The winds of change blowing across Egypt in the aftermath of the revolution gave Ahmed Zaazaa the hope that a new future was possible. As local groups started to take action in the fields of environment, legal aid and human rights, the architect decided to partner up with fellow built environment professionals and play a role in creating change, too. “We wanted to concretise the idea that architecture can work at the service of a whole community, not just an individual client. More specifically, we wanted to bring our skills and scientific knowledge together to help people in underprivileged communities benefit from fairer housing, and improved neigbourhoods and infrastructure.”
Ahmed says one of the biggest obstacles to urban improvement stems from the conflict between marginalised communities and stakeholders. The mission of 10Tooba therefore lies in bridging the gap between these two parties, through participatory planning and design. “The discipline of urbanism is incredibly vast and encompasses so many domains such as architecture, engineering, transportation… our goal is to use a participatory process involving every single one of those stakeholders, while keeping the community at the heart.”
So far, 10Tooba has driven projects to upgrade the infrastructure and services of local areas in Cairo and Giza; to redesign public spaces in Cairo with the Arab Academy for Science and Technology; and has developed an animated series on social justice in urbanism. “It takes huge amounts of advocacy and research but, if we are able to influence even a small aspect of a project that could be detrimental to a community, it is a huge success.”
The company also seeks to raise awareness of the right to the city to wider circles. “The more people become aware of housing rights and gender rights on transportation for example, the more incentives there are for change.” As part of their participation in the EU-funded All-Around Culture regional programme under the Cultural Alliances component, Ahmed and his partners have plans to establish a regional educational centre to teach urbanism under the umbrella of social justice.
Cultural Alliances is one of ACC’s five components, implemented by the regional non-profit organisation Culture Resource. Started in January 2021, Cultural Alliances aims to strengthen the cultural ecosystem of the Arab region and to facilitate and increase access to culture within their contexts. The project does so by supporting up to 12 cultural alliances consisting of 36 cultural entities seeking to strengthen their adaptive capacities and to engage in collaborative alliances as well as wider partnerships on the local, national and regional levels.