Egyptian Pavilion





The human ability to build cognitively in the imagination surpasses the physical existence of the space itself. The human awareness goes beyond the limitations of a certain space at an exact moment, but the birth of the spatial configuration of architecture can change depending on variability within notions such as human perception and human relative interactions. The constant remains not in what is tangibly perceived by our senses, but lies within the orders that dictate the dynamics of the variables in a space. The geometrical order is the common constant that ensures the rejuvenation of a certain space with the passing of time. The vision alters consequently by the progression of time and succession of events; there are even alterations in the psychological state of a person. The vision might differ as well within the variations of engaging humans or the recipients of the architectural message of a certain space. It might be unique personal interpretations but within its essence lays the common collectiveness of a person’s existence. It also carries potential and continuous chances for recreating what is physically materialized and yet constantly regenerative at each new creative experience. This is the prime notion that has been manifested in the successive rounds of the Biennale; the form of a spatial experience carries a dialogue between cultures with different experiences converging or contradictory in appearance, but always interacting on a shared ground. The Biennale in this framework and the inclusion of such civilized and cultural messages provide a new unique spatial experience with each session.

The vitality of variables is derived from the constants; the variables are the physical, tangible product in its various forms, whereas the constant is the geometric order. In the midst of constants and variables rises the creativity of a person accordingly to the abilities possessed, and it develops on its own, provided the availability of cultural suitability, yet offers a chance for cultural dialogue within the constraints of the space and the unlimitedness of the thoughts. The location is Venice, a known point on the ground, but the radius of its impact varies relatively according to the event itself. The Biennale is an example; the variables here are the participants and the visitors. Along the cycle of events, topics change different visitors but each participating culture firmly stands on this shared ground ready to engage in a new dialogue.

The latent value of the creative process is the true caliber for life and soul within humans and societies and their civilization, manifested in their architecture and culture. Discovering such essence is in fact an act of reinventing the local characteristics of a society in various forms. The need to comprehend the uniqueness of each and every spatial culture and its environment that shapes/dictates its own geometry is the crucial point in the life of a person and a society, in order to determine this true value in creative entities—particularly architectural and urban. The Egyptian environment along its different phases is certainly one of those civilizations, which were formed with careful consideration to such geometrical values.

In general, such geometry encompasses a hidden map derived as bases to the context, discovered only to those who are in consistence with their nature. A series of patterns is what it is, similar to musical notes, where the harmonization of musical keys generates classical symphonies or else Oriental musical pieces; the variability of the keys is what makes the difference. In the context of poetry, words comprise the part and whole at the same time, such as the tone and the letter. The geometrical base is what connects the language of music, poetry, and space, as they share a common ground. Such creative acts are obliged to be dynamic, in order to incorporate different components yet maintain the connectivity with people. Spatially, the architect’s professionalism depends on the ability to reveal existing geometries and gradually integrate his own geometrical expressions, forming a dialogue with the unknown, indirect exposures of the essence of the space, a space that encompasses what was there, what is currently there and what will eventually exist, all within this geometrical frame. Time passes by, leaving trails of events, but the space captures the untold events through the living spatial experiences of people.

The creative process in the case of Egypt, especially in the absolute humane side, which produces architecture of a particular location, is a condition associated with the birth of cosmic harmony with this place. A timeless birth process has no beginning nor an end and consists of a series of stages that starts with a dream and a vision, then a geometrical order for the creative process, and then ends with an actual design. The dream and the vision are the virtual experience that carries aspirations and expectations of the various preconceived reactions. A floating boundless idea starts to crystallize more through mediation and daydreams, thus shifting between the timeless, the dream, into a precise timeframe of the vision that associates with a certain envisioned space. Prior to shifting to a tangible entity, the idea is elaborated through a geometric order, which connects space and time, bringing order to the spaces intended under geometrical imperatives, adjoining spirituality to what is tangible and physical. Such an approach is a development to the projections of the preconceived visions to actual orders that occupies a known timeframe. At this particular point, designs can be altered according the mood swings of the architect/creator or according to the surrounding circumstances.

