Nile Valley 2009

After several years of investigation in international metropolises, this semester we focused on a new field of contemporary urbanization: like an expedition starting in Cairo, we explored the oldest valley in the world, the linear oasis along the Nile. From the earliest civilizations up until present day, the urbanization processes in the Nile Valley have generated a complex and specific territorial organization under extreme geographical limitations.
The research unfolded in the region of Upper Egypt where the cities of El Minya and Assiut act as the largest regional centers. The project focuses on a section of the Nile Valley within a 50 kilometer radius around the city of Assiut, which contains paradigmatic urban phenomena and landscape conditions.
While this territory has been inhabited and cultivated throughout millennia, we focused on its present day transformation. 

All students travelled to Egypt and Nile Valley for a two-week fieldwork phase during March 2009. The results of the fieldwork in Egypt and the further development of the research in Basel took form of visual narratives with drawings, maps, diagrams, photographs, architectural portraits or anatomies of urban processes, that are presented in this book. A target for each work was to formulate a thesis regarding a particular research topic. However, we look beyond the obvious and commonly understood, into processes and situations that often go ‘unseen’, largely unplanned or created through conflict, negotiation and power plays of many actors in the field. The different themes that students address come together into a larger picture, an ‘urban portrait,’ reflecting the present reality of the territory and speculating possibilities for its future.
Territorial research on location is only feasible through local collaboration. The Department of Architecture of Assiut University joined us as main partner in collaboration during the semester and the fieldwork, involving their students, experts and teaching staff. Student groups conducted research together with students of Assiut University.

The topics are:
River Nile - An autonomous space
Water Management - Building on fluid availability
Agriculture - Skin of the urban organism
Villages in the Nile Valley - A stable constellation
Valley Edges - The mechanics of conquering the desert
City Core
City Edges
Desert City
Production and Industries - Needs of a valley
Nexus of the Nile - Rural mass transit in Assiut