Reconstructing Mass: A Farm to Table Project

Mary Krajekian, Alina Sebastian
American University of Sharjah, College of Architecture, art and Design, Sharjah
Spojené arabské emiráty

Idea projektu

The project explores the potential of aquaponics as an agricultural tool to address the issue of depleting water resources and limited arable land in Marrakech. Additionally, it addresses the issue of shifting dietary patterns in the region by proposing an experimental kitchen that seeks to revive the Mediterranean Diet which, listed in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, was closely linked to the Moroccan lifestyle.

The project is located at the edge of the Oued Issil in Morocco which is a dry river that occasionally fills up from water coming down from the Atlas Mountains.

Although agriculture is practiced by 40% of the population of Morocco it only contributes to 12.26% of the GDP. In addition, it consumes 80% of the water resources in the country. This is because most of the agricultural land in Morocco is not arable and lacks irrigation infrastructure. The arid climate of the region meant that annual water supply is unstable and hence farmers that rely on traditional means of agriculture that depend on precipitation are disadvantaged.

Additionally, between 1970 to the present, there were a number of shifts in the dietary patterns of the population of Morocco. The original diet, that was primarily flexitarian with fish as the primary source of protein has shifted towards a meat-based diet. This change in diet was associated with the shifting agricultural policies in the region that placed greater emphasis on specific commercially profitable crops. One of the consequences of this shift in diet was increased health problems such as obesity, cholesterol, high blood pressure and glucose.

By combining the existing challenges to traditional agriculture and shifting dietary habits of the Moroccan population, this project seeks to revive the Mediterranean diet, which is popular in the region by proposing an architectural solution catered to the region. The Mediterranean diet has a number of associated health benefits such as reduced risk of stroke and heart diseases, increased weight loss and nourishment for the body, improved metabolism and improved blood sugar levels.

The proposed architectural solution is a farm to table system that combines the processes of production and consumption within the same space. It challenges existing aquaponic systems that typically comprise of plastic greenhouses in favor of a sustainable construction system that is site specific. It does so by repurposing abandoned quarry pieces from 1885 quarries that exist in Morocco to construct a collective aquaponic-restaurant system that seeks to revive the Mediterranean diet in the region.
Since there were no pre-existing precedents for large scale aquaponic systems in the context, a portion of the site has been dedicated to traditional lentil agriculture that can eventually be phased into an aquaponic system.

Popis projektu

Located along the Oued Issil in Marrakech, the project comprises of an urban park at the street level and an aquaponic production facility at the river level. Additional programs include an experimental kitchen and workshop/training classes that focus on the Mediterranean diet.
The architectural spaces are broken down based on the different types of spaces required in an aquaponic system. While functions such as crop grow out require access to natural light and tall open spaces, most other functions such as seeding, germination and propagation require dark, controlled interior spaces.
The most unique aspect of this project is that it challenges traditional aquaponic construction systems that are primarily plastic greenhouses. By utilizing the potential of the abandoned quarries in the region, the project proposes a hybrid stereotomic construction system that minimizes the use of plastic. In addition, the introduction of an aquaponic farming system in an area that primarily relied on traditional agricultural techniques ensures the sustainable use of water resources available in the site. By recirculating water between the fish cultivation and crop cultivation spaces, the project ensures reduction of water use by up to 90% when compared to traditional irrigation techniques. In addition, introducing an experimental kitchen/restaurant facility that overlaps with the aquaponic spaces allows for an experiential overlap between spaces of consumption (restaurant) and production (aquaponics). This ‘farm to table’ organization of spaces allows the public that visit the restaurant to get insight into the processes involved in the production of their food.

This facility serves as a prototype for aquaponic construction systems that can be replicated in other areas in Morocco that face similar agricultural challenges such as depleting water resources and limited arable land.

Technické informace

The primary structural system comprises of columns, walls and volumes formed by stacking and interlocking found quarry pieces from abandoned quarries in Morocco. Repurposing these abandoned stones minimizes the environmental impact on the site. The street-level roof that functions as an urban park is constructed from concrete and hybridized with the found stones for increased structural stability.
To reduce water loss by evaporation, the aquaponic spaces were placed below-ground in semi-enclosed conditions. The thickness of the quarry stones was used to provide increased thermal comfort by reducing heat transfer into the interior spaces. The project also allows for cross-ventilation by minimizing hermetically sealed spaces and allowing free airflow.


Mary Krajekian and Alina Sebastian

Instructed by Professor Faysal Tabbarah

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