Sites International on CBC with Mona El Shazly

On January 21st, Mrs. Mona ElShazly dedicated a segment in her show to discuss Egypt’s legendary ‘Giza Zoo.’ The discussion evolved around the degradation of the historic value of the park, its aesthetic aspects and the concept of conservation and preservation. The zoo was authorized by Khidive Ismail in commemoration of the Suez Canal opening. Sadly it was completed 21 years later and was at once ranked as one of the best zoos in the world.

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Mrs. ElShazly invited Dr Maher Stino and Dr. Laila ElMasry, founders of Sites International a leading international firm headquartered in Cairo, to shed some light on the degradation of public places. The firm is responsible for creating a multitude of magnificent projects in Egypt and abroad. Most spectacular of these projects is the design and supervision of the Al-Azhar Park, Cairo’s Right Lung.

Dr. ElMasry discussed the history of the Giza Zoo, its historic collection of plants, animals and structures, present at its inception, and how in the past 30 years or so encroachments have slowly eroded the zoo’s public space, downsizing it to almost half of its original size. For instance, the Suspension Bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel, designer of Paris Eiffel tower, and the Japanese Kiosk, a gift from the Japanese Emperor.

Dr. Stino compared Giza Zoo to Al-Azhar Park.  Al-Azhar park site was built on what was a former dump site, during the Fatimid period, for half a millennium. Drs. Maher and Laila, shed light on the technical difficulties they faced in designing the park’s landscape. Primarily soil unsuitability for planting or building structures, as well as the incorporation of three huge water tanks for the city. Nevertheless, with creativity, dedication and commitment Sites International was able to transform the dump site into a beautiful park that preserved the historical legacy of the area.

Dr. ElMasry described Landscape Architecture as not merely adding some decoration to fill in an empty space, but rather an integrated method of design that includes creating synergy between the surrounding  environment, roads & irrigation networks, solar patters and the most appropriate architectural design, just to mention a few factors.

Mrs. ElShazly concluded by saying that if we only have one Al-Azhar park then it’s like an oasis in a desert, if we have one clean road then it’s an exception to the rule. She expressed her hope that beauty in urbanized areas becomes a rule not just an exception, for all of us want to enjoy open spaces and learn how to take care of it.

Sites International specializes in urban design, master planning, detailed master planning, architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, site supervision and project management. The firm’s diverse portfolio includes Family Park, Dubai Park, Dead Sea Resort, JW Marriot, Sheikh Zayed Park and New Giza University. Sites International looks forward to creating many more seminal designs in the years to come.