ARCE Lecture: Conserving Cairo 1882-2012

Nicholas Warner

American University in Cairo

This presentation offers a retrospective view of the history of architectural conservation in Cairo. Blessed, or perhaps cursed, with an astonishing number and variety of historic structures, Cairo has served as a physical laboratory for different conservation approaches from the time of the foundation of the "Committee for the Conservation of Monuments of Arab Art" in 1882 until the present. The lecture addresses many of these approaches ranging from "honest repair" to "Disney-esque" fabrication, and looks behind them to motivations that vary from the aesthetic to the commercial. Recent attempts to quantify Cairo's architectural heritage, to devise strategies for its economically sustainable re-use, and to expand the scope of preservation efforts to include late-19th and early-20th century buildings will also be discussed in the context of recent civil conflict.

Nicholas Warner is an architect trained at Cambridge University in England. He has lived in Egypt since 1993. His primary field of research is the Islamic architecture of Cairo, but he has also participated in or directed numerous projects related to the documentation, preservation, and presentation of historic structures and archaeological material throughout the country. These include projects undertaken for ARCE at the Ottoman fort at Quseir on the Red Sea coast, the tombs of Anen and Menna on the West Bank of Luxor, the Roman fortress of Babylon in Cairo and the late-antique monastic churches of Sohag. He has also worked for ISAW at Amheida in the Dakhla Oasis. His academic publications include The Monuments of Historic Cairo: a map and descriptive catalogue and The True Description of Cairo: a sixteenth-century Venetian view.

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