The approach of the project is one of contextual integration, through an understanding of the immediate as well as larger urban fabric of the city of Fez, while concurrently providing a novel space of experience for both the local inhabitants and tourists alike.

This proposal for the refurbishment, development and revitalization of the Place Lalla Yeddouna neighborhood and Medina in Fez provides a bridge between not only the two sides of the old city, but also, through the generation of a new type of urban social space within the city, a bridge between local artisans, community residents and annual tourists. The existing urban fabric of the old city of Fez is comprised of a densely knit network of low-rising masonry buildings with little or no space between structures to allow for maximum shading from the intense solar radiation. The few exposed exterior walls incorporate very few openings to the street and are typically plain without much articulation in detail or decoration. The integration of light and air to the interior of most structures is facilitated through either an internalized central courtyard space or through the residual spaces made between the irregularly shaped exteriors of adjacent buildings. The resulting urban organization is one of local order, small alleyways, high density, limited large scale public spaces and an emphasis on the occupation of the roof as an alternative to the ground plane.

Recognizing the value of the Place Lalla Yeddouna’s architectural and regional building character as well as being a center for artisan works, the Elevated Grid proposal seeks to integrate with, as well as positively redefine the Medina as a unique destination space within the old city of Fez and the region in general. The aim is to maintain an experience of density while also liberating the ground plane from the traditional load bearing wall construction that currently dominates the urban field. Through an analysis of the surrounding urban grid of the city, major and minor lines of structuration were projected over the given site area. In general a mix of retail, workshops, restaurant and artisan exhibition spaces were maintained, however due to the close proximity of the Bin Lamdoun parking the hotel was situated at the north area of the site. Through an elevation of the building program 4.5m above the ground plane a new public urban space is generated underneath. It’s anticipated that this space would be predominantly used as a flexible market space, but could also accommodate larger gatherings of mixed community events. Elevating the program also allows for the building mass to shade the space below allowing for use throughout all times of the day. In order to further free the new space from obstructions the structure of the building has been consolidated into hollow vertical columns made up of compression rings at top and bottom and two layers of vertical supports. These spaces structure the building and also function as courtyards allowing light and air to circulate into the deep areas of the building. A visually similar strategy of vertical screening is proposed for the development of all exposed building surfaces to the exterior, a system of two layer variable vertical louvers is proposed to produce both shade, diffuse light to the interior and will also produce a decorative moray effect as one moves throughout the spaces of the building. Additionally since the main building volume has been raised up from the ground plane it may easily create new connections over the existing riverbed in the form of occupiable bridges. Being more flexible internally these bridge spaces have been programmed with the Artisan exhibition areas creating a flexible link between both sides of the old city.

Project Type: Place Lalla Yeddouna Competition
Date: 2010
Location: Fez, Morocco
Project Team: Ryan R. Ludwig in collaboration Nerea Feliz, and contributions by Bryan Bojan, Will Quintana, Tim Reagen and Laura Schmitz