interested in diving into the Egyptian culture from a variety of perspectives. His aim is to showcase its diversity and approach societal issues through design.