BAB ZAERS HABITAT, MOROCCO

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[one_half_last][alert-success]Architect: Mohan Rao [/alert-success]

Bab Zaers is a proposal for a new urban settlement spread over an area of 3000 hectares. Located 20 km south of Rabat, the political capital of the Kingdom of Morocco, the site is part of a totally undeveloped terrain with no settlements whatsoever. One of the main challenges in ordering a sustainable urban settlement has been to make the city completely independent for its water needs.

A broad framework for an ecologically sustainable urban settlement was developed with water as the key parameter. With an annual precipitation of 530 mm, the region is semi-arid, though not water distressed .With the intention of making the development totally self-sufficient in terms of water needs; the carrying capacity of the city has been determined by its water potential. An extensive study of the land’s geo-morphology and climate led to a projected population figure of 150,000 residents.

To achieve this in a sustainable manner – ecologically & financially – several guidelines have been developed as a framework for the physical planning process. Extensive modelling of run-off & drainage networks over the proposed development had been carried out to conserve the entire rainwater incident on the land. This meant examining and discarding several models of urbanization to achieve the most desirable patterns of development with the most efficient hydrological systems. The system of greenways accounting for a third of the site area is designed with the intention of modulating the natural surface run-off patterns of the site. A series of small reservoirs developed within the greenways are the only source of freshwater for the proposed development. The position, scale and volume of the water bodies are extensively detailed in a manner that the process of making the development water-secure remains passive in nature to the extent possible.

The structure of the greenways strongly defined and modulated the pattern of urbanization throughout the settlement. Overlaid over the greenways, the pattern of agricultural networks imparts a characteristic rhythm of unbuilt within the built framework of the city. Rather than being passive, ‘no-development-zones’, the greenways  were programmed to continuously inform, guide and influence the land use pattern through the development. The greenways alternately take on the role of node, corridor and linkage based on its interaction with the mobility network. In ecological as well as spatial terms these greenways, as the landscape infrastructure suggested a means of designing the indefinable, through which unanticipated spatial characteristics may emerge from the interplay between elements and habitation.

The model of water harvesting, management, supply, treatment and recycling proposed directs the urban form towards a decentralized, multi-polar settlement pattern. Further, integration of the agricultural systems based on terrain and water needs created a pattern of development that effectively integrated the built and unbuilt and created a diversity that is rich in land use patterns and the visual landscape. Each aspect of the urban landscape is defined, directed and formed by the interaction of the ecological framework set out at the broad scale and the dynamic engagement of urban, farming and protected greens.

Such an approach to master planning foresees the operation and organization of landscape as an urban ‘green’ infrastructure where the territory is articulated by interfacing terrain conditions, sustainable parameters and spatial attributes. The strategic operation of landscapes is generated by an instrumental engagement with ecological processes as well as with the function of infrastructure and the social and cultural needs of the community.

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