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Proposal for the Venice Biennale Egyptian Pavilion...

Proposal for the Venice Biennale Egyptian Pavilion of 2018: Free Space

Egyptian Pavilion Proposal 2018

Darbellabbana Center Proposal for the Venice Biennale Egyptian Pavilion of 2018: Egyptian Everyday Urbanism: An Urban DIY Exposé. This proposal was only shortlisted.

Project Description

“With the set theme ‘Free Space’, the architects chose to focus on people making and using space freely on an everyday basis in the streets of Cairo. They highlighted not only free space-hacking but positively, the wonderful energy produced by ordinary people who want to live and make a living. Bringing to light another unique aspect which is the urban soundscape. The proposal aimed at bringing to light the typical Egyptian/Cairo street ambiance with all its vibrance. Something that is definitely missed by those who think tourism is about seeing buildings, museums, or open spaces without seeing and living with people. Here the focus is on the ordinary street vendors we see out there on the streets. And how they handle space and making it live while making a living.” Afaf Badran


“Focusing on the intangible, sounds, the energy of space and how the vendors use the space. We thought about the void in the built environment which is the “free space” and then we worked on extracting the activities occurring in the void. You can see in the video; that we focus on a lot of sounds that we have collected from different activities and neighborhoods. The soundscape includes voices such as; the liquorice vendor’s cymbal clinking, the ice-cream vendor blowing his horn and other different sounds cart vendors and craftsmen make. The concept was to create the Egyptian street soundscape inside the biennale pavilion and exhibit all the activities occurring.” Lara Waked

Photo Courtesy: Darbellabana Center

Did you take a certain street and reintroduced it in the pavilion?

Lara: No, we actually gathered all the elements that we found distinctive to Egyptian streets, to extract and implement in this space. As a result of all those activities, the street became a “free space”. Where people come with their carts, chairs, craftsmen tools, or whatever elements they have and use the street. 

In fact, the concept of DIY Urbanism always existed in Egypt. But, the phenomenon was never specifically named though quickly considered typically cultural or traditional and in some cases lumped with informal urbanism.


The design means to focus on recreating the genuine experience of typical urban open spaces in the heart of Egypt. The experience of Egyptian everyday urbanism, where people shape their urban space dynamically and spontaneously. While the design does display physical urban features in the background, it focuses on giving a sense of the unexplainable attractive energy which the place acquires and radiates from the positive energy of the people that participate in its placemaking.

Proposal for Biennale Egyptian Pavilion Design

The architects designed the entrance lobby to create a sensory isolation experience. They chose a black curtain and a black wall painting for it so that when someone first enters the pavilion’s lobby, they are unable to see anything just yet, but rather their senses are directed to focus on what they can hear. Only when the visitors go through the curtain, they start seeing and experiencing the spaces of the soundscape they were hearing, thus fully experiencing our “free space’ urban DIY Expose”.

Photo Courtesy: Darbellabana Center

The pavilion consists of; Artisan zone, cultural free space, and the main wall featuring the free space versus everyday urbanism analysis. In addition to mirrors that reflect the street and give a sense of continuity. When entering the pavilion, you start seeing the vendors’ and street users’ activities as if they are occurring now but paused.

“We wanted people to familiarize themselves with the creators of this spontaneous every day expose. So, we added 1:1 size prints of the vendors with a placard placed next to each one telling his/her story.” Lara Waked

Photo Courtesy: Darbellabana Center

Team Members: 

Afaf Badran 

Lara Waked

Hana Al-Barazi

Osama Marouf

Ali Mosleh Hammad

Menna Badran

Al-Shima’a Yusef

Studies and worked in various fields and analyze projects from a multi-disciplinary approach. Her experience includes working as an Architect, interior designer, urban planner, researcher, and founder of Linesmag. Moustafa loves sharing and exchanging knowledge with others.