Drawings, plans, elevations
Located in the rural environment of the surroundings of Ouarzazate, the preschool of Ouled Merzoug is inspired from local typologies, materials and techniques, combined with innovative methods, built within the community, in an architecture that one might call a new vernacular. Knowledges about the local construction practices were applied, updated, reinterpreted and framed within the local know-how and traditions of the region. One can find many examples of vernacular architecture in Morocco, mostly embedded in the “douar” (villages). Craftsmen are an integral part of the douar, responsible for knowledge transfer. Local materials are abundant in rural environments and perform well, and mostly consist of nature stone, earth, straw, lime, small woods. The use of local materials, taking into account energy performances and thermal efficiency, has been essential in the designing process. Thus, the building has foundations of locally sourced nature stone. Every wall of the project is made of adobe bricks, which are locally produced. Sun-dried soil blocks are indeed one of the most ancient construction methods available. Its production is very local, and can generate revenue within communities. The exterior finishing is done with a “tamelass” render, which is traditionally used to protect the adobes from weather and impact, as a rendering of straw, sand and two types of earth. On the other hand, the interior finishing is made of polished “nouss-nouss”, or “half-half” in Berber language, which is a plaster existing from sieved clayey soil and gypsum. This render defines the look and feel of a space, offering a good protection against impact, while also reflecting light to make the space more luminous. Finally, a wood-and-earth flat roof covers the building to prevent warmth accumulation in interior spaces since the climate is very warm and arid. Both southeast and northwest façades are protected by tree or courtyard shadows to prevent harsh low-sun impacts, while the south façade has a cavity wall for insulation and a big thermal mass, making the building cool during the day, but warmer through the night until the morning. Two courtyards on each side of the preschool are connected to the central classroom. Both courtyards can be used by the children as playgrounds, but pupils and their teachers can also use them as an external classroom for storytelling and other activities. These outside spaces are elevated due to the topography of the site and link to a bigger front garden giving access to the rest of the school. Two years after the construction of the primary school, thirty more children, from 3 to 6 years old, can now enjoy a new bio-climatic classroom and external spaces. The aim of the design of the preschool was to introduce a new vernacular, as well as take care of the landscaping of the shared space through enclosure walls design and playground design. In the end, a holistic design for the whole school complex has been reached by the projected intervention.