Hisham Youssef

Hisham Youssef


Hisham is a native of Egypt, where he grew up until moving to the US, where he completed his college and graduate studies at Harvard and Columbia universities. Trained as an architect, he completed projects in many parts of the world, including the US, Asia-Pacific, Australia, the Middle East and  Europe. He has also lived and worked in many cities, including Tokyo, London,  Dubai and now Shanghai, where he has lived since 2011. Hisham continues to practice architecture and teach architectural design at universities in China. 

From an early age, Hisham had a passion for travel and architecture. Growing up in Cairo, he would often wander the streets of the old city, where he developed an understanding and appreciation for the complex issues of heritage protection and preservation, while also protecting the welfare of the families who at times lived in and around old monuments in the city. 

Hisham authored a monthly column in Dubai on architectural issues for Middle East Architect. He occasionally writes on design, travel and cultural issues for several publications. In Shanghai, Hisham regularly organises events for the architecture and design community, and remains very active in the industry. Hisham’s passion for photography dates back to his college years where he was the photography editor of the prestigious student-run The Harvard Crimson newspaper.

Often in rural China, a couple would travel far to find work in cities, leaving their offspring behind with their grandparents as pictured here in rural Yunnan.

China’s rural elderly: The disappearing keepers of tradition

The rural elderly are the guardians of local traditions, says Hisham Youssef, an Egyptian-American architect based in Shanghai. On his travels to the Chinese countryside, he sees aged craftsmen labouring quietly, often with no one to pass their skills on to. Will precious culture and traditions disappear without a trace at this rate? How can this group’s life experiences be best harnessed and passed down and the youth attracted to stay or return to carry on family trades?
A hillside village in Songyang, Zhejiang province, pristine in appearance, has been “discovered”, and is increasingly becoming overwhelmed by luxury boutique hospitality projects.

Towards responsible rural tourism in China: Getting local communities involved

In part 2 of his reflections on the Chinese countryside, Egyptian-American architect Hisham Youssef asserts that local communities must be involved in the nation’s drive for rural rejuvenation. These can be projects that promote local culture and craft, rather than tourism per se. Perhaps through such efforts, the soul of these communities can be preserved and these rural gems can truly live on for generations to come.
Drying bamboo sticks for various uses including chopsticks, near Anji (安吉), Zhejiang.

Egyptian-American architect: Is China's countryside losing its identity and rustic charm to mass tourism?

Based in Shanghai, Egyptian-American architect Hisham Youssef has travelled to many off-the-beaten-track locations across China. He shares his observations about the impact of organised mass tourism on the countryside. With transport links improving and tourists arriving in droves, will tangible heritage be eroded and undiscovered gems become a thing of the past?
Xishan, Jiangsu in China (left) and Modica, Sicily in Italy (right).

Egyptian-American architect: I see China in rural Italy

In this photo series, Hisham Youssef captures unexpected parallels between the countryside in China and Italy. Different cultures and many miles apart, the similarities are uncanny.
A glimpse of some of China's vanishing trades.

An Egyptian-American architect's photographs of China's vanishing trades

In his travels across China, Hisham Youssef trains his street photographer’s eye on some of the vanishing arts and trades that have endured for long but are now under threat of disappearing as China modernises.
Boy and schoolgirl walk through a boarded-up neighbourhood in Laoximen.

An Egyptian-American architect's poignant photographs of disappearing Shanghai neighbourhoods

After ten years of living in Shanghai and seeing the rapid changes to the city, Egyptian-American architect Hisham Youssef takes us on a nostalgic and personal photographic tour of the lanes and neighborhoods that, until very recently, stood in the city he now calls home.