Project: Hybrid Urban Sutures: Filling in the Gaps in the Medina of Fez

Client: self-initiated research

Architect: Aziza Chaouni

Advisor: Hashim Sarkis

Funding: Appelton Traveling Fellowship, Harvard University, Department of Architecture

Three locations along the Fez River in the old Medina of Fez, Morocco, which has an extremely high population density and little to no green space. Two of the locations are vacant and currently used illegally for parking, and the third is occupied by tanneries, which are slated for removal because of the toxins they produce.

What started as a graduate thesis evolved into an in-depth independent study, based on site observations and data from the local government. The project analyzes the urban, architectural, and social issues affecting Middle Eastern historic districts. The study also includes a proposal for the use of vacant sites in the medina for much-needed services and amenities, including transportation, public parks, and a university.

The unifying thread in Chaouni's study is the idea of returning Fez's Al-Qarawiyin University to the medina from its modern campus in the suburbs, and in the process uniting a group of neighborhoods in transition. Regulated by fiercely insular building codes, the medina has changed little since Morocco gained independence from France in 1956.

Modern planners still butt heads with an ancestral system of organization for markets and residential areas, which offers precious little room for green space and public programming. The new infrastructure of the university would double as public space for residents of the medina—adding basic amenities such as pedestrian pathways and public gardens, as well as cultural facilities such as libraries and galleries.

University research centers would encourage community involvement and provide planning solutions for the city. The three sites selected for these centers would act as anchors along the spine of the Fez River within a network of new and existing roadways and pedestrian streets. The study is slated for publication by Paris' Editions Le Fennec.

The Architect

Name: Aziza Chaouni

Position: Aga Khan Research and Teaching Fellow

Institution: Harvard University Graduate School of Design