Contested representations and the building of modern Egypt: the architecture of Hassan Fathy

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This thesis examines the career of the architect Hassan Fathy as a case study for the Egyptian experience of modernity during the mid-twentieth century. I argue that the discussion of modernity has neglected the Middle East and positioned the West as the singular centre of modern life. I challenge this view through a discussion of twentieth century cultural history which looks at how the issues of modernity and culture, as expressed through architecture, developed as part of an interconnected global dialogue. By analyzing Fathy's role constructing the village of New Gourna during the mid-1940s I call into question the implications of his traditionalist mud-brick architectural practice and recast it as an expression of the uniquely modern political, economic and cultural circumstances of Egypt at that time. Furthermore, by arguing that Fathy's traditionalist architecture was based upon essentially modern ideas I challenge his status as a founding father of post-modern architecture.

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Department of History - Simon Fraser University
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Thesis (M.A.)