“Going beyond preserving the local culture to act as community booster”

Global & Regional Jury Report – Middle East Africa

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    M’hammid El Ghizlane is home to twelve tribal musical styles which are taught at Joudour Sahara.

Last updated: November 13, 2021 Eclepens, Switzerland

Project description by regional jury

Due to the increasing waves of urban migration, the Oasis Drâa Valley in southern Morocco is experiencing a loss of its tribal heritage in music as well as of its vernacular architecture and agricultural techniques. The project is the result of an interdisciplinary work to promote culture preservation through the creation of a self-sustaining music school in the town of M’hamid El Ghizlane. Beyond the pedagogical facilities, the project considers the construction of ecolodges to promote profitability and the center’s self-sufficiency by hosting visiting teachers, students and tourists.

The project for the Joudour Sahara Cultural Center combines vernacular knowledge with innovative design approaches. It alternates traditional construction systems in rammed earth, palm reeds and trunks, with cutting-edge technologies, including solar chimneys and solar-powered geothermal systems for improved thermal conditions. Facilities such as composting toilets streamline waste output while efficient rainwater harvesting systems are deployed for domestic and irrigation purposes. The orientation of all buildings and the specific placement of L-shaped elements consider the prevailing wind patterns in an effort to protect the site from encroaching sand dunes. The proposal also includes a landscape design conceived for anti-desertification and erosion purposes.

Regional jury appraisal

Through the programmatic overlapping of the music school, ecolodge and anti-desertification testing ground, the Holcim Awards jury Middle East Africa found that the project successfully engages with sustainability under many aspects. The way architecture is deployed, in particular to protect the endangered centuries-old tribal music tradition, was considered highly commendable. The educational center goes however beyond preserving the local culture to act as community booster while showcasing environmental techniques to mitigate the desertification risk in the area. The fact that strategies for the center’s economic viability and self-sustainment are also taken into account in the design and program development was also highly praised.

Global jury appraisal

The jury highly praised this design proposal for the way in which it engages with sustainability under many different aspects. The complex’s objective is to retain Joudour’s cultural heritage by deploying a series of architectural solutions and environmental strategies that will reinvigorate the local community life and prevent further cultural erosion. The jury recognized the praiseworthy purpose to address the issue of tribal community displacement due to the threat of climate change by suggesting a design solution that enables people to remain rooted in their place and traditions. This engenders the project with significant cultural and social relevance. At the same time, the project combines vernacular knowledge and energy strategies that outline a distinct sensitivity towards the environment while effectively facing the risks of desertification and water scarcity. The jury appreciated the level of clarity of this high-quality submission and its potential for transferability in similar contexts.