The technical university of Berlin (TUB) satellite campus El Gouna held an alumni seminar from the 9th to 16th of October, 2019. TU Berlin Alumni from different parts of the world attended in El Gouna to discuss the topic of innovations in new towns in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region.
Practitioners and academics gave many presentations during the 8 days’ seminar. Also, the organizers provided excursion to Hurghada in addition to visiting old and new Qena city in upper Egypt where the participants had the chance to visit Qena market and understand the urban fabric of the city to compare it with the new one.
For many reasons several MENA cities became overpopulated. In the case of Egypt, it led to expanding the housing land use on agriculture land. As a result, the government decided to establish new cities to direct this rapid increase away from the Delta region. During the event, the concept of building new cities has been discussed intensively. In Egypt for instance, the government launched four generations of new cities, this phenomenon started in the 70s and the first generation didn’t reach the targeted number of residents yet. The participants pointed out several reasons behind the unsuccessful stories and suggested what can be done to avoid such drawbacks. In this article some of the seminar outcomes will be briefly presented.
Low-income housing projects
Focusing on attracting the low income to the outskirts wasn’t successful in many of the presented case studies for several reasons. Firstly, because of the lack of public transportation and affordable transportation, second, the distance from new settlements to work was so far and deficits in the infrastructure. Thus one of the highlighted solutions was to provide economic and industrial activities in these new towns rather than housing. So that people can go to work and live in the new towns.
Existing new towns
Currently, many new cities such as new Qena and the 6 of October, are still not functioning as planned. It was initiated in 2009 and said to have 200 families residing there, however it is still a pretty empty town with nearly no other activities except housing and a couple of schools. Therefore, focusing on reviving the existing new towns is necessary rather than building more new towns.
Egypt is now building a new administrative capital (NAC) 45 kilometers away from Cairo city. In Egyptian culture, each urban neighborhood has a certain image that identifies the social class. New city’s inhabitants are also perceiving the new neighborhoods in the same manner. In addition, creating many gated communities with luxuries amenities that increase the segregation between the different social levels. A new inclusive, bottom-up approach is urgently needed that encourages participation, in order to avoid socio-spatial problems.
New cities land use
The Alumni discussed intensively the residential land use in new towns and how the practical experience showed that it doesn’t meet the inhabitants’ needs. Practitioners attending the seminar suggested introducing mixed land use on ground floors.
Innovations in new cities
New cities can be a great opportunity for innovations. Masdar city in the United Arab Emirates is an example of investing in new technologies, renewables, and sustainable solutions. However, practitioners can still provide innovative solutions that are not High tech-based. For example, passive architecture and smart urban design including street planning can save plenty of energy.
Institutional and legal framework
The institutional planning framework needs to be restructured for many reasons. Firstly, the roles of each organization or authority are not clearly defined and sometimes overlaps with other authorities. Second, the centralized institutional structure doesn’t provide an equal chance of development in different parts of the country. Along with the framework, the laws and regulations managing the whole urban planning including land management in Egypt need to be unified.