Earth bricks, upcycled materials and local craftsmanship combine in the Cheops Observatory, a new residence designed by Paris-based architecture firm Studio Malka. Located within the ancient village of Nazlet El Samman at the gateway of the desert, the artist’s residence thoughtfully weaves elements of the regional vernacular — including local materials and labor — into its contemporary and sculptural form. The design and orientation of the building was also informed by sight lines to the Great Pyramid of Giza and the trajectories of the sun and moon.
Taking cues from the ubiquity of informal architecture in Cairo, the architects followed suit by designing the residence “orally, without any plan, just a few sketches drawn on the desert sand.” The architects’ commitment to environmentally friendly design also led them to emphasize the use of local construction techniques and labor. Raw earth bricks were used for the facade. Traditional windows and shutters were recycled from the village; the operable triangular roof was handcrafted by a Giza desert tribe. Other materials were upcycled or diverted from the landfill wherever possible.
To frame views of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Cheops Observatory was positioned east to west in alignment with the pyramid. This view becomes the focal point of the home’s Time Room, a meditative observation space that opens up to the sky through the folding textile roof. The orientation of the home is also conducive to observational astronomy and cross ventilation.
“A vertical stratification inscribes this architecture in a temporal process linking the vernacular, the contemporary and the nomad in one main building,” the architects explained. “This architecture with variable geometry allows both specific or integral protection system, effective against the sun rays, as well as optimal air-cooling flow on the levels.”
Photography by Rayem via Studio Malka