TRADITION AND TECHNOLOGY IN THE RESTORATION AND REUSE.
THE DAR DGI'RA IN RABAT, MOROCCO
Department of Civil-Environmental Engineering and Architecture, University of Parma, Italy.
Department of Architecture, Ecole Nationale d'Architecture (ENA), Rabat, Morocco.
In contemporary architecture the courtyard can certainly be as successful as it has been historically. As Khattab (2004) indicates, working through vernacular architecture helps in considering the nature of dwellings, the origin of the built environment, the meaning of privacy and the energy efficiency of settlements. The courtyard house is a familial and historical dwelling type, which offers technical and design solutions capable of satisfying a variety of social and commercial needs. It is a type of dwelling characterized by the presence of a court completely surrounded by walls (Oxford Dictionary, 2010). Nikpour et al (2012) also define it as the combination of several different open and closed spaces that were designed in order to combine nature and living spaces. Torus (2011) agrees and adds that all courtyard houses are minimalist, sustainable (use of local materials and labor) and rationalist. This type of dwelling is one of the oldest forms of domestic development that dates back at least 5,000 years. The courtyard house spread from China to Morocco and became a traditional typology in arid climates. In addition to climatic and functional purposes, in the Islamic world, courtyard model has a cultural relevance too, since courtyards respond effectively to the Muslim religious requirements and to the women’s position in the society (Edwards et al, 2006). Currently, in both regeneration projects and modern architectural design the courtyard is an important element to be taken into account. Firstly it is a symbol of a culture and secondly it can contribute to the efficiency of a community and ensure social security and privacy. In China, for example, there is the Hakka Walled complex in which many families live together. There is only one entrance and a circular communal court assures social security and collective activities (Rapoport, 2007).
This paper will assess how traditional knowledge can be conceived as tool to design sustainable contemporary architecture. Firstly, the courtyard’s characteristics will be explored. Secondly, the case study Dar Dgi'ra in Rabat, Morocco will be analyzed: the close link between the layout of this élite type of dwelling and intangible expressions such as religion, ethos and secular traditions will be pointed out. Thirdly, a technical analysis will be illustrated and a conservation and reuse proposal will be suggested to preserve the building for future generations.
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