As summer 2019 drew to a close, Gounies witnessed the inception of the striking El Gouna Conference and Culture Centre. In just a few short months, the space evolved from undeveloped terrain, to a hub for bleeping, blinking industrial vehicles. Shortly after the foundations had been dug, the first of the impressive monolithic archways had been erected and, in seemingly no time at all, the first stage of construction – ‘the Plaza’ – had reached completion.
The Plaza has been completed in November 2019. However, much like many construction projects across world in 2020, the site remained unchanged and untouched throughout the pandemic. Until the 4th annual El Gouna Film Festival was announced.
The elusive story behind El Gouna’s newest landmark has piqued the interests of residents and visitors alike. Here, we answer the question on everyone’s mind: “what is the Gouna Conference and Culture Centre and what it is all about?”
Prior to its construction, renderings pictured a bustling community space with perimeter of towering archways, surrounded by a pool of water, mirroring the structure. Thus far, the completed structure is no less impressive. As you approach the venue – located just off of Mohamed Ibrahim Kamal Street, near the Upper Nubia compound – it is unmissable, ideally situated in the heart of El Gouna.
Rendering images are sketches and not final
At first glance, you are reminiscent of the neck-stretching obelisks and temples of Ancient Egypt, however, that is where the similarities end. The contrast of the plaza’s tall, clean archways against the endless pastel sky, rugged silhouette of the neighbouring mountain tops and nearby traditional-style, dome-capped homes of Upper Nubia make for a breathtaking scene. The surrounding pool emits a sense of calm, inviting you to explore further.
The plaza was completed in a record time of 16 weeks and will shortly become home to a variety of art and culture events of both local and international repute; hosting catered events for up to 800 guests and seating 1400 guests at screening events.
This striking and unique space is ideal for grand and special functions – festivals, weddings, graduations, exhibitions, to name a few.
The conference centre offers unlimited opportunities for businesses; both Egyptian and multinational. An auditorium seating 2000 persons, several VIP rooms – ideal for seminars – and a total of eight meeting rooms, are part of the second phase of the venues development.
Along with a diverse portfolio of hotels to offer, El Gouna’s new conference centre is sure to attract the eyes and ears of multinational companies searching for the perfect spot to host their corporate events.
The third, and final, phase of the venue is the long-awaited dream of Mr. Samih Sawiris, Chairman of Orascom Development Holding, the El Gouna Conference and Culture Center was born from a lifelong passion for classical music. The astounding concert hall is set to establish itself as a landmark iconic destination for international musical events.
With a capacity for 600 attendees and a 120-piece orchestra, music enthusiasts can expect a variety of future performances at the venue, from Classical to Traditional Arabic music and, of course, theatrical Operatic performances.
The hall was conceived with outstanding acoustics in mind, marrying brilliant design and beautiful sound, Audiophiles of Egypt, and abroad, are no doubt yearning to experience the World-class events that the concert hall will soon host.
Rendering images are sketches and not final
Ms. Christina Seilern of Studio Seilern Architects, London, is the architect who brought the vision to life. Fusing Middle Eastern and Egyptian traditional architecture to create the spectacle.
Prior to construction, architectural drawings showed an almost poetic juxtaposition between the natural elements of water and the man-made architecture, which turned out to be a fundamental design feature chosen by Ms. Seilern herself “The light quality in Gouna is ever-changing. The water reflections of the buildings and the sky create a canvas to capture the magnificence of the changing light condition.”
Studio Seilern has a mantra of ‘building with a soul’ and worked their magic to fuse infamous ancient Egyptian architecture with Gouna’s Nubian twist “We studied Islamic arches as a precedent… and imagined how this typology could be re-invented into a contemporary interpretation that would give a unique character to the building. By staggering the columns (rather than placing them adjacent to each other), we discovered a new language emerging within the ceiling of the colonnade… something reminiscent of gothic architecture with a bold and textured outcome.
Looking at Ancient Egyptian Architecture, it is apparent that scale played an important role in the impact of its message. Monumentality was achieved in civic and royal structures by oversizing. We wanted to play with this idea and felt emboldened to allow to oversize the columns and create a space that aims to be awe-inspiring.”
Follow us on Facebook for the full interview with the architects; coming soon.
The scale and nature of the new addition stands as a testament to the success of the sustainable and gradual growth of El Gouna – as a town and perhaps soon, city – embedding Gouna’s presence in the Middle East and Northern Africa as a hub for enterprise.
The finished article will no doubt establish El Gouna as a melting-pot of culture, the arts and business, carving a spot on the map for unforgettable experiences; for both the private and corporate world.
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