Cairo – Recently renovated in time for its centennial, the American University in Cairo (AUC) sure looks young for its age. AUC is one of Egypt's premier institutions of higher education and its campus was redesigned in order to serve more visibly as a cultural hub – hosting events, art exhibitions, concerts and lectures – open to the community. The renovation included the opening of the Cafeteria Tahrir, designed by Style Design Architects and furnished with tables and seating by Italian furniture brand Pedrali.
The cafeteria is, first and foremost, a place of recreation and sharing that carries the new inside the old to great effect. The design team added white wooden interior walls that contrast nicely with the chalky, earthen envelope of the building's ancient stone walls and arched window openings, fitting the space with people-friendly furniture that synthesizes comfort, sustainability and sophistication, contrasting rounded edges with a few sharp angles and bold lines.
What's more is that the pieces are planet-friendly: Pedrali always uses FSC-certified wood finished with organic water-based paints made from plant-derived resins that are chemical- and light-resistant. They substantially decrease the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that would ordinarily be present in normal paints, which tend to off-gas at room temperature.
The interior's convivial character is established by a few expansive gestures: the architects respected the void created by the high ceiling by selecting minimalist tubular pendant lights, painting lower wooden walls bright white and choosing furnishings in a limited palette of soft hues. At the centre of the room sit Pedrali's Arki-tables, promoting a sense of shared space with long, super-slender planes. Patrick Norguet-designed Fox armchairs combine a curved ash wood profile and legs with a polypropylene shell in sand and smoky blue. They look as comfortable as they are and feel, here, like a statement of welcome.