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Supervisor: Dr Nicholas Simcik Arese

Ibrahim Abdou


Research overview:

In 2017, almost a third of Cairo’s total housing units were vacant. Yet, in the same city, over half of the population improvise their living in dense and unplanned neighborhoods. In Cairo and across the world, widespread vacancy highlights a paradoxical condition of underutilized resources and simultaneously flags an underlying anomaly causing it. Typically, academic and public discourse explain this anomaly by how housing increasingly serves as an asset of financial investment. The premise of this study is that this blanket narrative is insufficient. The objective of this study is to develop a nuanced understanding of vacancy beyond the rhetoric of commodification or simple statistics. Using Cairo as its main focus, and based on qualitative fieldwork, it theorizes differentiated patterns of vacant housing, investigating how they emerge, how they are experienced on the ground and instrumentalized in discourse. It traces different actors on trajectories of accumulation, regulation and improvisation. To untangle variegated patterns of vacancy, the research explores the shifting motives which drive actors to build, the temporalities which enable or constrain them and the legal structures which they maneuver or enforce. In doing so, it overlays the socio-political entanglements, affective meanings and cultural imaginations of vacant landscapes. 



Ibrahim is a PhD candidate in Architecture and Gates Scholar. He is an architect and urban researcher interested in socio-political entanglements of housing provision, perception and use, particularly within the Global South. He currently supervises undergraduate students and was previously a teaching assistant at the German University in Cairo. Professionally, Ibrahim worked in architectural offices in Munich and Stuttgart, and urban initiatives in Cairo. He holds an MPhil (Distinction) in Architecture and Urban Studies as a former Cambridge Trust Scholar.