Maison de L’architecture Campus

Collaborators: Aziza Chaouni Projects, Clément Blanchet Architecture, Daniel Xu

Role: Landscape Architect

Status: Concept Design Completed 2015

Location: Tangier, Morocco

Our design for the Maison de l’Architecture (MA) project, a mixed-use development that consists of student housing, offices, galleries, and an architecture institute is located on the Malabata Hills of Tangier, a coastal city in northwestern Morocco. The vision was developed based on a dual ambition: preserving local building traditions while developing a contemporary language suited to Morocco’s context. The project aims to create points of contact between these two temporalities. As such, our proposal for the MA is inspired by the traditional architectural culture and landscape of the Mediterranean city of Tangiers.

The project is rooted in a detailed study of the medina of Tangier (for which we have translated the inherent principles and adapted them to the slopped, tight site), current sustainable building standards, and a financially viable phasing strategy. Our desire is to rethink Tangier’s ancestral principles that have been perfected for the local climate and use them as a starting point to develop an innovative and contemporary architecture. This architecture not only serves to enrich the mixed and dense program of the MA but also creates a new identity for the city of Tangier. As a result, the design concept is based on the following principles:

  • Integrate the built environment into its context by marrying the buildings to the existing landscape rather than altering the steep topography.

  • Update the urban morphology of the medina, composed of a dense matrix of courtyard buildings in various sizes separated by narrow streets. The massing characteristic of the medina of Tangier, and that of vernacular Mediterranean villages, is composed of rectangular, almost abstracted volumes which are entangled, have introverted facades of minimal openings, and are in monochromatic tones.

  • Redefine the courtyard typology, which is the base model of the medina urban fabric. This typology works with the local climate in its ability to passively ventilate and cool interior living spaces.  It is also adaptable to a diverse array of programs including residential buildings, institutional buildings, etc.

We want to draw parallels between the design principles of the building for the MA and the other building typologies of the project. The basis of the courtyard building therefore also finds its application in the entire program. To link all the buildings on the site, we used the following strategies:

  • Propose terraced gardens planted with local species, and sometimes complemented with water features that create microclimates in the summer when the water vaporizes and cools outdoor living spaces, rendering them more comfortable. These terraces soften the steep slope of the landscape.

  • Implement pedestrian walking loops(Gallery Loop and Garden of Arts Loop) woven through the various buildings and gardens.

  • Use the roofs of buildings as extensions of public spaces.  We took advantage of the MA building and hotel roofs in particular to both extend the public space and use it as an exhibition zone, the Garden of Arts.

Though only represents 11.4% of the total development, the MA building is the heart of the project. To establish it, then, as an image of the site and an icon of the city becomes difficult with such density on the rest of the site. To address this, we have:

  • Imagined the other buildings, because of their innovative sustainability and construction methods, will be objects of study for resident artists and visitors to the MA building. This will create a direct programmatic link with the MA building.

  • Treated the MA with an individual aesthetic character: it is the only one with a perforated and introverted façade, a roof-integrated into the landscape with access to all. 

  • Placed the MA and its public square along the main road and building it up to a 7-story tower as a landmark and focal point, visible from afar.

  • Integrated the pedestrian walking loops on the ground level with the roof terraces of the MA building.

We imagine the MA building as a space first, introverted on the ground and first floor levels, conducive to contemplation and reflection, then opens up on the second floor with the accessible roof terrace and Garden of Arts and finally peaks high at the tower which offers panoramic views towards the Tangiers Bay and the ocean and also acts as a lightwell.

 © 2023 by Wendy Yifei Wang.