bayt, a different view on social housing in morocco

• this project won 2nd prize for Archiprix NL 2015 •

The motivation for this project is fed by fascination and frustration. A fascination for the historical, cultural and local urban planning and architecture in Morocco which is slowly disappearing in everyday streetscape. On the other hand a big frustration against the current way of building in Morocco that essentially has nothing to do with the centuries-old tradition in urban planning and architecture, leading to a gap between the living environment and the people living in it.

Bayt presents a different view on the current social(re-)housing policy in Morocco. The possibilities for rehousing slum dwellers in the city are shown through a case study set up in Casablanca. Traditional urban planning and architecture are the inspiration for the new (urban) design. Herein, the structure of the medina plays an important role. The district (Houma), the neighborhood (hay), the cluster (Derb) and the house (bayt) are re-introduced in a renewed form as urban elements.

In the transition from public to private the plan scales gradually from the city to door. Transitions are carefully designed and felt in the atmosphere of the streets, changing the function and character of the different street-typologies. Wandering from district to cluster, the streets narrow and transform from wide and functional roads to a collective car-free pedestrian area. A healthy and above all safe environment for residents, which refers to both the car-free streets of the medina as the great collective character of the streets in the shantytown. In a good living environment public spaces, green and in the case of Morocco also water are indispensable. The districts are situated around an old stone quarry which is transformed into city park. This is the green oasis for the city. Like the neighborhoods, the public space also rescales from the front door to the city park. The higher public spaces in the neighborhoods act as collectors for the city park. Rainwater is collected on various squares in the rainy months and descends through waterways into watertanks on different levels in the district. These watertanks relieve pressure on the sewer during rain peaks, and are used in dry seasons to keep the public space and the city park green all year. Another important element in the process is the participation of (future) residents. Unlike other new districts they have a major role in the realization of the project and the quality of life. The shantytown has been the inspiration for this. Low budget, few materials and lack of (large) building equipment make the dwellings compact, simple and sometimes very inventive. Ordinary people, ordinary materials, ordinary construction and yet very particular homes. Because diversity and identity are difficult or almost impossible to design, this plan provides resources. Construction plans of various housing types, a variety of options for window openings, doorways and details.
Residents can use the at their discretion, capital and need, to build they own home (under supervision). The public spaces can also be used at their discretion, in consultation, for example as a laundry-place, playground, or extension of craft workshops around. The result is a dynamic neighborhood that will grow in time into a fully fledged and qualitative habitat.

The new medina shows a combination of the social and cultural character of the medina, the ingenuity of the slum and efficiency of western urbanism. An environment where people and environment are matched, an environment inspired by the local force, an environment which slowly forms and grows, and a final image does not actually exist. This plan marks a possibility. The ability to think differently means to break new ground and work on sustainable solutions for both residents and government. A results-oriented plan for a lasting relief of the ongoing migration to the city. A milestone on the road to sustainable urban development in Morocco.