Revolutionary Modernism? Architecture and the Politics of Transition in Egypt, 1936–1967
Mohamed Elshahed recently completed his PhD at the Middle East Studies Department at New York University (NYU). His dissertation, Revolutionary Modernism? Architecture and the Politics of Transition in Egypt, 1936-1967, argues that 1950s urban and architectural development associated with Nasserism refashioned preexisting architectural production in the service of Egypt’s “necessary transitional authoritarianism.” Architectural and urban developments, increased investment in infrastructure, and the building of ambitious large-scale projects were foundational in the process of showcasing in concrete ways the realities of living in the age of revolution. Elshahed’s research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council and the American Research Center in Egypt. 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’s research focuses on modern urban and architectural developments in the Middle East, particularly Egypt, from the nineteenth century to the present.
Revolutionary Modernism? Architecture and the Politics of Transition in Egypt, 1936-1967
During his Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices fellowship in Berlin, Elshahed will complete his book proposal based on his dissertation and he will commence new research. He will investigate how in the mid-twentieth 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 artifact in this study is not architecture in concrete iron or stone etc.; rather it is the image of architecture circulated for the consumption of the general public. The material for this archi-visual project is rich and includes a wide variety of representations of architecture. Examples include images of Egyptian-built or proposed architectural projects in Gulf and African cities as part of Egypt’s short-lived regional ambitions, proposals for a Soviet-Egyptian friendship monument in Aswan, and artist illustrations of Egyptian everyday life commissioned by the Chinese-Egyptian Friendship Society.