The community of Ouled Merzoug, a small earthen village near Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, has offered a plot of land to the newly formed women’s association AFOM (Association des Femmes d’Ouled Merzoug). Participants in UHasselt SEE’s postgraduate certificate Building Beyond Borders designed and built in close collaboration with local women and workers. The end result of this collaborative process is a Women’s House, which serves as a meeting, working, and learning space in the heart of the village. A gathering place for women to share their crafts with the community and visitors. The limits of sustainable buildings were tested in this project by maximising the use of local and regenerative materials and confronting traditional and contemporary building techniques.
Theoretical Background And Research
In September 2018, Hasselt University brought together a team of architects, urban planners, interior architects, and artists for the first edition of the postgraduate certificate Building Beyond Borders. The postgraduate programme includes tutoring theoretical background and research, project-based learning, hands-on experiments, and a real-life Design & Build project abroad, with a focus on bioclimatic design and responsible material use.
The question of constructing a Women’s House in Ouled Merzoug was raised for this edition, extending the already existing relationship between BC architects & studies and the local community. In November 2018, the participants visited Ouled Merzoug for the first time to learn about the village and its inhabitants, to measure the site, and to organise workshops with the women to define the programme in collaboration with Harmonie Begon. The foundation works began in April 2019 after an intensive design period in Hasselt. The keys were handed over to the Women’s Association in December 2019.
Connecting The Village’s Main Road
The building plot has a few distinguishing features. During periods of heavy rain, it is situated on a slope, in a gully that directs water from the mountains to the agricultural fields of the ‘Palmeraie’ and the river. Locals walk by on a regular basis because two major shortcuts run through the site. One path connects the village’s main road and centre with a square for religious festivities and the graveyard, while the other passes by a number of important public spaces, including the soccer field, preschool, and primary school.
The site’s features served as a springboard for the implementation and design of the Women’s House. The house is built along the hill’s ridge rather than in the gully’s centre. The Women’s House is composed of two volumes, each oriented slightly differently in relation to the natural topography of the site. The House’s specific positioning seeks to connect with both sides of the village. The building’s main façades at the ends capture two stunning panoramic views: sunrise over the mountains and sunset over the river. The Women’s House’s public character is emphasised by situating the structure at the intersection of two informal paths.
Written By Ankit Lad | Subscribe To Our Telegram Channel To Get Latest Updates And Don’t Forget To Follow Our Social Media Handles Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter. To Get the Latest Updates From Arco Unico