by Sunena V MajuApr 21, 2023
Architectural styles are influenced by various factors, ranging from climatic to cultural. Probing into history, many movements denote that the architecture of a city also evolves and changes with respect to its political and artistic climate. However, most architectural styles are driven by common parameters—geography, culture, art, religion, and politics. Instances of how these characteristics influence the birth of certain architectural styles can be found in the Greek and Roman empire, and those that followed suit. However, in countries with a history of colonisers, settlers, and military conquests, additional parameters come into play; across countries that were once colonised by European countries, the European architectural influence is apparent. The diversity in the architectural style of such countries is mostly a result of many layers of their history.
A cursory look at the concept and images of Studio Bo's Tayourt Surf Camp, are enough to gauge that the primary attention in the project is diverted to how architecture is a narrative weaved in vernacular materials and traditional design approaches of Morocco–with layers of the country’s history. In the Maghreb region of North Africa, Morocco geographically exhibits diverse conditions, with the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Algeria to the east, and the disputed territory of Western Sahara to the south. Along with geographical challenges, Morocco’s history is influenced by the Arab world, Spain, Portugal, and France.
Located in Imsouane, the surf camp appears to be an earthen structure born from hallucinations of Middle-Eastern folk tales. The lime-plastered walls, tadelakt style, the Bejmat terracotta tiles, and roofs dressed in reefs and wooden planks come together to create a mood board that feels like a time capsule of Moroccan Berber architecture. However, what anchors the project to modern day is the use of wooden joinery and furniture design, inspired by contemporary styles.
The surf camp sitting on a small fishing village between Essaouira and Agadir in southern Morocco is a well-known spot among surfers and is often referred to as the 'magic bay.' While placing the project in the middle of huts, built in line of vernacular architecture, the Casablanca-based architects opted for a material palette that borrows from this traditional Moroccan Berber architecture style and blends it with the beige of the village's topography. Due to the rugged terrain above the cliff, the surf camp is not placed on the front line. This placement of the built structure, thereby offers stunning views of the bay and acts as an observatory allowing surfers to monitor the swell.
Rehabilitating an old house, one of the first in the village, the architectural language of the building comes from early construction principles of the context. While maintaining patios and significant parts of the old structure, the architects improved on other spaces to match future programming. In the 1100 sqm. area, the surf camp hosts a reception, about ten rooms, a restaurant, a kitchen, a surfboard workshop, a rooftop, a terrace, a yoga space, and a central garden.
As the whole building takes shape in the line of traditional architectural elements and local materials, the furniture design of the project brings about a contemporary presence to traditional aesthetics. The minimal design of the low-seat wooden chair, pebble-like tables, and planters adds to the coming together of two distinct styles, with the past and traditional dominating the new. The floor is covered with terracotta tiles, the Bejmat and all walls are coated with lime, in both, rough texture and tadelakt style. The structure of terrace covers is made of wooden planks, then dressed in reeds, casting a playful shadow. Further, the roofs of the buildings are made of raphia.
Adding to the cultural landscape of Morocco's built environment, one which appears to camouflage its terrain, Studio BO brings a renewed perception of the present, and the past, with this project. Moroccan identity can be perceived as an amalgamation of Arab, Berber and European cultures. Similarly, Moroccan architecture is a contrast between the earth architecture of the deserts and the richness of Islamic architecture. Therefore, the architecture growing in the country needs to find a balance between both worlds and the diverse geography of the North African country—which varies from the High Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert. In such a scenario, should architecture be a narrative borrowed from the past or one that merges different influences to create a truly ‘Moroccan’ style?