Hassan Fathy (1900 – 1989, Arabic: حسن فتحي) was a noted Egyptian architect who pioneered appropriate technology for building in Egypt, especially by working to re-establish the use of mud brick (or adobe).
Fathy trained as an architect in Egypt, graduating in 1926 from the University of King Fuad I (now the University of Cairo). He designed his first mud brick buildings in the late 1930s. He held several government positions and was appointed head of the Architectural Section of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Cairo, in 1954.
Fathy utilized ancient design methods and materials. He integrated a knowledge of the rural Egyptian economic situation with a wide knowledge of ancient architectural and town design techniques. He trained local inhabitants to make their own materials and build their own buildings.
Climatic conditions, public health considerations, and ancient craft skills also affected his design decisions. Based on the structural massing of ancient buildings, Fathy incorporated dense brick walls and traditional courtyard forms to provide passive cooling.
Although the importance of Fathy's contribution to world architecture became clear only as the twentieth century waned, his contribution to Egypt was obvious decades before, at least to outside observers. As early as halfway through his three building seasons at New Gourna (a town for the resettlement of tomb robbers, designed for beauty and built with mud) the project was being admired abroad. In March 1947 it was applauded in a popular British weekly, half a year later in a British professional journal, and praise from Spanish professionals followed the next year. A year of silence (1949, when Fathy published a literary fable) was followed by attention in one French and two Dutch periodicals, one of which made it the lead story.
Fathy's next major engagement, designing and supervising school construction for Egypt's Ministry of Education, further extended his leave from the College of Fine Arts, where he had begun teaching in 1930. In 1953 he returned, heading the architecture section the next year. In 1957, frustrated with bureaucracy and convinced that buildings would speak louder than words, he moved to Athens to collaborate with international planners evolving the principles of ekistical design under the direction of Constantinos Doxiadis. He served as the advocate of traditional natural-energy solutions in major community projects for Iraq and Pakistan and undertook, under related auspices, extended travel and research for "Cities of the Future" program in Africa.
Returning to Cairo in 1963, he moved to Darb al-Labbana, near the Citadel, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life in the intervals between speaking and consulting engagements. As a man with a riveting message in an era searching for alternatives, in fuel, in personal interactions, in economic supports, he moved from his first major international appearance at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston in 1969, to multiple trips per year as a leading critical member of the architectural profession. His book on Gourna, published in a limited edition in 1969, became even more influential in 1973 with its new English title Architecture for the Poor. His professional mission increasingly took him abroad. His participation in the U.N. Habitat conference in 1976 in Vancouver was followed shortly by two events that significantly shaped the rest of his activities: he began to serve on the steering committee for the nascent Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and he founded and set guiding principles for his Institute of Appropriate Technology. In 1980, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award.
Briefly married to Aziza Hassanein, he left no direct descendants, but the children of his five brothers and sisters, aware of the obligation to preserve the heritage of their uncle tried to make sure that the materials transmitting his ideals and his art will remain available in Egypt, for the future benefit that country.