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Ramses Wissa Wassef

2015-08-02

Ramses Wissa Wassef (1911–1974); Egyptian architect and professor of art and architecture at the College of Fine Arts in Cairo and founder of the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre.

 

He studied architecture in France at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris. His thesis project "A Potter's House in Old Cairo" received the first prize in 1935. At the beginning of his career, Wassef was struck by the beauty of the medieval towns and the old quarters of Cairo. He felt that ancient craftsmen had managed to derive from their traditional heritage an infinite variety of expression and created effects distinguished by local character. He developed an architectural style that bore the stamp of his own strong personality and responded to the challenge of the times without breaking away from the past. Impressed as he was by the beauty of the Nubian houses in the villages around Aswan, which still preserved the domes and vaults, inherited form the earliest Pharaonic dynasties, he resolved to maintain their presence in his own architectural work for reasons of aesthetics, climate and economics. He made use of traditional craftsmen such as stonecutters, traditional carpenters, glass blowers and potters who had inherited the techniques and traditions of the Egyptian vernacular heritage. Wassef taught architecture and art at the Department of Architecture, College of Fine Arts, Cairo, which he also chaired.

 

His architectural works include; Potter's House in Old Cairo, French College of Daher, French School of Cairo, Junior Lycee school at Bab al-Louq, Mahmoud Mokhtar Sculpture Museum, Saint Mary Coptic Church in Zamalek, Cairo, Church of St. George in Heliopolis, several other churches in Cairo, Alexandria and several private houses.

 

Wassef founded the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre in 1951, located in the Harrania district of Giza, near the Giza pyramids in the Greater Cairo region. He established it to teach young Egyptian villagers how to create art, he started with the village urbanism and architecture, where he applied lessons learned from indigenous Egyptian architecture design and building materials and techniques, all achieved through a participatory approach. He believed that children are endowed with creative power and potential. Wissa Wassef wanted to prove that artistic creativity is innate in everyone, and regardless of deadening influences from mass-produced objects, it can flourish within supportive settings such as the Art Centre.

The Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture from the Aga Khan Development Network in 1983.

 

Quotes:

"one cannot separate beauty from utility, the form from the material, the work from its function, man from his creative art”.