This is a story about Youssef. He is a craftsman living in a “modern” concrete apartment on the outskirts of Marrakech with his wife Yasmine and their two young children.

The Problem

Youssef is currently seeing a disturbing trend in the construction industry. There is an influx in concrete and brick constructed buildings and it appears as this is becoming the most preferred way to build. Youssef grew up in a traditional mud brick home so he understands the benefits and differences in each construction methods. However vernacular architecture is becoming scarce and he fears people don’t understand the importance of it. Modern construction method lacks thermal performance, craftsmanship and identity. Cities and towns are beginning to lose their unique aesthetic.

“The modern way of building is not performing the way it should.”

There is also a trend where people are moving away from their families and living separately. He grew up in a large household with his parents and grandparents and believes it was invaluable. Living separately creates a lot of waste, both in space and resources as well as having many implications on community spirit. It is far different from his childhood.


The Vision

One night Youssef woke up with a vision. Thinking about the modern way of building. Would it not be possible to blend the modern with the vernacular? To transform the inhabitable indoor environment of the modern and at the same time take advantage of the secure and fast construction method? The day after when Youssef was stopping by the petrol station he met us! Youssef shared his vision with us and we didn’t see a reason why Youssef’s vision wasn’t possible. Youssef told us he wants to revitalise and develop craftsmanship in his community, he wants to bring back a sense of pride in workmanship. And in a way that revitalises the important factors of vernacular architecture, like the fundamental use of local materials, methods and resources in construction. That is when we began our journey with Youssef.

Final Print 6Final Print 2Final Print


The Theory

Due to the climate Youseff lives in it was important to investigate ways of coping with extreme temperatures, both hot and cold. BrickBark is a result of an investigation into natural systems and the how they cope with different temperatures. Trees were investigated because like buildings they can not move in order to regulate their temperature. Maintaining the correct temperature is vital as most trees can not survive if internal temperatures reach above 40 degrees celsius, hence they require certain mechanisms to keep below this. Understanding how and why Trees cool the environment can provided an interesting framework for better thermal regulation. As well as increasing the performance of existing passive cooling and heating strategies.


The way trees cool themselves is mainly through evaporation and due to the climate our client lives this was not a plausible solution to adopt. However the bark of the tree proved interesting as the outer bark protect a layer called the cambium which transports nutrients and water to the leaves, which must stay cool. The mechanisms seen in various tree barks proved as a more plausible solution for heat regulation in arid climates where water preservation is vital.

diagrams 2Diagram 3Diagram 1

BrickBark is a direct reference to the quiver tree were thin layers of bark flake off creating small air gaps, providing insulation and shading the main surface of the tree trunk protecting it from direct solar radiation. This means there is a decrease in heat gain through conduction and a decrease in heat gain from solar radiation.

The Tiles

BrickBark’s core function is to protect the main structure from direct sunlight in order to reduce heat gain through solar radiation as this is the biggest cause of heat gain in Moroccan housing. Just like the bark of a tree BrickBark flakes away from the facade to create a self shading surface. It was important that the solution was low-tech to fit in with the local construction industry. Even though the system is low tech the patterns created by the flaking tiles shadows can be controlled through computational methods. These patterns can be purely aesthetic or they can be used to increase the functionality of the tiles.

Final Print 3

The Legacy

Youssef hopes to succeed with his business and reignite the tradition of learning from the previous generation by keeping his family close, revitalizes the community, create architecture which both performs functionally and aesthetically.

Project by Raphael Andreolli and Jacob Turner

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