Fez Infills: Hybrid Urban Sutures

This project investigates the relationship between infrastructure and the urban fabric in the context of Middle-Eastern historical centers, the Medinas. In doing so, it proposes a new model of intervention in historic districts, one that is integrative and uses an experimental architecture that develops formal and programmatic innovations from an otherwise highly loaded and restrictive milieu.

Medinas throughout the Middle East share a common typology characterized by a dense, organic urban fabric composed of residential courtyard houses organized in neighborhood clusters, each with its own public facilities. However, despite their lack of infrastructure and modern public amenities, most Medinas have succeeded in preserving a large population and a thriving economy. In effect, they have successfully counterbalanced the pressures towards gentrification and muséification produced by the interventions of local governments motivated by tourism’s high rates of return. Conversely, however, such a dense population, yearly increased by hordes of rural migrants, not only causes the built habitat to deteriorate, making its rehabilitation or replacement necessary, but it demands the erection of modern public facilities.

In the midst of current trends that oscillate between the blunt mimicking of the traditional courtyard typology and the deployment of kitschy, ostentatious regionalism, this project develops a response that is sensitive to both the stringent building regulations and the integrity of the existing context while utilizing an aggressively creative architectural language. At the same time, the project addresses and resolves the triple stigma of the Medinas: the lack of infrastructure, public facilities and green, open areas.

Overall, this project reveals the inherent possibilities of both architectural and urban innovations to re-imagine the place and function of historical districts within the modern metropolis. As such it provides a rigorous alternative to the suspect and unproductive nostalgia of preservationist interventions in historical centers.