Art Histories Seminar
Wed 03 Dec 2014 | 10:00–12:00

Revolutionary Modernism? Architecture and the Politics of Transition in Egypt, 1936-1967

Mohamed Elshahed (Art Histories Fellow 2014/15)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Mali Public Works minister stands with his Egyptian counterpart by an architectural model for “Friendship Hotel” designed by Egyptian architects for Mali’s capital, Bamako. Published the popular magazine al-Musawwar, 1965

During the political and social instability of the years between the Second World War and the 1952 coup d'état/revolution, architecture, urbanism and public monuments were mass mediated in the press by artists and architects seeking to attract public interest in their projects. In the absence of a stable patronage system during these years, architecture was mass mediated in ways that required new modes of visual representation for easy communication. As the new regime took hold in the 1950s the visual representation of architecture in the popular press persisted in the service of communicating the modernization efforts of the revolutionary government.

Building on research from his dissertation, Elshahed investigates how in the mid-20th century, the circulation of images of architecture in the Egyptian press performed the task of imagining a postcolonial modernity that often existed only on paper. Many of these publicized buildings were never realized or were short-lived as many were demolished soon after their construction. The mass mediated images of architecture during this particular moment of political fluidity often blurred the lines between the fictional and the real, the imagined and the constructed. The artifact in this study is not architecture in concrete, iron or stone; rather the focus is on images of architecture circulated for consumption by the general public. The material for this archi-visual project is rich and includes a wide variety of representations of architecture. For this presentation Elshahed will introduce a selection of the magazines utilized for his study in addition to focusing on several case studies of specific architectural and urban projects appearing in such magazines. The aim of this new project is to investigate how architecture was represented in Egyptian popular culture by focusing on the medium of the press.

Mohamed Elshahed recently completed his PhD at the Middle East Studies Department at New York University (NYU) and is Art Histories Fellow 2014/15.He also holds a MA in Architecture Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Bachelor of Architecture from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Elshahed is the founder and editor of

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