Nabeel Elhady, Raghad Mofeed



Aesthetics in Cairo used to focus on the discussion of the psychological aspect and its related theories such as the Gestalt. This approach seemed that it does not address the full potential of studying aesthetics whether theoretically or contextually. Therefore, the authors of this paper proposed an alternative approach to study the subject when they had the opportunity to do so a few years ago. Naturally, they were faced by a number of challenges regarding the content as well as the context of the subject. The authors suggested an approach that attempted to relate ‘theorizing’ with ‘observations’ as means to approach the aesthetical experience. In addition, they encouraged the students to create, make, and ‘reconstruct’ their observations in order to cultivate their sensitivity to beauty. The aim was to investigate a number of issues, namely:

- The exploration of the deep qualities of traditional architecture.

- The relevance of these traditional qualities to the making of architecture today.

This approach was first introduced in fall 2006 at Cairo University. In each following cycle, a different traditional architectural element was used to contemplate the issues of aesthetics; a courtyard, a doorway, a ceiling, etc. This paper attempts to reflect on the experiment with special concern to its first two cycles. The paper runs three lines of inquiry in addition to the introduction that outlines the approach. The first line is a discussion of the local understanding of aesthetics and the theoretical grounds of the approach. The second is an overview of the experiment with its two phases; exploration and manifestation. The third inquiry assesses the experiment and outlines students’ view point. Finally, the paper attempts to reflect critically on the experiment where a continuous process of contemplating, theorizing, making and designing is suggested to link manual and mental skills and to challenge students’ customary clichés.


Education; aesthetics; ethics; traditional architecture

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