SQUARE DESIGN Of Placa Lalla Yeddouna and Surrounding
The goal of the international competition was to redesign the Placa Lalla Yeddouna along with the restoration of the surrounding buildings and the vitalization of the site with modern architectural components. The Placa Lalla Yeddouna (PLY) lives on its traditional roots, its vitality and its functional diversity. Lalla Yeddouna is situated in the heart of the Medina of Fes that was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. Furthermore the area around PLY is a center for traditional handcrafts, mainly tannery and coppery. That is why the project goals were to identify the ways and means to reinvigorate the square and thus enhance the artisanal activity in square’s vicinity and increase its productivity and add value. The square should become an intersection for the community and visitors of the Medina through the restoration and redesign.
The project goals to make PLY emerge as a place that is accessible, that has both a strong sense of community and a comfortable image, as well as activities and uses that collectively add up to more than the sum of its parts. Furthermore the square would reflect a strong sense of integration to its urban fabric, natural and social environment.
The project would ensure the enhanced accessibility of the place by its visual and physical connections to its surroundings.
One of the main guidelines of the project was its holistic integration concept; the project would be integrated with its urban, natural and social environment. The integration with the urban fabric concerned both the restoration of the existing buildings as well as the integration of new buildings. The restoration was conceived in full respect of the visual, functional, material and technical identity of the object to be restored. Still using the same analogy, the “blood vessels” would continue flowing between the different organs in the case of a “transplant”. The ground floors of the new buildings would thus enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the public spaces. Thus forming a seamless transition between indoors and out, as demonstrated in the new buildings integration with the existing urban fabric, whereby the street layout and the footprint of the old buildings were preserved to the highest extent possible. The new landmark building on Place Lalla Yeddouna, (a 3-dimensional courtyard builiding) followed the original urban edge of PLY on its west side, but is an open architecture that would direct the views towards the river.
The building facing the parking would serve as “gate” and offer a distinct entrance for visitors and tourists. The building was planned as a modern interpretation of the traditional gates in Fez. The place would be easy to get to and get through with distinct paths for visitors and locals; they would be visible both from the parking area and up close. The place’s visibility would be enhanced by a wider opening to the river, which highlights the quality of the mulberry tree as a landmark for the place. The project introduced street furniture and other physical elements that make the place’s locals and visitors feel welcome and comfortable in a visually appealing environment, such as seating, new landscaping, a better organized central place and flexible spaces for different activities.
PLY opened itself to the water in the north to the Bin Lamdoun Bridge and visually formed a new open space with the opposite (east) side of the river. The new square formed a “river balcony” from which people could enjoy views the river and mountains.
Other smaller squares were connected with the PLY by pedestrian ways. Among these were entrance squares (e.g. north of Bab El Courna, south of mosque, Derb Jamal Chouk), terraced riverfront squares, public inner courtyards or quieter neighborhood squares.
A themed promenade across the courtyards of the new buildings had specific functions assigned to them. They would offer a series of events, in the footsteps of the artisans’ production value-chain, which emulates the richness of the historical streets. This, together with a broad array of new types of activities and destinations located in close proximity to each other, resulted in the same dynamic conditions that attracted people to old cities and neighborhoods and replicate the unmistakable quality of traditional urban fabric.
The public space is arranged on 3 main levels, the water level (-7 meters), the east side waterfront promenade (-5 meters) and the PLY level (+0 meter). Terraced seating stairs and bridges connected them to each other.
The new water level creates a direct access to the water by terraced stairs. The waterfront would be naturalized again and create an oasis with palm trees in the middle of the town.
To ensure the social cohesion of the project to its neighborhood and to have a positive impact on the lives of the neighboring communities, the project included functions such as a Hammam, public library and children playground. Lively public functions like restaurants and cafés were located in the basements along the new water promenade, while artisan activities, retail shops, etc. were oriented towards the upper level of PLY and Derb Lahbiyel.