Amplifications [golden teeth]: Urban space as outdoor museum
Place Lalla Yeddouna: A neighbourhood in the Medina of Fez, Morocco
Place Lalla Yeddouna (Bin Lamdoun) is a significant centrally located urban precinct at the end of the artisan circuit in the Medina of Fez, Morocco. Here the Bin Lamdoun bridge spanning across the Fez River connects the two precincts of the old city, Adouat al-Qarawiyine and Adouat al-Andalous. The proposed relocation of the Chouarra tanneries adjacent and establishment of a new artisan precinct at Ain Nokbi, four kilometers from the Medina and the broader Fez River Rehabilitation Project provide the framework for this proposal for Place Lalla Yeddouna imagined as an urban scale outdoor museum. Further it would constitute one part of a network of reworked interconnected urban spaces such as Fez Jdid and Fez Bali to provide orientation for tourists negotiating the Medina and the city as well as enhancement of urban space for the city’s inhabitants. Other sites of interest nearby include Medersa Mesbahahya, Medersa Attarine, Moulay Idriss Mausoleum, Souk Henna, one of the oldest market places in the Medina and the Nejjarine Complex. The existing fabric of the city is consolidated and historical aspects amplified with the curation of historical fragments and information utilising the walls and ground plane of the urban spaces stained in colours associated with the history of the site. Viewing platforms established in Place Lalla Yeddouna provide panoramic views of the Medina with key functions worked into shrouded reconstituted urban fabric like golden teeth that further assist with orientation.
The competition brief called for 3,515 square metres for Artisanal Facilities, 420 square metres allocated to Residential and Municipal Facilities and 2,332 square metres of Public and Tourist Service Facilities, a total of 6,267 square meters in three zones. A preservation zone was defined that identified significant heritage value to the west of the river with redevelopment zones on either bank. The Medina Information Center was positioned adjacent to the Bin Lamdoun Bridge in the shell of an adjacent existing building and was connected to the bridge by means of a new deck, creating a forecourt to the center with the Internet Café and nearby restaurant. A small urban space was also defined in front the mosque. The shell and required program are enveloped in a metallic tent-like shroud embossed and incised with patterns reminiscent of tent fabrics, ceramic tile patterns or shadowy monumental metal work invoking the craft of the copper and brass smiths and other artisans. This translucent metallic form was envisaged to glow like a beacon at night, maintaining the existing building shell as silhouette within and marking the transition from Adouat al-Andalous to Adouat al-Qarawiyine. The metallic shroud provided shading to the masonry structure and an air gap to allow venting of hot air as one element of a passive cooling strategy. Solar panel arrays were integrated into this façade system. Thin metal shade structures of steel and copper perforated with subtle patterns and traditional timber lattice structures sometimes in combination were provided over key spaces in the precinct making it more amenable to public events. The new hotel in development zone two was conceived as a Fondouk type literally cut in half. By contrast it was proposed that Fondouk Lahsair also known as “The Mats” would be faithfully restored with the ground floor left open and permeable, a broad strategy enacted across the preservation zone to facilitate liveliness.
The new layers of tourist facilities were connected into the rich pattern of existing building types and uses. A framing of key historical material fragments and events together with the subtle staining of building surfaces acknowledge the tannery’s former presence. The staining references the colours of dyes traditionally used in the tanning process and other colours associated with the history of the site such as indigo, takaut (dark brown), saffron, henna, poppy and mulberry will inform the background colour palette. We imagined that the proposal would need to be developed in consultation with the community and by using local materials and techniques albeit with a level of innovation and transformation. Text appears in multiple languages on walls at first floor level and across the ground plane as part of the surface treatment. We hoped that this presentation of didactic material would have the effect of heightening the experience for the tourists, artisans and other locals whose trajectories intermingle across these urban spaces and also assist way finding in this labyrinthine city. Provision of market space in Place Lalla Yeddouna would consolidate its role as a key interface for the presentation and selling of artisanal goods to tourists. Other environmental strategies were deployed across the site to limit the effect of accrued pollution from the tanneries as well as rainwater harvesting, storm-water retention, the provision of a network of shade structures, traditional construction techniques, phytoremediation of paths using Indian mustard and solar panel arrays.