The Pavilion of Morocco at the 14th Venice Biennale, Fundamentals, focused on territorial speculations in the Sahara: Inhabiting the Uninhabitable. For the exhibition, which was the country's first representation at the Biennale, Paris-based practice OUALALOU+CHOI proposed an urban structure for this desert territory – "a means of putting down roots, implanting urbanity and civilization. The Sahara, with its extreme geography and climatic conditions, remains unexplored territory for architectural speculation."
Oualalou+Choi: The Latest Architecture and News
In conjunction with the Contemporary Morocco exhibit (Le Maroc Contemporain) at the Jean Nouvel-designed Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, a giant tent has been constructed on the plaza in front of the building. Designed by Tarik Oualalou and Linna Choi of OUALALOU+CHOI, the tent harmonizes contemporary design and technical innovation with traditional fabrication methods. Constructed from more than 650-square-meters of camel and goat wool woven by female cooperatives in the Saharan desert, the tent serves as an urban landmark and a symbol for the Contemporary Morocco exhibit. The rhythm and scale of the tent’s silhouette renders a topographic dimension to the structure which pays homage to the nomadic traditions of southern Morocco.
Morocco was heavily influenced by European modernism due to its strategic position in Northern Africa. It was governed as a European protectorate for much of the 20th century, and it was in this region that the modern movement found a place for experimentation; a place where modernist ideals met such particular climate conditions that they evolved a unique regional expression.
The Morocco Pavilion for the 2014 Venice Biennale—their first presence at the event—acknowledges this particular expression aligned with the theme of Absorbing Modernity under the title of Fundamental(ism)s. Curator Tarik Oualalou erected it over a ground of desert sand to create a setting for Morocco’s architecture in the past, entitled Living in the City, and the future, Inhabiting the Desert.
The hill of Montabo looms over the city of Cayenne and provides a dramatic backdrop for an architectural project which addresses the raw and unremitting power of nature. The winning competition entry by OUALALOU + CHOI derives from a dual strategy to conserve the natural environment and to protect the building from an undesirable degree of the jungle’s encroachment. The project preserves as much of the natural hilltop as possible, transforming it into a public space by creating a park at the crown of the hill. Thus, the highest point in the city becomes a part of the public realm. More images and architects’ description after the break.