Urban influencers meet asset managers.

Redesigning Khedivial Cairo

Transforming one of the most complex urban cores in the world into an engine for regeneration

Talaat Harb Square, Downtown Cairo, Egypt

Talaat Harb Square, Downtown Cairo, Egypt

 

The Context

Despite its breathtaking scale, the creation of Egypt's New Administrative Capital still pales in comparison to Cairo's late 19th century Khedivial Downtown, an unparalleled feat of city building. Lauded as "Paris on the Nile," Downtown was the commercial, cultural, and diplomatic heart of the Middle East, boasting cutting edge architecture, an inspired orthogonal urban form, and forward-looking transit infrastructure. For the past 60 years, however, sustained disinvetment in the built environment and demographic out-migration have foreclosed on Downtown's potential for economic vibrancy, cultural inspiration, and public wealth for Cairo's citizens.s

 

The Task

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) sought to catalyze Downtown Cairo's regeneration through strategic investments in infrastructure and adaptive reuse. Adam Kucharski, a partner at OHK Consultants, worked with the EBRD to create the Downtown Cairo Regeneration Strategy, an innovative synthesis of urban policy creation, real estate market analysis, spatial planning, and infrastructure investment scoping.

 

The Response

 

Adam worked with OHK's Ahmed Okelly on the creation of an urban regeneration policy platform – a forward-thinking synthesis of best practices in urban regeneration and management ranging from historic preservation to rent control and affordability, provision of public space, environmental sustainability, and public-private finance. A leap forward in urban regeneration strategy and governance in Egypt, the policy platform is animated by a spatially-anchored urban investment framework that for the first time offers a clear financing strategy for high-impact urban regeneration design interventions. In a departure from several decades of purely design-driven master plans that have failed to respond to Egypt's economic context, Adam pioneered a typology of regeneration interventions, ranging from streetscape improvements to historic building retrofits. Together with OHK, Adam scoped 230 discrete, bankable regeneration investments across a spectrum of finance options, from public to private and PPP-led.

The volume of data unearthed by this project alone is game-changing.”
— Dr. Riham Arram, Director of Cairo Heritage Preservation Administration
 

Shifting from traditional master planning to asset management-based approaches to urban regeneration requires vastly greater and more detailed spatial data. But for all the promise of the smart city revolution, complex urban fabrics require innovative, bottom-up techniques for quantifying, tracking, and benchmarking urban change. In Downtown Cairo, Adam led the creation of an ambitious urban metrics model, extrapolating building massing from aerial photography and quantifying space uses, vacancies, and infrastructure needs across nearly 55 million square feet of built area. In addition to driving a groundbreaking regeneration investment program, the metrics model powered the creation of the Downtown Cairo Infowheel, an interactive infographic providing Cairo's decision-makers and citizens with on-hand quantitative insights into Downtown's urban fabric.

Downtown Cairo Infowheel

Downtown Cairo Infowheel

 
 

 

Planning the Future of Mount Ajloun

Transforming a neglected hinterland into Jordan's most dynamic tourism hub

Village fabric, Mount Ajloun region, Jordan

Village fabric, Mount Ajloun region, Jordan

 

The Context

Mount Ajloun, a confluence of land, people, and cultural heritage covering 1% of Jordan’s total land area, hosts 60% of Jordan’s green land cover, is home to the country’s most pristine and traditional village landscapes, and boasts some of the most impressive antiquities in the Middle East. Yet despite these remarkable assets, the region has lagged the rest of the Kingdom in investment, infrastructure development, tourism growth, and socioeconomic well-being. Compounding these challenges was a regulatory structure that not only failed to catalyze economic investment, but in fact enabled natural and cultural destruction through spiraling land speculation. Mount Ajloun was at a critical juncture: it could become one of the Middle East's most celebrated natural and cultural landscapes; however, the lack of spatial vision, regulatory infrastructure, or capacity to engage private investment could lead to the rapid destruction of Jordan's undiscovered patrimony.

 

The Task

Jordan faced a fundamental and seemingly intractable question: how to transform and manage Mount Ajloun's large, unplanned, fragmented, and complex landscape to to achieve the greatest public and private good? Adam, together with Tetra Tech, was retained by Jordan's Ministry of Environment to deliver a master plan and organizational blueprint that introduce a market-based framework for regional development and conservation, supported by a new management and governance system that combines the strengths of the public and private sectors.

