The Bartlett School of Architecture


Bartlett Research Conversations: Omar Abolnaga

29 November 2022, 4:00 pm–5:30 pm

Image: The disorder of order - Omar Abolnaga (2022)

PhD student Omar Abolnaga discusses his research into informal urban housing typologies in Cairo.

This event is free.

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The Bartlett School of Architecture


Room G.12
22 Gordon Street
United Kingdom

(Un)Framing ʿAshwaʾiyyat: A Critique of the Discourse around Cairene Urban Informality

Speaker: Omar Abolnaga
Supervisors: Dr Clare Melhuish and  Dr Sophia Psarra
Guest panellist: Prof Camillo Boano, Development Planning Unit, UCL 


60% to 70% of Cairo’s population is argued to live in informal areas, known by the name ʿashwaʾiyyat. Urban research into Cairo has investigated this phenomenon by only focusing on the regions labelled informal by the state, overlooking a broad spectrum of other urban forms perceived as ʿashwaʾiyyat by other city stakeholders. Hence, this thesis will investigate alternative typologies and classifications of ʿashwaʾiyyat, which could be used to deepen understanding of the informal phenomena that seem to be embedded within Cairene urbanity. This research argues that the current academic approach toward Cairene urban informality, which only explores the state’s view, has mystified Cairo’s urban environment, disengaging urban practitioners from the actual needs of the people.  To answer the research questions, this study will employ mixed archival and fieldwork methods, generating textual and visual data. By so going, this thesis will investigate an under-explored facet of the discourse of informality, contributing to the field of urban theory while taking a step toward demystifying Cairo’s urban environment.

About The Bartlett Research Conversations

The Bartlett School of Architecture’s Research Conversations seminars comprise work-in-progress and upgrade presentations by students undertaking the Architectural Design MPhil/PhD and Architectural and Urban History and Theory MPhil/PhD. All current UCL staff and students are welcome to attend.

Held regularly throughout the academic year, the seminars are attended by the programme directors, Professor Jonathan Hill and Professor Sophia Psarra, PhD Coordinators, Dr. Nina Vollenbröker and Dr Sophie Read, and other PhD supervisors.

Image: The disorder of order - Omar Abolnaga (2022)