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TRADITION, CHANGE, AND PARTICIPATORY DESIGN: RE-DESIGNING TABLITA MARKET IN HISTORIC CAIRO

Abstract
By : Dina K. Shehayeb, Mohamed A. H

 
This paper focuses on an Egyptian experience of participation in the design of a vegetable and fruit market. In 1999, the re-design of the Tablita Market based on community participation was proposed as one of the components of a larger encompassing project aiming at the economic revitalization and environmental upgrading of Al-Darb Al-Ahmar; a physically deteriorating district located in the medieval city referred to as Historic Cairo. The idea was that the upgrade of this major local market would serve in promoting comprehensive environmental and physical upgrading of the whole Al-Darb Al-Ahmar. The funding for upgrading the Tablita Market required the vendors’ participation in the new design. This paper presents the participatory design process that we initially designed as well as its development and adjustment during implementation. The aim is to discuss to what extent the conflicts of interest and power relations among actors, inflamed by the historic dimension of the place, affect the process of participatory design. What type of reactions did the participatory design process provoke among the vendors and other actors including the local government authorities? Are there winners and losers in participatory design? In preparation for the community participation workshops, the findings from the Needs Assessment research were analyzed using the concept of Functional Opportunities (Shehayeb, 1995) to show the relation between the advantages and disadvantages, problems and concerns expressed by the different actors. These were then summarized into six categories of Functional Opportunities that represent the Goals of the vendors. The means of achieving these goals were to be explored in a series of workshops with different groups of vendors. The criteria for selecting each group was to mix in awareness levels, but not power, so as to give an opportunity for the less influential vendors to express their opinion and not be dominated by the more powerful leaders of the vendor community. A scaled model of the existing Tablita Market was constructed as an aid to help the participants spatially represent their ideas. After implementing the first and second group workshops, the reactions to those events necessitated a revision of the process as well as a readjustment among ourselves as to the goals and impacts of this process. It turned out to be much more than a process involving a group of vendors in the re-design of a market place. Keywords: Participation, Participatory Design, Market, Tradition, Power

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