Location: Marrakech, Morocco
An adventure searching for the perfect derelict Riad, through the constuction itself, to the end result (insha'Allah!)

Monday, 28 February 2011

The Garden, a metaphor for paradise

"The supreme setting for the Moroccan art of living, the garden remains an auspicious place for love.  In Arabic poetry and literature it is celebrated.  The Eden depicted in the Koran bears the charm of an eternal garden, rich in flowers, fruit and shade.  The faithful rejoice there in eternal delight. Cups are filled with delicious, clear water from an inexhaustible spring.  Reclining on ceremonial beds, they will find beautiful virgin wives there and not an unnecessary word will be heard, as this garden is for those who will already believe in God and his prophets.  Entirely enclosed and facing inward, the Moroccan garden brings to the fore these images of paradise.  It must be a place of serenity and beauty and favourable for meditation.  The floral arrangements express joy and cheerfulness.  One must hear the sound of water, savour the tastes of the fruit trees and breathe in the aromas." - Corinne Verner, The Villas & Riads of Morocco

It is said that the word 'Riad', means 'garden' in Arabic. However most folk refer to the courtyard houses of Marrakech as riad's despite the fact that few have what could reasonably be called a garden.  Most riads have a patio or terrace courtyard which provides an open space in the centre of the house, ideally surrounded on all four sides by rooms, some of which are often open onto the patio (B'hou).  These provide a cool shaded area from which to enjoy the views of the fountain and or foliage, etc

The courtyard is a very important part of any riad.  The arrangement has clear practical benefits, providing a completely private outdoor space, as well as allowing heat to escape upwards keeping the ground floor relatively cool in summer.  In addition, from a purely aesthetic point of view it demonstrates the most radical difference between riads and the typical design of a western house.    This inside out concept provides for the creation of really exciting architectural solutions, providing a relatively large living space which is neither wholly inside or out due to the dry and warm weather most of the year in Marrakech.  

"Courtyards define a riad.  They are the single most important part of the house.  It is from there that all rooms radiate and they provide the sole source of light.  The courtyard is where all the architectural embellishments of a house appear, as it is where the concept of a facade appears, reflecting the overall aesthetic of the house."  Grant Rawlings, of Chic Marrakech

Palais El Bahia
No pressure to get the courtyard design right then!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Lots of Reading!

Moroccan bookworm paradise!

Now that things have moved on with the purchase of the house, we are getting into the design phase.  I feel under pressure to get this right, as unlike a renovation project where the room sizes are generally fixed, as we have decided to go down the new build route, there is the opportunity to create the space we want.  This raises the obvious question... what do we want? There are lots of books on Moroccan interiors and I think we have accumulated a collection of most of them!
There are some really special books with lots of explanation of Moroccan design philosophy (and loads of beautiful pictures!):
- Marrakech, living on the edge of the desert, Massimo Listri and Daniel Rey
- Moroccan Interiors, Lisa Lovatt-Smith
- The Villas & Riads of Morocco, Corinne Verner
- Morocco, Courtyards & Gardens, Achva Benzinberg Stein
- Marrakech, Un art de vivre entre riads et maisons d'hotes - Pascal Dafraire and Patrica Minne
- Morocco Design Decor, Philippe Saharoff & Francesca Torre
- New Moroccan Style, Susan Sully
- Moroccan Style, Alexandra Bonfante-Warren
- Living In Morocco, Lisl & Landt Dennis
- Islamic Geometric Patterns, Eric Broug
- Islamic Art in Detail, Sheila R. Canby
- Morocco Modern, Herbert Ypma
- Morocco Style, Angelika Taschen
- Islamic Design (a genius for geometry), David Sutton