Amidst the ochre dunes of Morocco is the University of Taroudant University, an educational university that is inspired by the terrain it surrounds itself and manifests to the human senses Designed by El Kabbaj – Kettani – Siana Architects, the Poly-disciplinary Faculty at Taroudant endeavours to re-image its heritage by embodying a forward-looking approach within its architectural design.

Location & Context

Nestled in the Sous Valley near the Atlas Mountains, Taroudant is often referred to as the Little Marrakech. Atlas Mountains Mountain range in Northwestern Africa spans approximately 2500 kilometres across Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. 

Owing to the ancient red walls and bustling souks, Taroudant boasts a rich heritage with remnants of past civilizations. The medina’s structure blends seamlessly with the vibrant markets, ceramics, and jewelry. The dune landscape encompasses palm groves, orchards, and man-made structures. 

A11327-Taroudant University by Saad El Kabbaj + Driss Kettani + Mohamed Amine Siana

Design Philosophy 

Taroudant, a secular town with strong cultural influences and identity showcases an architectural history that is rich and embodies the essence of Morocco’s southern region. The concept for Taroudant University is inspired by a series of urban principles and architectural concepts that blend into an idea where the internal and external spaces come together effortlessly. 

Although the spaces vary in scale and size, they create a harmonious relationship between the users of the space and the architecture. 

Taroudant University by Saad El Kabbaj + Driss Kettani + Mohamed Amine Siana - Sheet2
The stark walls are oriented towards preservation & ecological conservation. _ © Fernando Guerra – FG + SG

The choice of wall finishes draws inspiration from the project’s local surroundings, resulting in an earthy Moroccan texture with hints of orange, that compliments the bright white interiors. The buildings vary in size, featuring prominent tower monuments that provide natural ventilation and ensure comfortable thermal and acoustic conditions. The stark walls, designed to embody a sense of austerity influenced by the scientific ethos upheld by the Taroudant university, are oriented towards preservation, ecological conservation, simplified upkeep, and the reduction of expenses and waste. 

The solid construction punctuated by entrances, provides a respite from the scorching Moroccan desert sun, casting beautiful shadows on the sandy red walls of the university. 

Layout

The layout of the university revolves around a central riad, also known as an interior garden, aligned along the north-south axis. It borders to the north by a garden of Argan trees, providing the users with an unparalleled vista of the Atlas Mountains. The scale of the interior garden is softened and diversified by a collection of plots in varying sizes, as well as a sequence of gardens that delineate distinct structures. 

The architectural components are meticulously arranged around the riad, keeping in mind the proximity, and orientation of the spaces and views. The latter is arranged along an interior street, establishing direct access to amphitheatres, and streamlining the movement of administrative staff. The pathways prioritize functionality, aiming to enhance traffic flow while minimizing noise disruptions. 

Taroudant University by Saad El Kabbaj + Driss Kettani + Mohamed Amine Siana - Sheet3
The walkways are strategically organized to prioritize traffic flow and minimize noise disturbances._ ©Fernando Guerra – FG + SG

Additionally, entrances, exit ways, and corridors establish a secondary traffic flow, expanding perspectives. The riad’s scale is softened and diversified through a variety of differently sized plots, and an array of gardens that delineate the distinct structures of Taroudant University. 

The architecture exudes a substantial, enclosed presence in the east-west orientation, yet opens in the north-south direction, featuring architectural elements facilitating natural ventilation and ensuring thermal and acoustic comfort. The walkways are strategically organized to prioritize traffic flow and minimize noise disturbances. With their low stature, the buildings separate towers firmly grounded by robust volumes. They exude a sense of solidity but are enlivened by a network of entrances and passageways, crafting an animated spatial experience.

This assortment of landscaping and architectural configurations generates a diverse range of atmosphere, enhancing the space for the pleasure and comfort of those who inhabit it. 

Taroudant University by Saad El Kabbaj + Driss Kettani + Mohamed Amine Siana - Sheet4
Entrances, exit ways, and corridors establish a secondary traffic flow, expanding perspectives_©Fernando Guerra – FG + SG

Sustainability 

The study of the combination of nature and minerals seeks to capture the essence of the location and its surrounding landscape. Beyond the streets, squares, and open areas, the organic elements of nature permeate the space, asserting their presence. Each building is strategically positioned around open and partially enclosed courtyards and gardens, forming distinct realms, varying levels of intimacy, and diverse environments in a single location. 

The greenspace intentionally extends beyond the structured layouts, asserting its independence and giving the impression of a naturally occurring arrangement. These diverse architectural and landscape configurations generate a range of environments that enhance the space for the pleasure and comfort of those who inhabit it. Additionally, the blocks are clustered around four supplementary courtyards, offering additional shade, and circulating cool air. 

Each building is strategically positioned around open and partially enclosed courtyards and gardens, forming distinct realms__©Fernando Guerra – FG + SG

The quiet cement exteriors, tinted in shades reminiscent of the Sahara dunes and earth provide subtle glimpses of the lush greenery in the courtyards and clusters or argan trees, evoking the iconic imagery of an oasis in Moroccan culture and traditions. The modest, single, or double-story structures allow unobstructed vistas of the imposing Atlas Mountains that command the horizon.

In our contemporary era, despite our advanced technology and sophisticated services in our construction, there remains much to be gleaned from the architectural achievements of the past. Amidst our bustling modernity, we may find ourselves disconnecting from our foundational essence, our identity, and the fundamental human requisites that harmonize with our environment. Hence, its worth noting that previous architects and designers were deeply engrossed to accomplishing this, even though their design and construction techniques may have been relatively rudimentary. 

References

  1. (2021 Taroudant University in Morocco by Saad El Kabbaj, Driss Kettani and Mohamed Amine Siana [Online]. Available at: https://www.architectural-review.com/today/taroudant-university-in-morocco-by-saad-el-kabbaj-driss-kettani-and-mohamed-amine-siana  (Accessed: 05 October 2023). 
  2. (2021) Taroudant University | Saad El Kabbaj + Driss Kettani + Mohamed Amine Siana Architects [Online]. Available at: https://www.archidiaries.com/projects/taroudant-university-saad-el-kabbaj-driss-kettani-mohamed-amine-siana-architects/  (Accessed: 04 October 2023). 
  3. “Taroudant University / Saad El Kabbaj + Driss Kettani + Mohamed Amine Siana” 04 Mar 2020. ArchDaily. 
  4. (2012) Taroudant University by Saad El Kabbaj, Driss Kettani and Mohamed Amine Siana [Online]. Available at:  https://www.dezeen.com/2012/06/05/taroudant-university-by-saad-el-kabbaj-driss-kettani-and-mohamed-amine-siana/   (Accessed: 03 October 2023).
Author

A design graduate passionate about poetry, photography and picturesque cityscapes, Irene is the happiest when she's around coffee, puppies or the beach. When not working on her wildly aesthetic photography page, you'll find her doom scrolling on Pinterest, scribbling on her journal and putting together many un(necessary) moodboards. Above all, she enjoys making a change in the people and spaces around her, one design choice at a time.