Reset Architecture

Place Lalla Yeddouna, Fez

Fès is a ancient city, it is an Imperial City. It's Medina is one of the largest in the world. The neighborhood "Place Lalla Yeddouna" is a strategic location at the heart of Fez Bali, the old City of Fez. This area, where the City was founded on the two banks of the River Fez, was one of the key links between the two sides of the old city. They are connected by the Bin Lamdoun bridge, which is one of Place Lalla Yeddouna's important historic and architectural features. "Bin Lamdoun" is Arabic for "between two cities".

Thanks to its topographic situation, in a natural valley, the Medina is well preserved, which makes it a unique cultural treasure. The Medina of Fez was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. Preserving the cultural heritage and integrity of the Medina has since been the starting point for new developments. Conceiving the transformation of the monumental and historic buildings and urban structure of the Medina is a delicate matter. How can we preserve and evolve at the same time?

The river Fès is the most important topographic element in the Medina and it is the main reason that the city was founded in this exact location, on the west-bank of the river Fes. But the river seems to be the backside of the city nowadays, it is literally a sewer, it is polluted with all kinds of chemicals and waste. In some recent plans the river receives a more prominent role in the urban fabric of Fes. However, we think that the river has even more potential. It can be an urban element that regenerates the whole city, an urban reset. The city and its inhabitants could turn towards the river.

The Medina has very little public space, most outdoor areas are courts inside private palaces. We want to reverse this in this area and open up squares and buildings to the river; the river can be a new public space. Small squares can be created linking to the pathway along the river. Squares on a higher level also open to the river, like the Place Lalla Yeddouna. Intimate squares on the River attract tourists and locals.

Our master plan accommodates several public spaces that are linked together physical and visual. Connecting spaces enriches the public domain of the Medina, within the dense network alleys you suddenly move into an area with views and openness. Buildings on the quay open their patios to the river. The patio of public buildings is open to visit and becomes part of the urban experience rather than being private.

September 2010, Competition
The Government of The Kingdom of Morocco and Millennium Challenge Corporation
Theo Mathijssen, Willem Lucassen