A small earthen village near the Atlas Mountains of Morocco is now home to a women’s community centre, designed and built by local women and a group of architecture students using sustainable materials – earth and stone.
The Women’s House in Ouled Merzoug is a meeting, working and learning place in the centre of the village, where local women can share their crafts with the community and visitors.
Women’s organisation AFOM (Association des Femmes d’Ouled Merzoug) teamed up with Building Beyond Borders, a group of architecture students from Belgium’s Hasselt University.
The sustainable building – which is located on a slope, above a gully that channels water from the Atlas Mountains to the palm groves during periods of heavy rain – was made using local and natural materials, and to and minimise the amount of construction waste.
Skilled local workers and foreign architects worked collaboratively to combine traditional Moroccan building techniques and new building techniques.
For part of the building, pieces of granite rock were dug out from the surrounding hills. The inner walls are made out of adobe bricks. The roof span of the building is based upon the maximum length of the eucalyptus beams that can be found on the local market, while the ceiling is made out of a reed that grows in the ‘Palmeraie’.
As for the finishing of the walls and floors, different mixes of local earth, river sand, lime, and straw were used.
For the interior of the Women’s House, the collaboration with local craftswomen and craftsmen were key. Local materials were put in the spotlight once again as the women designed and wove the curtains and helped with building the cob oven in the garden of the bakery.
The doors and eucalyptus beams under the kitchen counter were made by local woodworkers. The exterior lamps and ceramic objects were shaped together with the local potter.
The Women’s House houses the Atelier des femmes, a workshop for spinning and weaving where AFOM can hold lessons and meetings. A boulangerie commune, or communal bakehouse, is located in the other building. Women gather here to bake bread and pastries to sell and to share meals together.
A forest garden with native forest trees and shrubs were planted by the team of local workers, women of Ouled Merzoug and other villagers. This garden brings biodiversity and shade to the hill site and aims to be a new public space for the village of Ouled Merzoug.
Image Credits: © Thomas Noceto
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com