Profile of Mr Mohamed Khalil Palermo University

Mohamed Khalil

I'm Assistant Lecturer in Department of Architectural engineering, Mansoura University, Egypt.
and PhD researcher in Urban and Regional Planning,Department of Architecture Palermo University, Italy.

General research interests

Sustainable urban conservation of historic city centers.

PhD/Postdoctoral Research Title

The Future of Historic Centers in Egyptian Intermediate Cities. Towards guidelines of urban revitalization.

PhD Abstract

Historic districts are symbols of the city’s image. Above and beyond their own cultural value they fulfill an important mission in modern urban development; they create the city’s identity and image. The heritage of these historic city centers are not only Material character, but also much more. Generally, the conservation of historic centers is fundamentally different from conservation of single monument. The historic centers, as living cities must meet the varying needs of citizens with sustainable transformations.
Beginning from the second half of the 20st century, formerly-abandoned city centers in Europe became once again the focus of renewed public, academic, institutional and municipal interest. Widespread revitalization projects, starting first in developed countries and, more recently, in developing countries, returning the hope of restoring historical city centers to their architectural and cultural heritage. The complexity of urban rehabilitation comes from its cultural, social, economical, technical and institutional tasks that need coordinated investments by the government, residents, owners and other stakeholders to ensure maintenance and careful substitution of the built environment elements. The restoration of the monuments and heritage buildings is the first step but it must go in parallel with the development of local traditional resources of the community to enhance the quality of life in the historical centers, the evolution factors of historic districts are (Economic, Social and cultural, Psychological and symbolic, Political, Demographic and spatial and Environmental) this integrated approach will create a sustainable process of conservation.
Many outstanding historical buildings in Egyptian historic centers were systematically destroyed for economic purposes as they represent a hindrance to development. The absence of listing and documentation of historical heritage buildings, together with the lack of maintenance priorities and balance between functional needs and policies undertaken to preserve these buildings, lead to escalating assaults on such buildings. It should be noted that up till now, there aren’t sufficient comprehensive codes or regulations regarding the criteria for listing and selection of architectural heritage in Egypt.
Italy was among the firsts to recognize officially the value of its heritage, and considering the historic centers as a special zone. While the issue of historic centers conservation is quite new in Egypt, the research will try to benefit from the more advanced Italian experience in this field starting from the second half of the twentieth century. The main research question is How to protect the intermediate cities' historic centers in Egypt? And how to give them a sustainable future? Trying to determine the guidelines of revitalization programs to achieve sustainable conservation and development of intermediate historic centers. The main goal of this research is to formulate, evaluate, and develop GUIDELINES for "sustainable" comprehensive approach for architectural and urban conservation of the historic centers in the Intermediate Egyptian cities. The research hypotheses are; first that current efforts to protect the historic centers of intermediate cities in Egypt are not enough and they need immediate action to conserve them. And second that analyzing the more advanced Italian experience in historic centers' urban conservation will give applicable results and guidelines which could be used in the Egyptian context.
The research consists of four parts and the conclusion; The first part discusses the theoretical approach of the study through defining the main topic elements and shed light on international and national (in both Italy and Egypt) movements which led to the recognition of historic centers as an important issue. The first part consists of three chapters; The first chapter defines the main topic elements of the research topic (Historic centers, Urban Conservation, Sustainability in heritage context and Intermediate cities) aiming to find the relation between these elements which formulate the research topic. The second chapter consists of three subdivisions; a review of declarations and charters starting with the international charters, then national (Italian and Middle eastern) charters. The second subdivision is analysis of the Italian polices concerning heritage conservation. And the third is analysis of the Egyptian legislation and polices concerning heritage. The third chapter highlights the planning tools of urban conservation including the Conservation Plans and action Management Plans. The first part concludes to define the topic and how it was dealt with through the international actions and how should planning participate and adjust the conservation processes by dedicated planning instruments.
