We were asked to do a conceptual masterplan for a new spa and leisure complex that would include villas, hotel, spa, restaurants and a sports complex. The site is 15 hectares of orange and lemon groves close to the walled centre of Marrakesh.
The client wanted an alternative approach to an existing scheme which laid out streets of detached villas, each surrounded by grass lawns sustained by an army of water sprinklers in an American sub-urban style.
We wanted to develop a design language more appropriate to the site’s North African context. The structure and layout were based on Islamic motifs and geometry. Rather than squandering water it was cherished as the most precious element.
The primary set out proposed was a running geometric pattern of nine meter high sun-dried mud walls. This Arabesque pattern, although continuous, allows for the removal of elements and infilling of spaces to create a variety of built form and urban landscape.
Through this, radiating out from the central spa, the four rivers of paradise are represented by runs of ornamental canals, fountains and pools.
Against the urban scale of roughly finished walls, individual buildings are formed out of smoother faced masonry, then lined out internally with more precise joinery and finished with the luxury of carpets, cushions and silks. There is a progression of softness in relation to human proximity and the transition from public to private realms.