In the midst of a dynamic development and extension of its campus, the International University of Rabat (UIR) entrusted the PAN / Landscape Architecture office with a reflection on its existing landscaped areas. The campus, initially designed around a 9-hectare pedestrian park, suffers from a lack of appropriation by its users and is no longer in line with the contemporary issues that educational facilities and landscaping in general must convey today: biodiversity, water resource management, waste management, productive nature, nature as a learning medium.

This reflection is all the more important as it involves the larger scale of the new urban area called Technopolis, in which the university is located. Its rapid development constitutes a risk of degradation of the natural environment to which it is attached: the Mamoraa forest, the largest cork oak forest in Africa and a real balancing ecosystem for the north of the region.

The subject of the campus therefore represents for us an opportunity to raise awareness of the risks of urban sprawl, and the dangers of developing isolated projects without a global vision of the landscape. 

We approach the subject of the campus not as the development of a simple facility but as an echo of the larger territory. 

After conducting a diagnosis of the entire campus, to understand its strengths and weaknesses, we developed a guided reflection along three lines: 

– renaturation of the landscaped areas in order to give meaning to the presence of plants within the university and to echo the natural landscape of the forest 

– make the forecourts and paths more dynamic and encourage their appropriation by creating a sense of use through multi-purpose furniture 

– decompartmentalise the gardens and soften the boundaries between planted and mineral spaces in order to encourage work and collective life in the open air 

Once the framework was established, the client decided to test these principles on a pilot project to create a new landmark within the school and to prefigure an imminent change on the entire campus. 

This “quick win” project is therefore being developed on a 5,000m² square located between the school of architecture and the administration. The choice of the site is doubly strategic: 

– by its spatial position, as it constitutes a gateway to the campus and a space close to the collective living areas such as the restaurant kiosks and the sports field

– by the problems it poses, because despite its frequentation, this square suffers from a lack of appropriation and is today only a place of passage 

This square therefore concentrates all the issues of the project: lack of use, lack of furniture, artificiality of the planted spaces and excessive minerality.

The project consists of implementing the intentions developed during the diagnostic mission, to create a peaceful and comfortable living space:

– creating a shaded and dense forest garden to respond to the massive presence of the buildings with plants 

– work on the ground to rebalance the static and dynamic flows in the square

– develop a range of furniture with a distinctive identity allowing multiple uses

While retaining all the existing trees, the garden is crossed by new paths; the concrete is pierced by new planting pits; plots are added and furniture installed. 

In the form of tables and benches, but also large free-form wooden decks. Furniture invite you to take a break and offer new uses for the forecourt (lunch, outdoor work, relaxation, etc.).

The forest identity is provided on the one hand by the dense and woven planting of new trees, and on the other hand by the design of an autochthonous plant palette directly inspired by the natural forest of cork oaks. 

The use of wood for the furniture extends this gesture. 

Delivered in March 2023, the project immediately became a living space and a place for new experiments by the students. In April, we collaborated with the Collectif Parenthèse (France), invited each year by the university to raise awareness among architecture students of wood construction methods. The new forecourt was then taken over by the students, who imagined and created ephemeral light wooden structures. Listening to their needs, they designed free and playful furniture, which they associated with the decks and plots of the square. It was an immediate success.

From this rich experience, we retain for the rest of the future project the freedom of expression to be adopted in the design of the furniture and the possibility of installing these structures throughout the campus.

Project location : UIR – Technopolis – Salé, Morocco

Design year: 2022

Year Built: 2022-2023


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