The second part is discussing the Egyptian practices concerning heritage area conservation. Which are mainly located in Cairo (the capital city) and then in Alexandria (the second city). As there aren't any conservation practices of Intermediate or small historic centers in Egypt, this part analyzes the recent Egyptian practices which were done in Cairo. Even if Cairo is one of the biggest metropolitans in the world and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and it has one of the largest historic centers in the world, but all the project which were done -till now- dealt with limited small part of the historic center. So studying historic districts conservation projects in Cairo is quite near the main topic of the research as intermediate historic center. This part consists of four chapters; the first chapter shed light on the historic center of Cairo its potentials and problems, and the main efforts which were done nationally and internationally to protect and restore it. Then the second, third and fourth chapters analyze the main three important projects which were done or currently in progress in historic Cairo, these projects are; "Historic Cairo Restoration Project (HCRP)" 1997-2010, the "Aga Khan Historic Cities Program (HCP) Al-Darb Al-Ahmar Revitalization" 1997-2005 extended to 2013, and the third one is the project that includes all the historic center of Cairo "Urban Regeneration Project for Historic Cairo (URHC)" 2010-2013 still in progress. The second part concluded with comparison between the two deferent approaches which were adopted in Cairo and the main weaknesses and strengths on the practices.
The third part studies and analyzes three Italian cases of historic centers of intermediate cites in Italy with conservation and rehabilitation projects. Aiming to highlight the strategies and procedures used in Italy to safeguard the historic centers heritage. The three cases where chosen after a study of the Egyptian practices in Cairo and a quick study of Rosetta to choose cities which have convergent physical, social and economic types of problems and opportunities, and had a project of regeneration with degree of success. The three selected cases are; The Historic Center of Syracuse, Sicily; The city historic center "the island of Ortygia" is notable for its rich Greek history and architectural heritage. Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica were nominated as World Heritage site in 2005. The city has a special law (No. 70/ 1976) for the protection of the historic center and the Detailed Plan (PPO), by Giuseppe Pagnano was approved in 1990. The Town Council of Syracuse approved the new General Urban Development Plan in 2001. Followed by a management plan with Long Term Objectives (2005 – 2035). The Historic Center of Palermo, Sicily; which is noted for its history, culture and architecture. The city is very rich in its architectural heritage of (Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches, palaces and buildings). The historic center has its Detailed Exec¬utive Plan by Leonardo Benevolo, Pierluigi Cervellati and Italo Insolera which was approved 1989. Part of the historic center containing the Arab- Norman monuments was nominated as World Heritage site in 2010. And the historic center and old port of Genoa, Liguria; which is located on a narrow strip of land between the sea and the mountains, contains a concentration of cultural and historical heritage buildings. A part of the historic center which called "La Strada Nuova" was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006. The European Union designated Genoa as the European Capital of Culture In 2004. The approach to regeneration in Genoa depended on -among other things- a series of public events (e.g. World Cup in 1990; Columbus Celebration in 1992; G8 meeting in 2001; European Capital of Culture designation in 2004). The third part concluded with a comparison between the three cases to show the strategies, strength, weakness and key lessons learnt from the practices which could be applied as guidelines for future practices in other intermediate cites in Egypt.
The fourth part of the research is analyzing the historic center of Rosetta as a case study of an Egyptian intermediate historic center which has a very important heritage and suffers from; the same problems as all the other intermediate cities in Egypt and the same level of neglecting from the government as most of the Egyptian cities. This part aims to study the current situation of the historic center to determine the steps for revitalizing the historic center which could be applied to all the intermediate historic centers as basic guide lines for revitalization projects. Rosetta is one of the main examples of important intermediate historic center which suffer from neglecting and need to be revitalized otherwise the historic center will be lost forever. Rosetta is the second city after Cairo in terms of the quantity of its Islamic houses. The city’s most famous piece of heritage is the “Rosetta stone” which led to understanding of hieroglyphs; this stone is now in the British museum in London. The city monuments were restored more than once and they were closed (only two monuments were re-used) but due to the high level of sewage water in the city, neglecting and lack of public awareness the city heritage is deteriorating in a very speed rate. The study of Rosetta concluded with defining the main problems face the historic center along with SWOT analysis and future vision for Rosetta historic center.
The fifth part summarized the research conclusion with some recommendations and guidelines for intermediate cities' historic centers future conservation programs in Egypt. And basis of revitalization process of intermediate cities' historic centers.