The Halawa House presupposes the notion of a contemporary idea within a setting that is way past its own time. Wahed El Wakil says the house is conspicuously different, both in design and materials, from what is normal in Agami. And that is no Sin. This house is an idea whose sole discretion laid with Abdel Wahed El-Wakil, perhaps one of the most famous architects (besides Hassan Fathy) to come out of Egypt.
El-Wakil said of the project "The house was a long awaited opportunity to realize the study and research i was undertaking in vernacular architecture, showing the external aspects and inner significance of traditional architectural heritage and its use in contemporary design." This is a building with one foot in the past and the other steady set in the present, perhaps ready to leap into the future where contemporary design has become more about the ostentatious display of clout and manner as opposed to functionality and common place of man.
The house, situated on a narrow plot in Agami, a hot and humid town near Alexandria and the clients, tired of living in hot, rented and ugly apartments in Agami, secured the faith of a young architect, eager to experiment, and in that they found Abdel El Wakil, a man dedicated to Islamic design who knew they wanted a beautiful house fit for active people who valued their privacy.
From the Aga Khan Citation:
The architect has drawn upon traditional Islamic or Egyptian prototypes for the design of this house. In addition to the courtyard and its fountain, the house has a loggia, a wind catch, alcoves, masonry benches and a belvedere.
Except for the master mason, plasterer and carpenter, who were skilled craftsmen, all other labour was done by local unskilled Bedouins. The vaults and arches were constructed by the inclined arch" system without shuttering. The house works very well in Egypt's hot climate. The walls and roof are designed to provide insulation, sunlight filters through mashrabiyyas, and the courtyard draws fresh sea air down through the wind catch.
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