Mythology, movies, mysticism and then there is so much more that Morocco offers. A picturesque house in this country designed by Guilhem Eustache, for a Belgium film director and producer, can easily be termed as an artistic and architectural beacon.
Morocco is a land of culture, cinema and breathtaking landscapes. These facts substantially added to the vision of Guilhem Eustache, the architect who created the Fobe House. The project was designed with the help of a variety of inspirations – right from the works of architects, painters, sculptors, conceptual artists and filmmakers of all periods and all schools of thought.
While the project spans 1800 square feet of living space, the structure was designed keeping in mind the necessity to build a structure with character, one that would match up with the intensity that Morocco is surrounded with. The mountains play a pivotal role as the client chose the land primarily for its stunning view of the Atlas. Hence, the breathtaking landscape of the Atlas Mountains, on a clear day, offers quite a sight as a backdrop to the Fobe House.
Located about ten kilometres south of Marrakech, the flat land mostly lies under a veil of heat that conceals the horizon. Hence, one notices an active composition of light and shadow that is strategically designed to enhance and strengthen the volumes. As Guilhem Eustache shares, “Extensive analysis of the site is always essential. Its orientation to the sun, its size, shape, access, the best points of view (toward the horizon or neighbouring homes) and any potential problems, all necessarily impact upon one’s architectural choices.”
The essence of the house lies in an interesting amalgamation of the land, the vegetation and the Atlas Mountains sitting on the horizon. The wildness of the land is well preserved and nature in all its glory is flaunted. The topology of the terrain was kept in mind during the nascent stages of the project, in order to protect the inhabitants from excessive sun and wind, and at the same time, make the best of the innumerable pros and cons that such a territory of nature brings along.
The main building is strategically positioned in the centre of the plot and at the edge closest to the road to Marrakech is the double garage that includes a long tube making way for square shaped openings; the caretaker’s house has two attached cuboids. A symbolic fireplace stands between the two structures, while three vertical walls mark the entrance to the property.
The small pool truly stands out, especially with the laminated stairs rising from the water structure and mounting all the way up to the roof terrace. All the paths and outdoor terraces that are built 50 cm above the natural ground level, and the stairs/bleachers at the foot of the swimming pool serve to add an edge of leisure that does not go unnoticed.
Keeping in mind the vision of the client, a Belgian film producer and director, architecture and cinema has been intricately woven into the design scheme. The various elements of the house reveal themselves slowly, one by one as one navigates through its spaces. From a distance, one intriguingly sees the Fobe House as a white square that gradually seems like a cube, a white wall, a tube, and then a white rectangular structure which eventually turns out to be a flat wall and a small triangle which is a pyramid.
The flat, barren desert land allows for clear visual connections between the separate buildings, the horizon and the earth itself. The smallest wall in the distance stands out in this lunar landscape; it keeps getting hidden and magnified, all through the day.
To construct the house, local materials like clay and tadelack were used to befit an economical approach and to retain the essence of the desert. The fact that the client hailed from the UAE, made it easier to present the beauty of Morocco and the particularly hot temperatures it brings along.
The architect Guilhem Eustache has the last word, “According to Hegel, architecture should be considered the first among the arts, my intervention is narrative – a more cumulative and pragmatic process than a conceptual one.”
Acknowledging the fact that almost two major rainstorms greet the region each fall, the buildings were elevated by nearly 50 cms. Fresh water from the glaciers on the Atlas Mountains is used in the house, with the help of a 30 to 40 metres deep well dug on the site. Clearly, the main dwelling is paradoxically simple and complex; designed to fulfil the specific climatic, cultural and economic conditions.
Text By Namrata Joshi
Photographs Courtesy Jean-Marie Monthiers