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Egypt officials suspend demolition of Cairo's Townhouse building: Management

The municipal authorities had ordered the evacuation of the building for demolition due to safety reasons after a partial collapse

Ahram Online , Sunday 10 Apr 2016
Townhouse Gallery
The Cairo downtown partially collapsed building. (Photo: Ahram Online)

A visit by an official on Sunday to the Townhouse Gallery has put on hold a decision announced yesterday by municipal authorities to demolish the building that houses the popular gallery, according to Townhouse Gallery's Facebook page. 

“This morning, the Townhouse building was visited by the National Organisation for Urban Harmony (NOUH), who has halted the demolition of the building,” read the Facebook statement.

"Procedures will now begin to study its future as a listed building. We would like to thank every person who was involved in the events of yesterday for their immense support and energy that helped make this happen."

The building housing Cairo's Townhouse Gallery had partially collapsed 6 April, prompting the district authority and the police to order the evacuation of the building for demolition on today 10 April.

Yasser Gerab, the Townhouse’s director for outreach, told Ahram Online that “an official had visited the area this morning and informed residents and shop owners that the demolition would not take place.”

According to Gerab, the official announced the addition of a “wood structure to support to the rest of the building until a new report is drafted by engineering experts examining the possibility of restoration.”

“The details of the action plan are still not clear. We still don't know whether the Townhouse should proceed to form this committee of experts itself, or whether the municipal authorities will take care of that,” Gerab added.

Gerab said they were grateful to Soheir Hawas, NOUH's consultant and a member of its board of directors, who “supported us despite being out of Egypt.”

According to the Cairo Urban Initiatives Platform (CUIP), NOUH "aims at applying the values of beauty to the exterior image of buildings, urban and monumental spaces, the bases of visual texture of cities and villages and all the civilized areas of the country including the new urban societies."

 Once the report is drafted by engineering experts, NOUH "could help us by sending a recommendation to the municipal authority to restore the building," Gerab added. 

He also said that the building's owner has been very supportive, adding that she “wasn’t pushing towards the demolition” and extended authority to a lawyer who will represent the building's residents and shop owners and try to secure a restoration of the building. 

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 earlier.

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.

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