The Venice Biennale'18
Egyptian Pavilion

Cairo, Egypt is a condensed over populated urban city, with around 22.9 million people living and working in it. Buildings stand side by side, where every empty space must be utilized to its potential to accommodate for the population's needs. In such a large and dense city, there isn’t much freespace for opportunity, exchange, imagination and innovation. Yet there is one space that reflects upon the idea of a freespace, it is a building's rooftop.

A roof might be viewed in a limited sense as a structure forming the upper covering of a building. It is generally a forgotten space, especially in regards to Cairo’s hot and humid environment. While its main purpose is to protect the building's inhabitants, the rooftop in Cairo have become an architectural space that accommodates many activities and opportunities in an original and unorthodox manner. The rooftop interventions are used for roof gardens utilizing nature's gifts of light and air. For Pigeon and animal farming, creating a steady income for families in impoverished areas. For football fields, entertaining and energizing a healthy lifestyle. All these and much more are already existent examples of the transformation of the simple rooftop into an inventive new freespace.


Above's intention is to transform the Egyptian Pavilion in the Venice Biennale into an alternative immersive installation that reflects the creative use of rooftops in Cairo, Egypt. The space is designed to invite audience member to maneuver around and explore the installation. When one first enters they will be directed through a one directional hallway to the end of the Pavilion, finally turning to encounter the installation through a glass wall. This shift from a thin yet walkable hallway to a wide space alludes to one's movement through a building till they finally reach an open airy rooftop.

Audience member then enter this large dark space finding floating well-light platforms varying in heights from the ground. A simplistic yet sleek representation of the Cairo rooftops, where the building has been erased to give attention and showcase the rooftop as a freespace itself. Each platform has a maquette on top of a current use for the Cairo rooftop spaces, such as but not limited to; textile dying laboratories, pigeon and animal farming, satellites, telecom towers, restaurant exhaust pipes, billboards, roof gardens, elevator housing rooms, mini football fields, recycling stations and metal rods for building extensions. The maquettes are varying in material and size, ranging from cement to wood, acrylic and metal, similar to the varying material uses in the actual rooftops.


Above’s vast land of rooftops with their diverse heights and sizes will be mimicked in the installation flooring, creating a grey lightly lit pathway for audience members to maneuver through. Walking around the installation one will hear the faint sounds of a city, as if they were a bird flying above. Car horns, birds wings flapping and wind rushing through the air, similar to the sounds heard while standing on the roof. And since the Cairo rooftop topography has been condensed in size, ones interaction with the space can seem empowering, as the installation space is covered all round with mirrors creating a mesmerizing limitlessness arena, allowing for a feeling of breathability and openness. Before entering the space the mirrors are double sided with glass, to allow viewers to grasp the infinity and continuity of the installation. This not only adds to the representation of the rooftops as an open free space, but presents it as a space of boundless innovative uses and activities. 

At the end of the installation, audience members will enter into another smaller room, where they will find a short film and text about the installation they have just experienced. The short film will screen a documentary showcasing the uses of rooftops in Cairo and covering in further detail the inventive ways that they have been used. 


Above exhibition installation will convert the Egyptian pavilion into a contemporary audiovisual expanse that emphasizes the role of architecture in the choreography of daily life, stressing the responsibility of the public and architects to create and engage with unconventional free spaces. 

Design: CAI DESIGN STUDIO in collaboration with Amin Osama

Category: Architecture & Exhibition Design

Area: 160 m²

Location: Cairo, Egypt  

Year: 2017

Material: Multiple Mediums

This Project was done by CAI in Partnership with Amin Osama & Ahmed Abdelhalim.