 

The Response

Adam led the creation of a definitive Information Baseline of the spatial, economic, and environmental state of Mount Ajloun – an area of over 1,000 square kilometers. This baselining, combined with a deep analysis of existing legal and regulatory frameworks, enabled us to draft new legislation and design a corresponding organization to administer development areas like Mount Ajloun and to transition service delivery from overwhelmed municipal authorities to a public-private partnership (PPP) master developer. Upon determining that tourism offered the greatest balance among sustainable growth, conservation, and the enrichment of communities, we created a Tourism Economy Development Plan based upon rigorous quantitative analysis that offered a spectrum of development forms ranging from dense but compact greenfield towns to high-value forest and agricultural reserves.

Form-based development concept for village redevelopment

Form-based development concept for village redevelopment

Together with the design firm Hart Howerton, we prepared a detailed Spatial Master Plan for the area, proposing a novel land use regulatory framework as well as a series of rapidly implementable projects that achieve a balance between conservation and land development. Finally, we created a transformational plan for governance and management of the area that streamlines public and private roles over time, achieving short term objectives and long term sustainable outcomes. As of today, the roadmap has been implemented, with our proposed Development Zone Commission emerging as a world-class regulatory body, and the recommended project management unit transitioning into an authority, Develop Jordan.

Mount Ajloun Land Use Master Plan

Mount Ajloun Land Use Master Plan

 
 

 

Making Bagnoli a Laboratory for Change

Urban Regeneration as a Tool of Environmental Justice

A wall surrounding the former industrial lands in Bagnoli

A wall surrounding the former industrial lands in Bagnoli

 

The Context

Spilling over a ridge facing historic Mount Vesuvius and overlooking the Gulf of Naples, the famed Posillipo district hosts Napoli’s most well-to-do residents. Behind the ridge, however, lies Bagnoli, a community suffering the effects of decades of industrial pollution and governmental neglect. Though Bagnoli too lies along Italy's breathtaking Tyrrhenian coast, it is cut off from the sea by a heavily polluted, decommissioned industrial site and constrained by a former NATO base. These sites, which have bounced among industrialist landowners, the city of Napoli, and the Italian national government, have had numerous urban plans but little action. While debate continues to rage over the financing of the cleanup of the site, local activists have sought to articulate a vision of more equitable investment into Bagnoli's local economy and housing.

Abandoned industrial plants on contaminated plots in Bagnoli

Abandoned industrial plants on contaminated plots in Bagnoli

 

The Response

Adam worked with local citizen advocacy and environmental justice groups to brainstorm catalytic and transformational urban regeneration projects in and around Bagnoli. Zeroing in on the former NATO base as an underutilized but particularly promising urban asset, participants proposed recommissioning the disused campus buildings to accommodate a variety of community-oriented uses ranging from affordable housing, offices and maker spaces within reach of the fledgling startup community and local SMEs to cultural venues that host and support community-led art cooperatives. Innovative institutional anchors, including a proposed Museum of Arab-Italian Cultural Exchange and the headquarters of the new Institute for Exiled Arab Art provide a unique, reconciliatory twist on the history of the site while linking Bagnoli with world-class cultural institutions. Adam led a design charette outlining spatial visions for the site, as well as key pedestrian mobility and connectivity interventions to link the former base with Bagnoli's existing urban fabric, overcoming decades of spatial isolation and tripling the open and public space accessible to Bagnoli's residents.

A conceptual map of Bagnoli and its surroundings

A conceptual map of Bagnoli and its surroundings

 
 

 

Reinventing the Dar al-Consul

Reviving a millennium of history to serve a struggling community

Dar al-Consul Main Hall renovations, Old City, Jerusalem

Dar al-Consul Main Hall renovations, Old City, Jerusalem

 

The Context

Located at the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Dar al-Consul complex is literally layered with history – its foundations dating from Mamluk times, its arched halls once housing the Prussian Consulate, and its rooftop currently home to multiple families. But as the fortunes of the Old City have waned, trapped by political stasis and paralyzed by mass tourism, the complex and its environs have experienced sustained disinvestment and its denizens face dwindling opportunities.

