Dr. Hassan Fathy, born in Alexandria in 1900, became one of the outstanding architects of his generation in Africa, demonstrating that it is possible to build for the poor and teaching people to build for themselves.
Fathy taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Cairo University and served as head of its Department of Architecture. In 1981 he established the International Institute for Appropriate Technology in Cairo to develop and apply his approach.
With the publication of Architecture for the Poor, University of Chicago Press 1973, Fathy's work came to international attention. This book, which has since become a classic, describes in detail Fathy's experience in planning and building the village of New Gourma, using mud bricks and employing traditional Egyptian architectural features, such as enclosed courtyards and domed and vaulted roofing. Fathy worked closely with the people to tailor his designs to their needs. He taught them how to work with the mud bricks, supervised the erection of buildings and encouraged the revival of ancient decorative techniques.
Although New Gourma remained uncompleted, due to bureaucratic red tape and other problems, it has been said of Fathy that he produced 'not only answers but inspiration; his thought, experience and spirit constitute a major international resource.' In 1980 he received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and in 1984 the Gold Medal of the Union of International Architects.
Dr Fathy died in Cairo in 1989.