AUC’s Greek campus to be transformed Into Egypt’s first technology park

Source: dailynewsegypt.com

Greek Campus in Downtown to be transformed into Egypt’s first technology park

The Greek Campus has functioned as home for the AUC library back when the main AUC campus was Downtown (Photo from The American University in Cairo)

The Greek Campus has functioned as home for the AUC library back when the main AUC campus was Downtown
(Photo from The American University in Cairo)

A part of The American University in Cairo (AUC) for almost five decades, the Greek Campus will now be home to Egypt’s first technology park in downtown Cairo. AUC has signed a 10-year lease agreement with Tahrir Alley Technology Park (TATP), a Cairo-based company that intends to keep the Greek Campus name and operate it, with AUC retaining full ownership. A reception was held on the Greek Campus on Thursday, 14 November to officially announce the university’s plans. “We hope this new initiative will bring vitality to what has been, and will remain, our neighborhood and the home of our historic Tahrir Square campus,” said AUC President Lisa Anderson. “It is especially rewarding to see that the campus will be used to serve the purpose of advancing technology and entrepreneurship.” Ahmed El-Alfi, founder of TATP, looks forward to creating a hub where entrepreneurship and creativity can thrive in the heart of Cairo: “The Greek Campus will not only act as technologically advanced office spaces but also as a center for creative minds, startups, and technology multinationals to work, meet, and collaborate.”

The location dates back to even earlier times since it was established in 1964 (Photo from The American University in Cairo)

The location dates back to even earlier times since it was established in 1964
(Photo from The American University in Cairo)

Purchased by the university from the Greek community in 1964, the Greek Campus –– which has been closed since after AUC relocated to New Cairo in 2008 –– was the hub of social activity for students, located one block away from the Main Campus. It housed the library, Social Science Building, Social Research Centre, Jameel Center and School of Continuing Education (previously known as the Centre for Adult and Continuing Education and Division of Public Service). When it was first purchased, the Greek Campus included a theatre, print shop, two tennis courts and a cafeteria.

The Greek Campus was purchased during the presidency of Thomas Bartlett, who was in his mid-30s at the time, who worked relentlessly on expanding AUC’s facilities for it to grow and become a first-class institution contributing to Egypt’s development. “In the late 1940s, it was apparent that more space was needed to accommodate the expansion in the student body and programmes,” said Bartlett in “The Day We Bought the Greek Campus.”

To do that, Hill House and the Science Building were constructed in 1953 and 1966, respectively. In 1964, money that was initially going to be used for the construction of a 10-storey building on the Main Campus was used instead for the purchase of the Greek Campus, the largest addition to the university during Bartlett’s tenure. “Suddenly, the opportunity came to buy two Greek schools, where the Greek Campus is now located, [but] we first needed approval to use the money given to us for construction on the Main Campus for purchasing the Greek schools instead,” said Bartlett, who served as interim AUC president from 2002 to 2003 and is currently an AUC trustee. “The Board of Trustees approved the proposed shift on 19 July 1964.”

It is located in the middle of Downtown Cairo, a walking distance from AUC’s main gate on Mohamed Mahmoud’s street (Photo from The American University in Cairo)

It is located in the middle of Downtown Cairo, a walking distance from AUC’s main gate on Mohamed Mahmoud’s street
(Photo from The American University in Cairo)

Once permission was secured, Bartlett faced another challenge. The Greek community wanted hard currency, and that is something “AUC did not have and could not legally have paid,” he said. In addition, there were doubts as to whether AUC was eligible to buy the Greek Campus under the laws that were in effect at the time. “Fortunately,” said Bartlett, “Mr. Pierakos [Greek community leader] eventually accepted Egyptian pounds, and the Egyptian authorities did not object to the sale.”

