Interview with Dr. Ashraf Abdel Mohsen – Founder of CUBE Consultants
When anyone hears of Egypt, their first thought is probably the pyramids. With such a rich architectural history, contemporary African architects have big feet to fit in. Besides creating modern designs, the new concepts consider the building legacy that has been in existence for centuries.
In this interview, we will discuss how architects in Egypt manage to find a delicate balance that merges past, present, and futuristic designs that can take us back to the future.
Dr. Ashraf Abdel Mohsen founded CUBE Consultants, an architecture studio based in Egypt, in 1990.
Besides running his company, he is also a professor of Architecture at Ain Shams University. Today he gives us a glimpse of his experiences as an Egyptian architect.
Interviewer: Thank you for accepting our request for this interview. Who is Dr. Ashraf Abdel Mohsen?
Dr. Mohsen: Well, I am an architect, an employer, a teacher, and a go-getter. In hindsight, I think I was always destined to be an architect.
I love Egypt and always imagine it as the best place in the world. That’s the reason behind all my thoughts of bringing back our heritage and Egyptian pride by thinking of many visions to create the quality of life any Egyptian can dream of living.
Interviewer: Tell us the story behind CUBE Consultants.
Dr. Mohsen: Artists often tend to have their style and vision. It is difficult or impossible to put an artist in a box and expect him to function within the set boundaries. I wanted to explore my style, my love for Egypt, and my dedication to it. That’s why I created CUBE Consultants with an all the Egyptian team who is constantly working with the same passion I have.
I founded the company in 1990, but it was officially established five years later, in 1995. It has been a journey with many good and challenging times, every bit worth it.
I am naturally strong-willed and always find ways to defy the odds. I have found ways to merge my love for art and architecture in the concept designs we created at CUBE within my roots and my love for my country.
Instead of giving into the mainstream mindset of how things ought to be, we have introduced designs that serve as a pathway linking the past, present, and future.
One of our visions is to come up with timeless designs that not only show a glimpse of ancient Egypt but one that defies time enough to fit any setting, whether it is the present or future.
Interviewer: What sets CUBE Consultants apart from your competitors?
Dr. Mohsen: First, I must admit we have great talent in the industry. I see it in the designs of other architects in other firms, and I certainly see it in my students. I firmly believe the architecture industry will continue to thrive with the talent of young people.
That said, I also believe CUBE Consultants offers a unique style and vision that stands out. For example, when creating designs, we anticipate possible future challenges that make the design more functional or obsolete.
We don’t want to create a style that works today, only for the building to be brought down in a few years because it doesn’t fit the city’s plan.
For example, when you visit CUBE Consultants website, you will see GIZA 2030 Vision and Cairo 2050 vision.
These may look ambitious or even out of reach, considering we are almost three decades to 2050. However, the structures we put up today will influence the appearance and even the limitations of these cities in the future. I will always work toward the creation of my passion for prolonging our ancient Egyptian heritage.
For instance, Giza is an important city because it hosts most of the historical sites which Egypt is most known for, such as the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Great Sphinx, and temples. Unfortunately, urban growth will affect access to these architectural monuments and cultural heritage.
Besides creating futuristic designs, my team at CUBE Consultants advises urban planners on how to foresee potential future challenges and avoid them.
Interviewer: Which would you say are the three top projects you have done?
Dr. Mohsen: Well, I hold all our designs close to my heart, but if I were to choose, I would select five rather than three favorites, they would be the National Theater development, Khufu Avenue and plaza, the Fustat Open Museum, the New Administrative Capital and finally TUTERA City.
- The National Theater Development
The main goal of the National Theater development was to attain the original theatre architecture by restoration by regaining its astounding effects among its audience in the Middle East and the whole African area. The main objective is to develop the National Theater and the urban context in an appealing, attractive design to maintain its audience likeability and regain its popularity. Back to history, reflection, technology & minimalism, regaining the original theater architecture by restoration demolish all additive buildings and slums around the original building.
