This past Saturday a wave of anti-military protests in Cairo were met with violent crackdowns, leaving nearly 2,000 people injured and 30 dead. Given the country's numerous problems, it is understandable that the American University of Cairo lacks the funds to help their incredibly talented students make it to next year's 2012 Solar Decathlon in Madrid. Understandable, but deeply disappointing. The AUC Solar Decathlon team are the very first from the Middle East and North Africa to compete in an international solar decathlon design competition and their amazing SLIDES project, which fuses ancient Egyptian design with cutting-edge modern technology to create a striking solar-powered home, is a homegrown project that addresses the country's specific environmental issues. Their success could usher in the first wave of solid green building since Egypt's most celebrated green architect Hassan Fathy passed away, and the 10-15 lead students are working very hard to see it to fruition, but there's a very strong possibility that they might fail because they don't have enough money. If ever there was a time for the international Architecture and Design community to come together and support a really good cause, it's now. Read on to learn more about the lovely AUC students we met in Egypt and for specific details about what they need to get to Madrid next Fall.
Lori Zimmer wrote the following in our first post about the SLIDES project: “the students compare the structural design to a matchbox, with a double layered façade of interlocking perforated pieces, cast in a sand hue with yellow infusions. The latticework perforations are an Arabic architectural trait, but also work to control solar gain and create shade. The panels can slide to adjust the levels of sun that is let into the house, and they also echo the interlocking stones of Ancient Egyptian construction.” This fascinating design is particularly noteworthy given that these students have few of the privileges that their European and American counterparts share. But these are no ordinary students.
We recently had the privilege to meet Dalia Wagdi, Nada Tarkhan, and Nayef Haider, just a small handful of up to 50 students who are working on this project, along with their advisor Dr. Lamyaa El-Gabry. Haider, who is responsible for designing the slide mechanism, was so sick he could barely talk, and in a country where women are often treated like second class citizens, Wagdi and Tarkhan impressed us with their eloquent explanation of SLIDES. Dr. El-Gabry told us how much she worries that these students won’t make it to Spain because of money. She added that the University has given some money, but they still have a long way to go. They need our help. This is what needs financing: construction costs (material, labor), transportation cost of the house (from Egypt to Spain), cost of the house’s appliances and mechanical systems, travel costs for the team, and cost of hiring consultants and dedicated full-time technical staff. If you can help, please contact Lamyaa at lelgabry [at] aucegypt [dot] edu, and if you can’t, please won’t you share this post with someone who can?