“On the day of the sale,” Bartlett said, “Mr. Fayek Wissa, the accountant, and I had to carry several satchels containing the purchase money, since a cheque was not legal tender for the transaction. About EGP 409,500 in ten pound denominations had to be counted and transferred in the presence of the official in the registration office. That was done, and the final papers for the purchase were signed on 15 March 1965.”

One of the most distinct features of the Greek Campus was the library. The library was initially located in Hill House, but with the rapid increase in the university’s collection of books and periodicals and the ever-expanding needs of students and faculty members, the building became inadequate. In 1971, President Christopher Thoron consulted with experts in the field, and the Board of Trustees asked American architect Hugh Jacobson to draft plans for a new library that would be located in the Greek Campus. In May 1974 AUC broke ground on the project and construction progressed until 1976, when a fire broke out, destroying columns, beams and cement work on the first floor. Work on the library was halted for nearly two years, and in 1982, under the tenure of President Richard F. Pederson, the Greek Campus library was complete. Jacobson designed the library building with its exterior facing the street, as well as a plaza and platform steps extending from the building to the garden areas at the centre of the Greek Campus. As Thomas A. Lamont noted in The American University in Cairo: 1987 – 1995: “The dramatic contours of AUC’s library have given the Greek Campus its own architectural flavour.”

The campus is known for its shaded areas, which were often frequented by students resting in between classes (Photo from The American University in Cairo)

The campus is known for its shaded areas, which were often frequented by students resting in between classes
(Photo from The American University in Cairo)

The most attractive building is that of the library designed by architect Hugh Jacobson (Photo from The American University in Cairo)

The most attractive building is that of the library designed by architect Hugh Jacobson
(Photo from The American University in Cairo)

Another major building on the Greek Campus was the Abdul Latif Jameel Centre for Middle East Management Studies, for which construction began in 1987 and was completed in 1989. The building accommodated the steady growth of the student body in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as the increasing demand on management, engineering sciences and other professional programmes. The Social Science Building on the Greek Campus, with its long, tall staircase, housed the departments and offices of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. In addition, the Division of Public Service, which is now the School of Continuing Education, offered, for many years, adult education courses at the Greek Campus to large numbers of Egyptians, affirming the university’s mission of service to the community.

An integral part of student life, the Greek Campus has been witness to 50 years of AUC traditions, activities and memories; from performances in Wallace Theatre, University Senate meetings in the Blue Room, student club activities, including group weddings for orphans, late-night stays in the Caravan newsroom and crowds of students at the Copy Centre to International Day festivities: fun for children at the day care centre and gatherings in the Model United Nations office located in the Social Science Building.

To bid farewell to the Greek Campus before the university’s move to New Cairo, a gathering was held there in May 2008, bringing together members of the AUC community. The event included folklore and music performances, as well as a documentary featuring faculty, students and alumni reflecting on precious memories and favourite spots on campus.

1 thought on “AUC’s Greek campus to be transformed Into Egypt’s first technology park”

  1. I might just add to this story as an aside that the Greek campus is also home to the world famous (at least to mathematicians) ‘Cairo tiling’, consisting of symmetrical pentagons, although most Cairenes in general seem unaware of this association:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairo_pentagonal_tiling
    The tiling (paving) at the campus, shown in the above photos in a black and white arrangement, is also important historically, this being the first documented instance of the ‘Cairo tiling’ anywhere in Cairo, of ‘late 1960s’. However, there are earlier anecdotal accounts, of 1957 at the AUC, and elsewhere in Cairo, of the 1950s, although with the passage of time I am wary of relying too heavily on such reports. An open question is to when these were instigated at the campus; do these predate the purchase of the Greek campus (previously known as the Achillopoulios School) by AUC in 1964, or were they put in place then? Despite extensive enquiries I have not been able to find out. If anyone has any information as to this, or indeed of the tiling itself (where it is being made is largely unresolved) I would be pleased to receive details. Some other details and pictures of my investigations are at:
    http://www.tess-elation.co.uk/cairo-tiling/notable-sightings—american-university-in-cairo

    Like

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