- Khufu Plateau and Avenue
The Khufu Plateau View and Avenue was a dream I had from 2010, and when CUBE Consultants included it in the Giza 2030 scheme, it was a dream came true. Giza has one of the most valuable monuments globally, and I believe we should take steps to preserve it.
The Khufu Plateau View is one of six projects we are developing around the Giza pyramids.
This is a long-term project. We expect that Khufu Avenue will be one of the most prominent streets in the world in a few years.
The idea is to make the pyramids and Khufu axis visible from Al Dowal Street and Sphinx Square, 10km away.
Not only will this project be an asset that will preserve the historical monuments, but it is an additional infrastructure that will be another feature for which Egypt will be known.
- Fustat Open Museum
The Fustat Open Museum transcends the region to be a cultural heritage site that is unique in the world, where the integrated area of Fustat along with the extent of Islamic Cairo and Khedivian Cairo to be a world heritage site, within the framework of integrated development policies aimed at economic development of the site balanced with environmental and aesthetic heritage and tourism potential, which is based on having the enormous variety of archaeological sites on a global level, by following the policies of rehabilitation, preservation, and configuration, aiming to integrate historical and modern areas ensuring continuity and vitality.
- The New Administrative Capital (5+UDC)
It is a beautiful opportunity to be able to design something from scratch and to design it keeping in mind the needs of the Egyptian people and the Egyptian government,” said the Egyptian Minister of Housing Dr. Mostafa Madbouly. The extensive rise of the Egyptian population has created a real need for a new place to welcome the Egyptians and build a new future they deserve. Greater Cairo’s population is set to grow from 18 million people to 40 million people by 2050. Cairo Capital is the quick-fix as it is a decisive venture to build national spirit, consensus, providing for long-term sustainable prosperity. Globally, this city is an example of a created city that all Egyptians dream of, carrying more places to live, work, and visit.
- TUTERA City: A Contemporary Rise of the Ancient Egyptian Civilization
The First Space Tourism proposed City in Egypt; It is introducing the first scientific research city in the land of “Egypt” to allocate its applications in tourism. Its urban, architectural, and artistic features are being designed as a leap for the Egyptian state towards the future. Thus, it represents one of the essential tools of the state for political, economic, and cultural marketing challenges in the 21st century.
The design of TUTERA City’s main building is inspired by the most significant building constructed in ancient times, the pyramid of King Khufu in Giza, as an expression of the strength of our civilization and our heritage. Thus, it is the optimal building formally and symbolically to express the spiritual link between earth, man, and sky – as the ancient Egyptians imagined it transcending the limits of time and space.
Interviewer: Have you had the opportunity to showcase your company’s expertise in other countries in Africa?
Dr. Mohsen: Cube Consultants has for years focused on developing Egypt, especially with the creation of the New Administrative Capital. Currently, we have massive ongoing projects and others in the pipeline. So, one may say we have our hands complete. However, we have an ambitious team that would love to leave footprints across the continent.
We are slowly spreading our wings to other parts of the world.
My team and I aim to be a market leader in Egypt and the rest of Africa. Over time, we hope to compete with other talented architects across the globe. We are taking part in various architecture competitions to introduce CUBE Consultants to other countries.
Interviewer: What are some of the notable competitions has Cube Consultants participated, and what were the awards?
Dr. Mohsen: CUBE Consultants recently won the 2nd Award for Urban Design in the 2021 RFTA Competition.
Our Institutional concept design for Sahara International School came third in the same competition.
Under the mixed-use concept, the Tutera City design was considered the best in the RFTA 2021 competition and won the 1st award for the mixed-used concept.
Interviewer: Thank you, Dr. Mohsen, for taking the time to give us a glimpse, not just of your career but CUBE Consultants as well. We hope to hear more about the transformative projects you undertake in the future.
Mario el Africano