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Typology: Mixed Use

Credits: with RiadArchitecture

Location: El Minya

Year: 2018

Area: 300 feddan 

Scope: Master plan and Architecture concept design

Status: Hold

Owner: ARDIC for real estate. 

From the very first sketch, the Lab59 & RiadArchitecture design team set out to create a sense of “place” and “community” within the 300 acre New Menia master plan design. The intention was to create a neighbourhood – or series of neighbourhoods – that the local Menia resident feels enriched by and have a sense of belonging too, without using or abusing local motifs (be it in style or form). The team felt the need to create a series of spaces that could overlap with one another, or serve as enclosed units, to give a sense of openness and security at the same time. When concentrating on “space” as opposed to “object” or “form”, the design started to shift to create a series of connected nodes which the local residents can congregate and socialize within, allowing the urban space to serve as extensions of their own homes. This brought an important factor early on in the design stage that the team started to ponder about; “human scale”.


With the advent of modern technologies in design and the proliferation of major large scale developments around the world, the designer/developer team often misunderstand the use and scale of “urban space” – they are either too big and vast or too small and non-existent. The design team quickly started to study many precedents around the world where such spaces feel “just right” and bring about a humanized factor to the design. Using cities like Edinburgh's new town, Savannah, and the urban spaces of Renaissance Italy, the design team was able to find a comfortable ratio in the urban space relative to the height of the buildings, which allow the residents to use the outside space as a common big room shared between all residents, promoting healthy and social interaction between them.


By using both the Edinburgh and Savannah examples as precedents, the design team was able to optimize the layout of buildings within the site. Many developments opt to use the more picturesque design quality of curving streets and sprawling buildings, but this model has been defunct and proved inefficient by many urban organizations around the world. The design intent for such a neighbourhood model was to inject an element of excitement and discovery within the layouts, as designers felt that the more orthogonal grid may prove to be quite boring – but the surviving examples of such models prove otherwise, whereas “Space” becomes a leftover undefined item, and the resident complains about the feeling of architecture being cluttered on the site and feeling claustrophobic. Many examples of cities that people love to travel to adopt a more rectilinear approach to the design of cities, yet carefully inject elements of surprise (in the architecture or use of open parks) to keep the city vibrant and alive. This is the model that the design team sought after, ensuring that the design optimizes and maximizes the use of space, giving the developer more density and profitability within the architecture that is useable and sellable, while reducing the operational expenses on both the residents and the developer.


Upon viewing the site, the design team felt that it can be divided into two major subdivisions: North West and South East. The boundary that separates both subdivisions lie within the area of the plot which encroaches into the site for historical research purposes. This encroachment made it difficult to create an urban fabric that continues throughout the entire site, as a shift in the urban geometry needed to occur within this area. The design team found this to be a golden opportunity to create a threshold between the Northern and Southern zones, allowing the central zone to be a large central public park / plaza where all the major services (medical, educational, service and recreational zones) to be gathered together in one central plot. This made both the two subdivisions flanking either side of the central park to be more manageable in terms of design and place making.


The design team allowed for both subdivisions to have similar zoning strategies to one another (save for changes in geometry due to the site constraints). The outer edge of the site facing the streets would be a commercial strip, which would then be followed by a mixed use (commercial on ground floor and residential above) strip, followed by the apartment building zone, and the series of villas overlooking the Nile; ensuring to maximize the view towards the Nile for as many residents as possible taking heights of buildings into consideration. The southern most edge of the site would be built on a series of terraces due to the steep change of level and topography, which gives the design an opportunity to shift in geometry and create a series of terraced villas (streets following the major contour lines), allowing to create a new premium zone within the subdivision, one that enjoys the feeling of privacy and seclusion.

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