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The Oven Project


Being the first intervention to be executed on site, it was chosen as a small-scale project (to be realized within one week), to get a better understanding of the community and understand their perception of the project’s interventions. It executed in the framework of a workshop focusing on participatory planning aiming at the following:

  1. To build in cooperation with the community a small eco-friendly structure (based on the choice of mud as a building material) that can be useful to them.

  2. To get in touch with the community in order to gain a better understanding of the social context. This was achieved through in collaboration with the Ezbet community, and through observations on their lifestyle along with conversations and interviews that were initiated with them.


Bound by a time frame of seven days, limited space availability, and by our target group (adult and senior women), we decided that an oven was a good choice for our project as it is a crucial item in the context of the traditional Egyptian village. However, when the idea was shared with the community, it was initially met with surprise. The reason being that even though the inhabitants originally came from villages, they were affected by the lifestyle of Cairo. After further discussions with the community, it was agreed to build an oven (that is interpreted in a contemporary design) aiming to preserve their culture by reviving one the features used in traditional village houses. Through our discussions, we learned that a number of ovens of such kind existed over rooftops and not on the streets, in order to relive the streets of smoke contamination. Unfortunately these ovens required high maintenance to withstand all weather conditions and were not sustainable.

Participatory 6.JPG


Based on our aims, it was decided to build the oven at a central location of Ezbet Abu Qarn. It was located behind the small mosque with a high flow of traffic in front, and near a coffee shop frequented by the majority of the residents.


After narrowing down the choices of location to one zone, the team visited and consulted the community to choose the most suitable spot for the project. Finally, a street corner at an intersection was chosen. This street corner lies next to a small local shop, and between several families who took the initiative to hold the needed maintenance. From that point, the community members helped us measure the place and design the oven to fit in the chosen street corner.


Considering the scale, the project can be defined as an urban acupuncture project as it alters the use of the space by consequently stimulating various social and economic activities. On the other handwe chose to place the oven in a public space so that, on a practical level, women would share the oven, and on a social level, it will create a public space where women can meet and work together, and where children can play. Therefore we introduced the oven project in the form of a socioeconomic activity.


The Excavation 


It was during this phase that our team had the first argument with the community as they started to witness actual work being carried out, and were concerned that the project team may not complete the construction, or harm other buildings.


Laying out the foundations 


At this stage, the idea of the project had started to appeal to the people, and they started interacting with our team to revisit the design and participate in laying out bricks.


Building the body of the oven 


Parallel to this we worked on interviews and observations throughout the process. The process and the communication with the community did not go smoothly and it has its ups and downs. One of the difficulties being that the community lacked patience. Based on our analysis, their lack of patience resulted from their unsuccessful endeavors to find jobs and to make a living when they moved to the city, although this was the main reason for their migration.


Building the dome and final touch-ups




A year later the project team visited the oven to find out that the community started working on the development of the intersection where the oven was built, renovating the walls and floors which were not part of the scope of the project in 2015.


Additional Installed Parts Chimney


This was a contribution from the community in August 2016. The community needed to add an extra chimney to the oven to solve some of the problems of the smoke that they recognized during the use of the oven.

Oven 5.JPG


Looking at the time frame that was set, the realization of the project was challenging. However, the participation of the community and their contribution was impressive, as they facilitated with ideas, designs, tools and building materials. Throughout the execution, men, women, and children were working hand-in-hand with our team starting from material handling, storage to the construction itself, sharing their professional knowledge of handling brick work, and learning from our experts about the handling of mud construction.


Chart 1.JPG
  1. Involving all the categories of the community in the development process

  2. Working on three different scales:

  • (1) Urban Acupuncture

  • (2) An average-scale project

  • (3) A large-scale project. From each of these scales, we got a better understanding of the development process, and of participation


Ezbet Abu Qarn was the pilot area for Ezbet Project: It helped us get a better vision of how to approach a new area and its community, how to apply the learnt lessons and theories in a more professional way, and how to adjust them to suit the society of the area in focus. Also, retrieving from Ezbet Abu Qarn as a project that mainly focuses on sustainable development, it was necessary for our team to make sure that our role has ended, and that the community is ready to take over the progress, and to lead their own path of development.



Community members: 50 Academic, expert, etc: 20 - Academic staff in ASU and SI - External experts - Students and researchers of ASU and IUSD - Community members Skilled and Unskilled local labor.








Gathering space, stimulating the community, ownership of public space.



Planning of project: May -2015 Dec 2015 Implementation: Planned: 3rd10-th Dec Actual: 3rd- 10th Dec




800 Euros




Requirements: Acknowledgment of Tools: Survey, group discussion, workshops, interview


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