building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco
 

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco

in ouled merzoug, a small earthen village near the atlas mountains of morocco, a piece of land was offered by the community to the recently founded women’s association AFOM (association des femmes d’ouled merzoug). within the postgraduate certificate building beyond borders, organized by uhasselt SEE, the participants designed and built in close collaboration with local women and workers. the end result of this participatory process is a women’s house: a meeting, working and learning place in the centre of the village. in this project, the limits of sustainable building were challenged by maximizing the use of local and regenerative materials and the confrontation between traditional and contemporary building techniques.

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco designboom

entering the heart of the women’s house, image © thomas noceto

main image © sofie van den velde

 

 

for this project, the brief was to realize a women’s house in the village, building upon on the existing relationship between BC architects & studies and the local community. in november 2018, the participants went to ouled merzoug for the first time to get to know the village and its inhabitants, measure the site and organize workshops with the women to define the program in collaboration with harmonie begon. after an intense design period at hasselt university, the foundation works started in april 2019, and in december 2019 the keys were handed over to the women’s association.

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco designboom

the heart of the building, image © thomas noceto

 

 

the building is located on a slope, in a gully taking water from the nearby mountains to the agricultural fields of the ‘palmeraie’ and the river during periods of heavy rain. as two main shortcuts run over the site, locals frequently pass by the building. one path connects the main road and the center of the village with a square for religious festivities and the graveyard, while the other passes by a sequence of important public spaces such as the soccer field, the preschool and the primary school.

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco designboom

the façade of the ‘atelier’ building and the terraced garden, image © thomas noceto

 

 

the features of the site were taken as starting points for the design of the women’s house. the house is not built in the center of the gully, but along the ridge of the hill. following the natural topography of the site, the building consists of two volumes, each positioned in a slightly different direction. in its specific positioning the house seeks connection with both sides of the village. the main façades at the ends of the building capture two beautiful panoramic views: the sunrise over the mountains and the sunset over the river.

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco designboom

women enjoying the view from the ‘atelier’ garden, image © jolien bosmans

 

 

the public character of the women’s house is emphasized by placing the building on the crossroads of the two informal paths. the main path leads the villagers directly to the heart of the building. from center to end, from public to private, the women’s house is entered through a central meeting place, a public heart or ‘cour’. the ‘cour’ connects the two volumes of the house: a workshop space, the ‘atelier des femmes’ and a communal baking house called the ‘boulangerie commune’. the ‘atelier’ is a place for meeting, teaching and learning, spinning and weaving. in the ‘boulangerie’ the women can share meals together, bake, and sell homemade bread and pastries.

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco designboom

the garden of the ‘boulangerie’ and communal cob oven, image © thomas noceto

 

 

whereas the center of the building is the most public, the ends are the most private. each volume gives access to an intimate garden. apart from being areas for leisure and resting, the gardens are designed and furnished to enhance the program of the adjacent spaces. the large sink in the bench of the ‘atelier’ garden makes it possible for the women to wash and color wool, while the cob oven in the ‘boulangerie’ garden allows the women to experiment with new recipes.

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco designboom

reed ceiling in progress, image © jolien bosmans

 

 

maximizing the use of local and natural materials and minimizing the amount of construction waste, were taken as basic principles in this project. for the envelope of the building, pieces of granite rock were dug out from the surrounding hills and the inner walls are made out of adobe bricks. while the roof span of the building is based upon the maximum length of the eucalyptus beams that can be found on the local market, the ceiling is made out of reed that grows in the ‘palmeraie’. as for the finishing of the walls and floors, different mixes of local earth, river sand, lime and straw are used.

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco designboom

carpet weaving in the workshop space, image © thomas noceto

 

 

thanks to the close collaboration between skilled local workers and foreign architects, and thereby the fusion of traditional and new building techniques, it was possible to reinvent and explore new construction details during the process. local materials were put in the spotlight and the collaboration with local craftswomen and craftsmen were key. the women designed and wove the curtains and helped with building the cob oven in the garden of the bakery. the doors and eucalyptus beams under the kitchen counter were made by local woodworkers, and the exterior lamps and ceramic objects were shaped together with the local potter.

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco designboom

mint tea in the ‘boulangerie’, image © john silvertand

 

 

the forest garden next to the building brings biodiversity and shade to the hill site and aims to be a new public space for the village of ouled merzoug. next to that, the terraced garden and its dry stacked walls slow down the running of rainwater. this results in better water infiltration and a reduction of the amount of eroded material flushing towards the main road and further down the ‘palmeraie’. the different species of native forest trees and shrubs were planted by the team of local workers, women of ouled merzoug and other villagers.

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco designboom

view from the ‘atelier’ to the ‘cour’, image © cinzia romanin

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco

the niche of the ‘atelier’ covered by a handmade woolen curtain, image © cinzia romanin

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco

mahlem abdelaziz testing earthen plasters, image © jolien bosmans

building beyond borders works with local community to create 'the women's house' in morocco

granite masonry by a team of local workers, image © jolien bosmans

 

 

project info:

 

project name: women’s house of ouled merzoug

location: ouled merzoug, idelsane, ouarzazate, morocco

client: women’s association of ouled merzoug (association des femmes d’ouled merzoug (AFOM))

design & build:

participants of building beyond borders postgraduate certificate uhasselt, 2018-2019: john silvertand, hannah van breen, arnaud goossens, auranne leray, margot lambrechts, eline hoftiezer, tinne beirinckx, kjell keymolen, aurora fanti, sofie van den velde, jolien bosmans, martina petrosino, giulia ventre, emily haest, miki z, biniam hailu, alice chang, dany depuydt

project initiators and academic tutors: academic team of the uhasselt postgraduate certificate building beyond borders and BC architects & studies

team of local workers: abdelaziz agoram, mohamed oualla, abdelhadi arifi, abdelkbir sayah, bouchaib darai, hassiz kassimi, abde sadak agoram, mehdi el finti, allal el finti, abdelkarim kassimi, abdelwahid el finti, rachid esmali and women of AFOM

built surface: 130 m2

outdoor space: 270 m2

year of completion: 2019

website: https://www.facebook.com/womenshouseom/

email: [email protected]

fundraising: https://uhasselt-uf.be/bbb-la-maison-des-femmes/

text: hannah van breen | participant building beyond borders 2018/2019

 

designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

 

edited by: lynne myers | designboom

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy

PRODUCT LIBRARY

a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

architecture news

×
keep up with our daily and weekly stories
507,090 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample
designboom magazine