CLUSTER –Cairo Lab for Urban Studies, Training and Environmental Research is an initiative that establishes a space for critical urban discourse seeking to contribute to (and improve) design practice in Cairo.
Some of their projects drew our attention for their innovative methodologies, compelling outputs and recognition by both practitioners and the community.
The Downtown Cairo Passageways website offers a glimpse into a larger body of information, a database on Downtown passageways and in-between spaces that CLUSTER has mapped over three years: including activities, patterns of use, typology and genealogy, materiality and texture, circulation and access, roofing and proportion, in addition to territoriality and tools of demarcation, and other spatial and visual documentation and analysis. The website also features interviews with local community members and stakeholders.
Part of their work has also focused on how to archive and represent time, movement and ephemeral activities in a city that is ever changing. In the 2011 security apparatus breakdown, the city space expanded to reveal an unprecedented fluidity in the city, from restaurant extensions onto the sidewalk to the construction of exit ramps for the ring road by the community itself. In fact, their coverage of appropriation of public space for different needs (mobility, retail, leisure…) can constitute a valuable input for city planning to understand use and customs and integrate them into design practice.
Creating a comprehensive, participatory and up-to-date networking tool of urban actors and involved local residents is a key to better community participation through easier coordination between grassroots organizations.
Archiving the City in Flux proposes a great compilation of tools to visualize activity and movement in the city. The ebook reveals observations on the use and appropriation of public space in downtown Cairo in 2010-2012.
CLUSTER is also working with OpenStreetMap in collaboration with the GroundTruth Initiative, which is a consulting company specialized in community-based participatory technologies. The team works in poor and marginalized regions to help bring a voice to residents and bridge technology gaps thanks to open data and collaborative platforms. In their use of the Internet as a tool to empower citizens into guiding development, it seems that GroundTruth and Simulizi Mijini could collaborate on Dar es Salaam!
Stay tuned for more information.