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The Fluidity, Transience and Reverie of Ourika

Part 2 Project 2012
Melissa Royle
Simon Batchelder
University of Portsmouth, UK
Place is fundamental to architecture and so our project began in the Ourika Valley in Morocco. Here we discovered a landscape and a culture eroded by decades of flooding; the flooding of the river, the life source of the valley and the flooding of tourists bringing with them desires for Western cultures.

Storytelling, the cultural art and tradition of the Berber people, is being lost due to the influx of new technologies. Storytelling, the essential passing on of knowledge, sustains the thinker, the community and society and should not be forgotten.

We propose a communal dwelling place, a Platonic Academy, with spaces in which to carry out the essential acts of sleeping, bathing, cooking, thinking, dreaming and most importantly storytelling. The dwelling houses twenty people, a number determined by the maximum number of people who can gather for discussion over dinner. Fire is central to the Academy and a large chimney is the rightful focus due to its significance as the source of light, warmth and sustenance.

The building location is along one of the many gullies which flood seasonally and provide essential sustenance. Water storage is utilised and terraces on the slopes below the building allow crops to be grown and a sustainable community to be formed on the mountainside. The dwelling responds to the mountain slope, half dug into the stone and half resting on a plateau.

Materials are selected from the locality. Reused stone, local timber and locally mined copper form the basis of the palette. Traditionally crafted wrought iron screens diffuse the harsh Moroccan sunlight. Water becomes a material, used to store heat, and reflections through the shallow roof pool create dancing shadows across the stone floors. Spaces are considered as places to think and to question. True understanding can come only through experience lived, imagined or dreamed.

In addition we designed a smaller dwelling; a retreat from the community based around the same design principles. Once the retreat has been made we believe it is essential for people to return to the community and to share new knowledge – this is the basis of an Academy.

Melissa Royle
Simon Batchelder


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