 

The Task

With the support of UN-Habitat, the Custodia Terrae Sanctae sought a strategy to simultaneously revive an underperforming real estate asset while providing a civic amenity to the surrounding community. Adam Kucharski and OHK Consultants' Ahmed Okelly spearheaded an effort to rehabilitate the Dar al-Consul complex as a catalyzing urban rehabilitation effort, providing a template for the Custodia's extensive land holdings throughout Jerusalem.

 

The Response

The strategic plan introduced sustainable models of economic and urban development, enhancing mobility and investment and mobilizing the Dar al-Consul complex as a historic, civic, and commercial hub while respecting and empowering existing residents. Departing from a detailed study of the existing (and heavily constrained) economic and infrastructural context of the complex, a detailed space program, product and service design, and enterprise framework took shape, offering a highly optimized mix of complimentary functions ranging from boutique accommodation and F&B to cultural spaces and SME incubation functions. A comprehensive pedestrian mobility strategy, underpinned by an ambitious data collection and surveying methodology, optimized the movements of some 900,000 annual visitors and over 30,000 full time residents of the Old City.

A pedestrian survey team in the field at Damascus Gate, Old City, Jerusalem

A pedestrian survey team in the field at Damascus Gate, Old City, Jerusalem

To ensure the viability and sustainability of the complex, a full organizational and operational design of the complex was undertaken, including terms of reference, staffing, and job descriptions, structured around a commercial service delivery vehicle. This was supplemented by a fundraising and finance plan for the complex, identifying strategic opportunities for subsidizing and supporting non-revenue generating elements of the complex’s civic mission through alignment with donor and philanthropic priorities.

Dar al-Consul Zonation Plan

Dar al-Consul Zonation Plan

 
 

 

Envisioning Jordan’s Dead Sea Coast

Securing the Dead Sea’s Future by Designing for Resiliency

Dead Sea Corniche District, Sweimeh, Jordan. Rendering courtesy Sasaki Associates.

Dead Sea Corniche District, Sweimeh, Jordan. Rendering courtesy Sasaki Associates.

 

The Context

The Dead Sea offers a troubling glimpse into the future of climate-induced instability. As the waterways that feed the iconic sea are increasingly diverted, its shoreline recedes, imperiling the tourism and recreational uses upon which the surrounding economy depends. A spiral of disinvestment, accelerated depreciation, and rising infrastructure costs result in the collapse of any viable public realm, exacerbated by fragmented, insular, and unsustainable speculative real estate developments. What should be an ecological, geological, and historical treasure increasingly resembles a distressed asset, no longer capable of justifying its continued maintenance.

 

The Task

The Jordanian Government designated 4,000 hectares of the Kingdom's most sensitive Dead Sea coastline as a development zone in a last ditch effort to arrest its decline. Adam, together with Sasaki Associates and Tetra Tech, was retained to create a spatial and economic redevelopment master plan for the area, balancing development with conservation and kickstarting a local economy that would reinvest in local communities.

 

The Response

Our response to this unique challenge encompassed an integrated offering of tourism sector analysis, institutional planning, and investment strategy, identifying lands with sustainable development potential, developing short- and long-term strategies to service these lands, and highlighting high-value economic uses. Our key insight – that channeling development into dense and vibrant urban fabric would not only unlock new kinds of economic activity but enable preservation of the Dead Sea's most sensitive landscapes – informed a detailed master plan featuring a spine of civic amenities ranging from schools to healthcare to community facilities and nearly 30,000 new housing units. This district-based framework enabled us to link specific development forms to innovative investment opportunities, introducing a spectrum of catalytic economic anchors based on the Dead Sea's unique attributes, ranging from health and wellness to tourism, cosmetic and pharmaceutical development, education, and logistics. In a remarkable reversal of the status quo, our development vision entailed integration of the local local workforce into the growing tourism economy, while providing a built environment that accommodates in-migration and improves the quality of life. An infrastructure plan, combined with spatial and regulatory mechanisms designed to improve climate resilience, would radically reduce resource usage, lower infrastructure costs, and provide mechanisms to creatively adapt to receding shorelines.

Detail from Sweimeh Urban District concept plan. Image courtesy Sasaki Associates.

Detail from Sweimeh Urban District concept plan. Image courtesy Sasaki Associates.

This project has been awarded the American Institute of Architects National Honor Award in Regional and Urban Design and the American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award.

