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summary

The project site around Place Lalla Yeddouna stands out within the surrounding urban fabric with its prominent location at the river and at the very heart of the Medina. There is no doubt it represents a truly unique cultural heritage that must be preserved; at the same time however, it urgently needs to adapt to current and future demands: The living conditions of its inhabitants need to be improved, the site needs to accommodate an increasing number of visitors etc. In short: The site faces the big challenge of striking the right balance between preservation and adaptation.

information

Project: PLY, Place Lalla Yeddouna
Location: Fez, Morocco
Type: Polyfunctional, Preservation
Year: 2010
Team: Mehlan, Opperer, Hugo, Karaivanov
Client: UNESCO, United States of America, Government of the Kingdom of Morocco
Status: Open International Competition
Project Partners: -

project text

Between Two Cities

The project site around Place Lalla Yeddouna stands out within the surrounding urban fabric with its prominent location at the river and at the very heart of the Medina. There is no doubt it represents a truly unique cultural heritage that must be preserved; at the same time however, it urgently needs to adapt to current and future demands: The living conditions of its inhabitants need to be improved, the site needs to accommodate an increasing number of visitors etc. In short: The site faces the big challenge of striking the right balance between preservation and adaptation.

Proposal:       
While the site literally represents centuries of cultural, historic, religious and architectural richness we propose to focus on the following three key aspects in order to achieve the aforementioned balance:

1. A rich and vibrant artisan character
 
One may well argue that Place Lalla Yeddouna lies directly within the spatial center of morocco’s strong artisan tradition. The project recognizes this unique historic character and seeks to foster it both with regards to the spatial as well as the programmatic distribution throughout the site: All buildings In Zone I are to be restored with as little aberration from their            
The project envisions to expand this vibrant character deep into zone II and III: On the basis of the existing urban fabric, i.e. both with regards to footprints as well as building elevations, the proposal suggests to refurbish the buildings in the spirit of the local architecture while programmatically making them accessible for locals and visitors alike. Artisans showcase their goods around Lalla Yedouna Fountain, while locals relax in the shade of the mulberry tree. Where in zone I there is the flair of the pure, untouched historic fabric, in zone II the adjacent hotel enriches the atmosphere with international presence, where guests are strolling across the plaza or follow one of the existing circuits.
Whilst in Zone I the existing structure is to be kept both with regards to the building envelope as well as all interior floors and partitions, in Zone II and III the envelope is to be kept as is whereas the opportunity is taken to adjust the interior partitioning to modern standards.

2. Linking El-Qarawiyin and el-Andalus

The site represents a historically important link between two parts of the old city and has always been a connection point between two major districts in the Medina. Due to the local light industry, however, the city has effectively turned away from the river, causing the beautiful atmosphere of a connecting link to deteriorate.
With the Fez River Rehabilitation Project well under way and the planned relocation of local light industries the project seizes the opportunity to re-introduce the spirit of linking the eastern and western part of the city and re-establishes the historic character of the riverbed:
While in Zone I, II and III we advocate a strong sense of preservation, it is here that we see an enormous opportunity to add yet a new nuance to the already opulent urban fabric by extending the existing structure towards the river in analogy to a souk (obeying the required setback-regulations).
This simple yet spatially effective gesture yields a second public square and accompanying promenade running parallel to Place Lalla Yeddouna along the river Fez. Programmatically it is intended to house functions such as the hotel, privately let apartments, restaurants and cafés; it is therefore going to be of a different character than Place Yalla Yeddouna: While one is characterized by the artisian tradition, the shade of the mulberry tree and the historic tectonic character, the other is giving room for the sense of ‘new’:

The close proximity of the river spends a cool and fresh atmosphere on hot summer days and in the evening its restaurants attract people from all over the area. The formal appearance supplements this spirit. It takes up the local building morphology in terms of unit sizes, materials and ornaments and forges them into something that is both deeply rooted within the existing and yet distinguishable and new.
All building heights are kept unchanged to make sure the newly constructed buildings never overpower the delicate urban fabric.
We feel it is of utmost importance to not solely preserve the existing, but also give the site a new sense of place, one that represents the spirit of the future just as naturally as Place Lalla Yeddouna represents that of Morocco’s cultural heritage.

3. Excellent accessibility

The project site is located prominently within two of the most important tourist circuits and forms an important access point into and out of the Medina of Fez. This holds great potential for a sustainable development of the site and the design seeks to extend this idea by establishing a strong link with Interconnection Zone A and B.