Zooba Grand Egyptian Museum, GEM Giza Governorate property, New Egypt building development, Egyptian architecture images
Zooba – Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza Governorate
post updated 12 February 2024
Architecture: AE Superlab
Location: Kafr Nassar, Giza Governorate, Egypt
Images by Farrah Hathout from AE Superlab
23 Mar 2023
Zooba – Grand Egyptian Museum, Egypt
Zooba GEM is a flagship branch of the celebrated Egyptian food brand located at the new Grand Egyptian Museum.
The restaurant occupies a generous corner location, prominently positioned along the museum’s soaring main atrium and directly overlooking the main visitor’s entrance and the timeless historic artifacts that occupy the atrium and stepped galleries beyond.
Zooba GEM offers many of the museum’s visitors their first and best opportunity to sample high quality, authentic Egyptian cuisine in a unique, refined, and characterful setting. Informed and inspired by the museum setting, AE Superlab chose to approach the design as an interactive food experience, educating and informing visitors of the rich and inexorable connections that bind Egyptian food, culture, and history while offering them the opportunity to experience and enjoy the contemporary product of that culinary and cultural history in Zooba’s award-winning food.
What was the brief?
In the summer of 2022, we were presented with a most challenging task by our clients at Zooba; Design a flagship restaurant in a once-in-a-lifetime location at the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Egypt. The restaurant needed to represent the brand’s exuberant street-inspired visual and spatial identity with the more monumental and tonally subtle aesthetic of the museum itself. The design needed to simultaneously remain true to the Zooba brand and to capitalize on the unique scale and monumentality of its setting while also maintaining a respectful deference to the design of the museum and to the history and culture it represents.
We needed to design and build it in under 8 months.
What were the solutions?
In response, the design team opted to strip back the design language that they had previously developed for the brand to its structural, and spatial basics. Namely, the conceit of the individual stalls, kiosks, and makeshift shelters within an imagined Egyptian streetscape. Four primary functional zones were identified and each was housed in a self-contained station within the larger restaurant space. The positioning of these stations against a stone clad wall evokes the stalls and kiosks lining the exterior walls of ancient buildings throughout medieval Cairo, while the alternating light and dark granite courses playfully evoke the “Ablaq” walls of those medieval structures.
Between the stations the team inserted bright yellow, full-height, perforated steel panels. These panels indicate and provide a unified backdrop for all textual information conveyed within the space, be it a detailed history of bread-making in Egypt throughout the eras or the main restaurant menu boards. The bright yellow hue of the panels was carefully selected to reference historical hues used in ancient Egyptian art and architecture, while the perforation provides a lightness and slight transparency to the panels.
Egyptian iconography from various historical and contemporary eras is playfully abstracted and juxtaposed throughout the space in numerous custom fabricated elements including latticework screens (mashrabiyyas), laser-etched steel tabletops, and upcycled industrial mesh lightboxes. All of the disparate elements are visually tied together by a series of strong datums which dictate an organizing spatial hierarchy, and by a focused, unified material palette that is occasionally punctuated by elements of exuberant “Zooba color”.
What were the key challenges?
In developing the design, a key challenge was marrying the brand’s exuberant street-inspired visual and spatial identity (most recently redeveloped by &Walsh for print and media, and by AE Superlab for interior architecture and design) with the more monumental and tonally subtle aesthetic of the museum itself. The design needed to simultaneously remain true to the Zooba brand and capitalize on the unique scale and monumentality of its setting while also maintaining a respectful deference to the design of the museum and to the history and culture it represents.
Additionally, the entire design and construction process needed to take place within a rigid 8-month window, necessitating that all of the many custom elements incorporated into the space be designed in a manner that would allow fabrication to begin as soon as possible and take as little time as possible to implement.
Who are the clients and what’s interesting about them?
For this project we felt that we effectively had three clients;
Our primary client, Zooba, is an award-winning Egyptian street food brand. Over the past five years, AE Superlab has worked closely with the brand to define the look and feel of locations across the Middle East and in North America. Zooba is a young, energetic, and exuberant brand that placed a great deal of trust in our similarly young and exploratory practice.
Our secondary client was the Grand Egyptian Museum. All designs required approval from the institution, and AE Superlab worked closely with the museum design team to ensure the appropriateness of any architectural / spatial interventions.
Finally, we felt a great responsibility to the museum visitors and to the people of Egypt, to implement the project in a way that was respectful of, and deferential to the rich history and culture that the museum represents.
How is the project unique?
As opposed to simply designing a restaurant within a museum, we approached the space as an interactive culinary / cultural experience.
A place where visitors could learn about the myriad ways that Egyptian food, culture, and history have intertwined across the millennia, and then are offered the chance to sample contemporary examples of Egyptian food.
What building methods were used?
Travertine marble floor. Pattern matched with exterior museum stone tile flooring.
“Ablaq” stone cladding (traditional alternating sandstone/granite coursing.)
Perforated steel panels – powder-coated yellow.
Corrugated stainless steel
Brushed stainless steel
Expanded metal mesh – powder-coated or raw
Expanded metal mesh
Laser etched stainless steel tabletops
Powder-coated expanded mesh
Powder-coated perforated panels
Powder-coated bent steel bar counters
Zooba – Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza Governorate, Egypt – Building Information
Design Firm: AE Superlab – https://maskarchitects.com/
Completion date: 2023
Building levels: 1
Photography: AE Superlab
Images from AE Superlab by Farrah Hathout, an Architectural photographer based in Dubai, https://www.behance.net/farrahathoutphoto
Zooba – Grand Egyptian Museum, Egypt images / information received 230323 from AE Superlab
Location: Kafr Nassar, Giza Governorate, Egypt, Northeast Africa
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Comments / photos for the Zooba – Grand Egyptian Museum, Egypt design by AE Superlab page welcome.