The Gouna Conference and Culture Centre is organised as separate island plazas, surrounded by a protective colonnade and lagoon. Given the hot Egyptian climate, the architecture has been designed to create a shaded perimeter colonnade around the entire plaza, giving it its distinctive character.

Location: Mohamed Ibarhim Kmael Street, El Gouna, Red Sea, Egypt                                 Completion: Sept 2021
Total Site Area: 51,600 sqm
Area of Plazas:12,452 sqm
Area of Colonnades: 3,093 sqm
CLIENT: Orascom Development Egypt

Gouna Conference and Culture Center by Studio Seilern Architects - Sheet5
©Studio Seilern Architects

The design of the colonnades and their acute arches references the scale and patterns of ancient Egyptian and Moorish architecture, a symbolic approach rooted in the cultural history of the region.

The Festival Plaza, as the first phase of the development, started construction in 2019, just six months after the appointment of Studio Seilern as lead architect. The initial construction of the lagoon and concrete structure of the colonnades was completed in a record 16 weeks. Last year, the internal GRC casings were installed, and landscaping planted before the plaza was open to the public.

Gouna Conference and Culture Center by Studio Seilern Architects - Sheet6
©Studio Seilern Architects

The instigation for the project was the Client, Samih Sawiris’s passion for all forms of classical and traditional music, and his desire to bring the culture of this artform to El Gouna. The Plaza is an important element of the overall project, providing a permanent venue for a wide range of cultural and sporting events including the El Gouna Film Festival and the PSA International Squash Open, with more events planned this year.

Now fully open, the plaza also provides public space for the community and visitors to the area to enjoy. The colonnades are the tallest structures in the town, rising to 20 meters, and so provide an iconic new urban focus for El Gouna, a growing resort on the Red Sea renowned for being Egypt’s most environmentally friendly towns. The lagoon that surrounds the Plaza is connected to existing water systems fed by natural wells, with a gravity fed system that requires no artificial pumping.

Gouna Conference and Culture Center by Studio Seilern Architects - Sheet8
©Studio Seilern Architects

The overall design approach improves the quality of the outdoor environment whilst providing an arena for a diverse array of public activity. The colonnades work as circulation areas, shaded walkways, as well as monumental gates, inviting people to the plaza but also framing the views of the landscape beyond. Wide pedestrian bridges stretching over the shallow reflective lagoon provide pedestrian access to the plaza. The new planting, and the pool in the plaza create a pleasant environment protected by the monumental colonnade around. The pools of the lagoon reflect the arches and columns of the colonnades in dramatic and picturesque ways, creating a tranquil public space for El Gouna residents throughout the year, even if there is no pre-determined event taking place.

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