A building housing Cairo's Townhouse Gallery partially collapsed 6 April, prompting the district authority and the police to order the evacuation of the building for "demolition on Sunday," Yasser Gerab, the Townhouse’s director for outreach told Ahram Online.
For the past 17 years, the four-floor Downtown Cairo edifice housed the Townhouse Gallery, a highly respected Cairo art space and a frontrunner in Egypt’s independent cultural movement.
While the Townhouse Gallery occupies four apartments in the block, the building is also home to families living in four other apartments while its ground floor houses a car mechanic and spare parts shop.
"The part of the building that collapsed includes one of the Townhouse Gallery spaces and administrative offices," Gerab clarified.
"Though only one wing of the building collapsed, we were all asked to evacuate so that authorities proceed with complete demolition," Anwar Mohamed, owner of the car spare parts shop, told Ahram Online, adding that he was reluctant to vacate his store as "this would mean we accept the demolition."
He added, however, that he was aware of the building's poor condition and knew that "something had to be done to avoid the collapse."
Gerab explained that, "What happened was really a surprise, because before the collapse of a part of the building we had engineering experts who were preparing a report about the building. The final report, which we received a day prior to collapse, stated that a part of the building needs restoration. But now, after what happened, we need another report to evaluate the current condition of the building."
Gerab went on to suggest that instead of immediate demolition, the Townhouse owners, building tenants and shop owners should agree on an action plan and its implementation, "So we all have a chance to restore the building."
He also revealed that for the time being the Townhouse will have to relocate to the space beside Rawabet Theatre, located in the gallery's vicinity.
"We expect our activities to be affected for some time, but definitely we will be back with a strong programme soon," Gerab explained.
The building's partial collapse comes some months after the Townhouse Gallery was closed by the authorities for several weeks.
At the end of December 2015, officials from the local municipality, the Censorship Authority and the Tax Authority closed the Townhouse Gallery after inspections reportedly showed administrative irregularities.
The gallery reopened mid-February.
The Cairo downtown partially collapsed building. Front [L] and back [L] (Photo: Ahram Online)
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