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Egyptian Artistry Inspires This Student Housing Complex in Paris

Inked by award-winning Egyptian design firm Dar Arafa Architects, Maison d’Egypte will be a student housing complex in Paris that takes after ancient Egyptian materials, traditions, and even text.

A monumental monolith - that is the central concept behind the design of Maison d’Egypte, a student housing complex for Egyptian studying in Paris, France. Inked by Waleed Arafa, founder of award-winning design firm Dar Arafa Architects, in collaboration with Parisian architectural design studio Sam, the project is designed to remind the students staying there of their home country, and the iconic architecture that has defined much of their history. In so doing, Arafa sought the assistance of three Egyptologists: professors Monica Hana, Salima Ikram and Anne-Claire Salmas.

“I was guided by Hana to read a book on Ancient Egyptian literature titled ‘The New Kingdom’,” Arafa tells SceneHome. Drawing from Ancient Egypt’s deep connection to the science of knowledge and etiquette of learning, the design features modern abstracted hieroglyphs that were translated from ancient text. “Ikram and Salmas supported us in properly scaling the hieroglyphs onto the façade.”

Being in the vicinity of the South Korean, Swiss and Brazil student houses, it was important for the building to represent something uniquely Egyptian - namely, the material that ancient Egyptians relied on. “The façade as well as the entire building uses coloured concrete and stone, as Egyptians were the first people to turn natural stones into building materials in an organized manner,” Arafa continues.

Likewise, papyrus plays multiple roles in telling the story of these living spaces. Along with Arabic calligraphy and Arabic music lessons, Maison d’Egypte wll hold papyrus workshops to keep students in touch with ancient traditions. The plant itself will be cultivated year round in a green atrium designed by Arafa, along with palm trees and lotus flowers.

Initiated by Egypt’s Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research and facilitated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maison d’Egypte is set up to be a self-sustaining and actualizing community. The house will host 195 rooms with single, double and suite options as well as configurations that are dedicated for people with disabilities. The zoning will include a multipurpose hall that will serve as an Egyptian cultural center in France, with study areas, music rooms and a sports hall. All in the service of culture and the pursuit of knowledge.

It is a mission statement that will literally be etched on the walls of the monolith. The hieroglyphs all along its exterior and interior will not be random symbols, rather they will all be derived from actual texts that have been preserved from Ancient Egypt. Here is a brief segment of the messages that will be featured on the Eastern facade, which originally came from ‘Papyrus Lansing’, a scroll from the 18th century BC. It was written by Nebmare-nakht, a royal scribe under Pharaoh Senusret III, and was directed to his pupil, Wenediamun:

“Love writing, shun dancing, follow the ways of your professors, then you become a worthy official. Do not give your heart to the marsh thicket; turn your back on throw stick and chase. Spend the day writing with your fingers, while you recite by night. Befriend the papyrus-scroll and the palette. It pleases more than wine. As for writing, to him who knows it, it is better than all professions. It pleases more than bread and beer, more than clothing and ointment. It is worth more than an inheritance in Egypt, than a tomb in the west.”

Not the worst advice for a university student, in all honesty.