Abdessamed Azarfane medina style urban regeneration plan is a winner

Architect Abdessamed Azarfane has been placed second in this year’s Dutch Archiprix – a competition which rewards excellence in urban design.

His latest project. entiled Bayt, is aimed at transforming a neglected area of Casablanca, Morocco, to improve the quality of life for people on low incomes.

Based on the traditional Arabian medina it looks to use traditional home, street and open space design to create a community and promote social interaction as an alternative to the current thinking in the country – which involves the wholesale transplantation of communities to “new towns”.

The project was runner up in the Best Graduation Plan in Architecture, Urbanism and Landscape Architecture category.

Azarfane,  who is of north African heritage but living in Holland, said: “The motivation for this project 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.

“Today this gap is reflected in the way the lower social class are relocated to so called ‘new towns’ outside the city in settlements build and subsidised for the poor, under the guise of an improved living environment.

‘To what extent is a better living environment the case when segregation and discrepancy are a result? To what extent is this “improvement” really contributing to a better living environment? The country is facing a problem in which politics, strategy and design are mingled.

“Too much of the architecture in the country focuses on French designs – these are just not appropriate for the climate or region.”

Traditional urban planning is the inspiration for the new design. The district (houma), the neighborhood (hay), the cluster (derb) and the house (bayt) are re-introduced in a renewed form.

Azarfane said: “The new medina shows a combination of the social and cultural character of the medina, inventiveness and efficiency. An environment where people and environment are matched.”