Each community’s most valuable assets are the ones they already have, and thus, urbanisms recognized the role of historic preservation in retaining and enhancing a community’s distinct character. The meaning of historic preservation adopted in this paper does not only mean old buildings; it means retaining traditional street patterns, vistas, and landscape . The definition of a community’s distinctive character in a particular place is an integration of many factors either the built form or its natural setting and users . Enhancement of all these factors would help build a unique community’s character, establishing a sense of place for its residents. Laying hands on specific factors or attributes of enhancing a community character for a specific place calls the involvement of its users and residents to identify their needs and preferences. The use of community character design attributes is thus advised to develop a city’s identity .
In addition to preserving the city’s historical identity in general, the focus should be on the city’s public realm designing quality public spaces in particular [14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32]. Public spaces promote a sense of place with a pleasant environment and quality visual identity . However, there seems to be a global concern that activities and functions that once filled traditional public spaces are privatized being less and less oriented to the public [10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39]. The sole meaning of public spaces is to provide a service in regard to a user’s equal rights to the space [10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28], being open to everyone [9, 21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36]. Yet, the need of social groups of people to wall-off themselves began to affect different forms of life including the public realm . A better quality of life in general and security and freedom are usually the motives that drive people especially the elite society into separating themselves in secluded environments [2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13].
Consequently, the private sector got involved in the public realm, where privately owned public spaces have become an essential form of public life . Having a public life based in streets, squares, or parks that used to be a necessity [7, 8] is now migrating into shopping malls and different forms of private or pretended public spaces . Similarly, different forms of public life in Cairo, Egypt, seems to be affected by segregation [1, 2]. Shopping malls started offering exclusive forms of public life, imitating a diverse walkable experience [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41], thus increasingly luring social groups of people especially middle- and upper-class residents away from street shopping and public spaces [18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34]. There are several reasons that explain this phenomenon. the first is security reasons; the second reason is governments favoring private developments and investments, and the last reason is touristic dominance to historical public spaces rather than the community . Precise measures need to be articulated to restore quality public places for people in Cairo, Egypt’s urban space .
It seems harder to restoring places in the urban space within existing compact cities ; thus, designing quality public spaces in new settlements was hoped to resolve the issue [32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45]. Yet, the fact is the quality of public life in Cairo’s new settlement is affected as well by the presence of private or pretended public spaces that attracts its residents [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38]. The advantage in the case of Cairo, Egypt, is the rich history, architecture, built environment, and natural setting that formulates its identity. Urban spaces, in their old compact districts, seem to encounter spatial diversification, activity layering, and mixed-use services [29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37] as opposed to its new settlement’s public spaces. These factors and attributes are needed for the desired quality design of public spaces that promotes a sense of place for their users [23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32]. Accordingly, this paper investigates the potential of building a strong community character that preserves more than the built form, improving the quality of public space that holds meaning and attachment to its users and their needs [5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23].
The study aims to identify design attributes to be added to the literature in terms of designing urban spaces for the specific cultural context of Cairo, Egypt, and its new suburban settlements. Adopting a community character approach in order to reach the desired objectives is done through a comparative analysis of two different cases of urban spaces in Cairo. The first chosen case would be one of Cairo, Egypt’s quality public spaces in its old compact districts. Al Korba and Roxy Streets are urban spaces in the Heliopolis district that were once planned to be a suburban settlement, places that seem to encounter factors or attributes of a community’s distinctive character and show meaning to its residents and users [13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30]. The second case represents one of Cairo, Egypt’s new suburban settlements where there seem to be concerns with public space quality [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38]. New Cairo is a well-occupied suburban settlement with Banks Street as its central hub of services and activities acting as a public space. Assessment of both cases built environment, natural setting, and capability of encountering spatial diversification and activity layering to reach the research aim.
Research and investigation on how to design public spaces that the community can relate to and enable a sense of place and attachment to its users is much needed . Further interpretation to this approach could be adopted by researchers to include a wider exploration of quality urban spaces in Cairo, Egypt’s old compact district that shows the potential of adding up to the literature on the matter . Additionally, urban designers need to acknowledge Egypt’s rich cultural context that is intense with different cultures and subcultures. It is in need of more research to build a strong community character approach suitable for its various cultural context differences . An important attribute in which policy makers ought to be aware of is that relying only on what the international literature has to offer with disregard to a specific cultural context will not end up in quality public places for the community. Thus, the use of community character design attributes would add much value to the role of urban design of urban spaces.