-By Polina Moroz and Matthew Wilson.
– An exterior view showing the public side of the storyteller’s booth.
The site of the project is the ancient coastal town of Asilah. A fortified town on the northwest tip of the Atlantic coast of Morocco, about 31 km south of Tangier. In terms of the town’s built environment it stands apart due to a heavy influence from both Spanish and Portuguese construction methods and architectural aesthetics. It is a town that has over the past 25 years reached a level of cultural prominence due to the efforts of Mohamed Benaissa, the mayor and founding patron of the cultural association. This native son of Asilah took it upon himself to upgrade the physical and cultural environment of the town and is therefore considered to be the financial benefactor and key character behind the author’s decision for Asilah to be the site of the ‘whispering house’.
-Photography of Asilah, Morocco.
‘Al Halqa’ is the spacial distribution of spectators and artists. It is the process by which the curious close in and encompass a performance.
This term comes predominantly from the Djemaa El Fna, “Hangman’s Square“ in Marrakech, it is a site that displays original artistic performances such as acrobatics, storytelling, fortune-telling and sorcery. It is a patchwork of ever-renewing traditions and the realm from which our storyteller, Hajj Ahmed Ezzarghani has been extracted. Now in his 70s, the master storyteller has retired from the chaos of Marrakech’s famous square and instead finds new purpose in teaching young apprentices his skills. His particular art form is fast approaching extinction, and it is the author’s intention to nurture and preserve this precious and ancient cultural tradition.
With this in mind they have sought to provide shelter for the storyteller and several apprentices, as well as fashioning a space for performances and a library dedicated to the creation of future stories. Throughout the design, an emphasis has been placed on the ‘tile’, to perform certain duties or roles throughout the storyteller’s home. Outer walls of the existing building in the town of Asilah had been taken as prerequisites, while the whole inner part of the house was refurbished and transformed according to the program.
-View of the courtyard theatre and private garden.
Theatre is closed for public during the day hours. Garden inside of the theatre is enjoyed by the habitants of the house: by storyteller himself and his students. Plants inside are fed through the system of water collecting tiles, which form the roof for the private part courtyard and the library. Collected rain water is stored in the underground well, preserved from the previous building owners.
Performance space opens its doors for everyone interested in the ancient tradition in the evening, when the heat goes down, and people start flooding the streets. The name of the project itself comes from the theatre whispering wall, covered with acoustic bricks acting as sound amplifiers. Hearing the glimpse of the story passing by the house, both natives and tourists are welcomed inside to experience Al-Halqa.
The Living Quarters.
-View of the private courtyard and staircase.
-View of the library and interior side of the storyteller’s booth.
Second type of the acoustic tiles was developed for the library, where the stories are collected to be preserved and passed on to the next generations.
Polina Moroz & Matthew Wilson, ASEN05, 2016