Spatial birth or the separation from the absolute vacuum starts with a point that begins all that is assumed. The point is the origin, consisting of nothing and everything; it is an abstract part that forms the whole, which is alive. Its presence is what sparks the beginning of the primary forms of energy for the presence of the space. That point may be metaphysical or physically recognizable on ground; the abstract location of the space is based on points. The consequence of these points is what logically generates a line, from stability to movement, forming spatial combinations deducted from nothingness. Finally the geometrical order is sustained, forming a musical note for further architectural interventions basing designs on such order. A series of material experiments follows in order to reach what is suitable for the area. In the Egyptian case particularly, and in other cases in general, this collective culture is passed from generation to the other, constantly rejuvenated by the creative ones to maintain eternality and insure vividness to easily sustain further interactions with others, and so lies upon the architect’s professionalism the ability to reveal existing geometries and gradually integrate his own geometrical expressions, forming a dialogue between what is built and what will be.

Thus, the space encompasses the geometry, and the person is the reader. In some cases the message would be without a content, which is the dominant feature now, and sometimes the reader is not aware; in all cases the interactions exist but with a relative effect. In a well-functioning case, the impact might generate silent sensory pieces in harmony with the person’s rhythms forming a moment of existential perception, where the man becomes at the core of the space and the space remains a part of his memory. Even after ending the experiment and leaving the space, eventually the physical space is transformed, taking a different dimension and rebuilt cognitively in the form of an extremely personal spatial vision.

The spatial experience might be acquired from various sources, either transmitted from previous tales through writings or documentations, or contemporary spatial impressions passed through dialogues. That is a direct manifestation of imaginative spaces, it is considered a hypothetical simulation process of the senses, senses gets busy interweaving memory threads forming a cognitive spatial geometry, that alters descriptive words into mental building elements generated from impressions of the senses. Obviously, this only shows how diverse the multiple interpretations a single word can have; even if the same exact words are used to describe a specific space, then the words’ projections mentally will certainly differ from one person to another, as each has his own accumulated interpretations of words. As well as words, space itself is flexible also in containing variables; such things are inevitable, but the human ability to comply with such variables in space is in most cases relative.

Variables may not always mean physical interventions to the space, but the time factor may lead to various phenomenological experiences as well, whereas in the case of actual physical alterations, this forms an inevitable dialogue between spatial variables and constants.

When re-visioning a certain space we might fall into the predicament of being caught between the impressions of the new experience and the former, which will have a greater impact, which will influence the recipient’s deeper spatial memory. Some people think this lead tends to imbalance the sensory system with a loss of harmony, resulting in dispersion. The process depends in particular on the professional himself and his proficiency in maintaining the suitability of the input variables upon the space and the spatial constants that dictate its geometrical existence. And on the other side there are the dynamics of mental readiness of the person and his abilities to construct his own mental image, in order to keep the fine line of communication on the common ground.

The spatial experience relies solely on the readiness of the mental receptivity, and what affects us as human perception is the mental capacity in terms of visioning and the ability to develop a new spatial experience that relies on the way our senses are connected to the spatial essence including its upcoming transformation or the obvious constants. And so what is retrieved by the mind are residues of spatial impressions carved into certain mental order; thus one can build upon such stock of impressions and include it as a reliable reference of a practical experience. Such stock at certain times might heighten the awareness within specific surroundings; or at other times it might raise the expectation tolerance resulting in either a harmonious spatial experience or one based on criticism. In other cases a rejection is the result.

Along the frequent journeys to a certain place, such as the Biennale and its various discussed topics, cultures share a range of philosophical principles to initiate an open dialogue. It is not via a word-based dialogue but rather through interactions that a rich and direct impression, which is deeper than any vocabulary, develops. The effect of the Egyptian participation in the midst of this amusing journey of interactions with senses is that one gets carried away, the feet taken away beyond the bridge, atop the water barrier toward Egypt’s pavilion, a place that carries along its existence the responsibility to reveal messages and obtain others. The visitor follows invisible and subconscious trails of the Egyptian effect and its pavilion overtaken by the collective unconscious of one’s memory, supposedly sensing its presence without a hustle, but the dialogue...


Tarek Waly, born in 1955, is an architect and planner. He is the founder and director of the Tarek Waly Center, Architecture & Heritage, as well as the director if the Cairo Urban Heritage Preservation Council, and holds a seat on the Committee of Architecture at the Supreme Council of Culture. Waly has a Ph.D. in Urban Planning and has more than 35 years of experience in architecture, urban design, and planning with a special interest in heritage and geometry. For the last 12 years he has focused on heritage plans for a number of Ancient Egyptian sites as well as Muslim era sites in Egypt and the Arab world. He has published numerous books on traditional architecture and urban settlements as well as several studies and research papers on the same subject. He received the Award of the Organization of Islamic Cities & Capitals in 1997, and was nominated for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1986 and 1997.