 
 

 

Creating a National Innovation Powerhouse

equipping cities with the infrastructure for economic competitiveness

The Jordanian Higher Council for Science and Technology, Amman, Jordan

The Jordanian Higher Council for Science and Technology, Amman, Jordan

 

The Context

Why do the most innovative countries often lack formal innovation policies? And why do innovation policy making efforts so often disappoint? As one of the only countries in the Arab Middle East with an organically-grown, domestic startup and tech scene, the Kingdom of Jordan urgently sought an answer to this paradox. How could it actively promote innovation while giving its nascent digital economy the space to grow organically? And how could Jordan's strategic investments in its own innovation landscape not only be cost effective but also allow the most competitive innovators to thrive?

 

The Task

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) sought to strengthen Jordan's innovation landscape, stimulating long-term opportunities for investment in innovative business models and R&D. Adam Kucharski, a partner at OHK Consultants, worked with the EBRD to design the National Center for Innovation (NCI), a novel agency envisioned to unite Jordan’s fragmented innovation ecosystem, address skill mismatches, spur a culture of R&D, and funnel innovative research to Jordan’s business sector.

 

The Response

Together with the OHK team, Adam provided the EBRD and the Government of Jordan with a world-class exercise in design thinking, ranging from a deep quantitative and ethnographic dive into Jordan's existing innovation landscape to benchmarking global best practices in innovation management and administration, as well as organizational scoping and service design resulting in the creation of an agency that is innovative in its own right. Not content to simply list best practices, Adam “Jordanized” them for the NCI, applying a shortlisting methodology that prioritized tools and interventions according to the specific needs of the Jordanian landscape and which leveraged Jordanian legal and institutional enablers of innovation. Adam's organizational design for the NCI took inspiration from service-oriented, high-growth startups, shifting from bureaucratic functional silos to people-centric units designed to deliver citizen services.

This comprehensive design effort far exceeded the initial vision for the NCI, catalyzing its establishment as the flagship institution in Jordan’s promising innovation ecosystem. With matching seed funding from the Jordanian Government, the EBRD is currently establishing the NCI according to this design roadmap.

 
 

 

Building the Future of Nature Conservation

Building a globally recognized pipeline of conservation talent

Conservation ranger training, Ajloun Forest Reserve, Jordan

Conservation ranger training, Ajloun Forest Reserve, Jordan

 

The Context

As the Middle East’s preeminent conservation organization, Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) aspired not only to be a champion for the Kingdom’s biodiversity but also a regional pioneer in the training of professionals in conservation and ecotourism. The RSCN saw an opportunity to elevate the quality of ecotourism in Jordan, and thus strengthen its ability to support conservation. The challenge faced by the RSCN was to make this transformational initiative profitable, self-sustaining, and spatially optimized.

 

The Task

The RSCN planned an innovative Royal Academy for the Conservation of Nature, a regional hub for conservation training, intended to finance itself through one-of-a-kind, qualification-based education offerings. Adam, together with Tetra Tech, provided executive-level advisory on best-practice qualification frameworks, institutional and organizational strategy, and spatial strategy to make the Academy a success.

 

The Response

Adam worked to ensure that the Academy would align strategically and operationally to the task of qualifying nature guides across the region, drafting a business strategy for the Academy that incorporated the positioning of the Academy regionally not only as a training entity but as a research institute and body for qualification and certification. By focusing on tools and processes that empowered the RSCN as an organization, the consulting team achieved both the creation of a qualification-based nature guiding competency within the RSCN as well as the institutional strengthening of the RSCN.

Conservation ranger training, Ajloun Forest Reserve, Jordan

Conservation ranger training, Ajloun Forest Reserve, Jordan

 

In a strategic review of the RSCN’s physical plans for the Academy, we found that its original site had been chosen to optimize available land rather than as a strategic asset. We advised the RSCN to relocate the planned Academy and integrate into a disused limestone quarry adjacent to one of its reserves. Furthermore, over the course of its design development, we extensively reviewed the complex’s building program, fully aligning the floor plan towards a commercially-viable space that is fully aligned with the program vision. The resulting Academy building was shortlisted for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Royal Academy for the Conservation of Nature, Ajloun Forest Reserve, Jordan. Image courtesy Khammash Architects

Royal Academy for the Conservation of Nature, Ajloun Forest Reserve, Jordan. Image courtesy Khammash Architects