Thursday December 7th, 2023
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The Rebirth of Maghagha Post Office Building in Minya

Doomed for demolition, this building was renovated to act as a symbol of change in this Egyptian rural community.

Karim Abdullatif

Rural communities, like Maghagha in Egypt’s northern Minya, often face unique challenges, such as limited access to services, isolation and a lack of economic opportunities. But according to Egyptian architect Mouaz Abouzaid, “There are several ways local governments can help revitalise these areas and improve their quality of life.” Abouzaid’s way of helping was through his architectural consultancy Verform, which has offices in Cairo, Dubai, Manila and Alicante, and has recently saved a deteriorating post office building in Maghagha from demolition, restoring the old brick building and renovating the surroundings to act as a communal hub in the city.

“This rebirth is a tribute to the enduring spirit of Maghagha people, their pride in their history and their willingness to embrace change,” Abouzaid tells SceneHome. With a renewed sense of purpose and vision, the building - which was once an empty skeleton doomed for erasure - became a symbol of the vibrant community.

Verform’s vision for Maghagha Post Office was to create a space that celebrates the building’s past while embracing modern design elements to make it a functional part of the area once again. The original building was preserved, with its old brick facade maintained. “The ageing beauty of old buildings shows the passage of time,” Abouzaid expresses. “The wear and tear on the bricks, the chipped corners, wrinkles and rubbed edges, give the building character and charm that can’t be replicated.”

The renovation project rested on Verform being able to bring together the old and new, tradition and modernity, and history and progress. “The design is a beautiful blend of the past and present, with the old bricks of the original building resting proudly in the centre as a reminder of the building’s past and the modern extensions surrounding it to reflect the community's aspirations for the future,” Abouzaid continues. “The old building stands as a symbol of tradition, dressed in its original red bricks. The new single-storey buildings surrounding it are designed to provide a striking contrast with bright limestone, creating a humble presence besides the old post office.”

A glass link bridges the old and new buildings, like a transparent connector that joins the past and present. “It allows the old building to retain its status as the heart of the post office, while also providing modern amenities for those who use it,” Abouzaid says.

The renovated post office now features a large open space in the centre, with modern extensions branching out from the old building to create a contemporary space. “The design creates a modern space that serves as a hub for postal services, community events and as a gathering point for residents,” Abouzaid explains.

The design maintains a sense of hospitality and luxury within its interior spaces. “The counter area is thoughtfully designed to accommodate a maximum number of counters, ensuring efficient service for the people of Maghagha.”

A contemporary twist was added to the interior and exterior spaces through the use of perforated Mashrabiyya panels featuring the post office logo “These panels not only create a sense of identity but also serve as a dynamic artwork, filtering sunlight and creating an ever-moving play of light and shadow within the space,” Abouzaid explains.

Upper floors are designed to cater to the private zones for the staff, providing ample workspaces. Meanwhile, the roof was transformed into a functional area with seating spots and a designated prayer corner, covered by a steel pergola.

“The design for the Maghagha Post Office revolves around creating an open and inviting space for the community,” Abouzaid says. “The first step was to remove existing fences surrounding the post office to make it more accessible and visually appealing,” he recalls.

By exposing the main entrance and elevations, the post office now has a prominent presence in its area, drawing attention from the local community. “Gardens were expanded and landscaped, creating a welcoming space for the community to enjoy.”

Like most architects, Abouzaid believes this project to be uncompleted. “To enhance the welcoming atmosphere, strategic landscaping elements should be added,” Abouzaid says. “This could include planting shrubs, flowers, and trees along the perimeter to create a green envelope.” Furthermore, adding more seating areas will allow pedestrians to relax and enjoy the outdoor space while taking a break, or for visitors while waiting for their turn.

Regardless of whether these recommendations are applied, Maghagha Post Office has become the latest example of how architecture can be used to revive communities - whether it was done by boldly embracing the old red bricks of a doomed structure, which speaks to the local identity, or by removing fences and challenging the status quo of public architecture in Egypt.


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