Collage study for ESK House, Tarek Naga, 1999. Courtesy of Tarek Naga.
March 20, 2024

Digital Arabs

A Brief History of Digitally-Conceived Architecture in the Arab World During the 1990s
Reid Hall | 4 rue de Chevreuse 75006 Paris
Free and open to the public / Registration required
The evening will start with a screening of the first episode of Digital Arabs, an ongoing video documentary series, followed by a conversation between Mohamed Elshahed and Adham Selim.

Register here

In the early days of personal computing, digital models and images produced by acclaimed architects of Arab origin, such as Zaha Hadid and Hani Rashid, mysteriously found their way back home on smuggled hard-disks and pirated e-books, to become the agitprops of a brief, yet fervent, digital architecture movement among young Arab architects. This movement was soon forgotten or dismissed as a lesser grade or immature emulation of what was happening back then in the ‘West’. Apart from several ephemeral structures, the few realized projects that came out of this movement were considered, at best, still-births. They were torn down or abandoned to their fate as probably the first ruins of digitally conceived architecture. Unearthing some of these ruins, this research seeks to revisit the legacies of the digital in Arab architecture produced in the 1990s with the aim of constructing an alternatively nuanced history of the digital. In this first episode of an ongoing video documentary series, architect and researcher Adham Selim introduces an archaeology of the digital that extends beyond Eurocentric theories of the digital turn.

About the Speakers

Adham Selim is an architect and researcher working at the intersection of aesthetics, politics, and histories of digital tooling in architecture and design. Besides teaching at the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam, Selim is the founder of the Archilogue, a crowd-sourced electronic shelf for translating and publishing architectural literature.

Mohamed Elshahed is a writer, curator, and critic of architecture. He is the author of Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Guide (AUC Press, 2020) and was the curator of Cairo Modern at New York’s Center for Architecture (October 2021–March 2022). He earned a Masters from MIT’s Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture and a PhD from NYU’s Department of Middle Eastern Studies. He is the curator of the British Museum’s Modern Egypt Project and of Modernist Indignation, Egypt’s winning pavilion at the 2018 London Design Biennale. In 2019 Apollo Magazine named him among the 40 influential thinkers and artists in the Middle East. In 2011 he founded Cairobserver, a fluid project with six printed magazines distributed for free to stimulate public debates around issues of architecture, heritage, and urbanism. Mohamed is based in Mexico City.

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