Architecture Design Option Studio — OFF-CAMPUS: TRANSFORMING THE MONASTERY OF TOUMLILINE (Choi/Oualalou/Shopova)

Required of: 

The University of Al-Quaraouiyine, located in Fes, Morocco, is the oldest existing and operating university in the world.  Founded in 859, the university is one of the leading educational centers in the Muslim World.  The university espouses traditional modes of learning within an ancient and sophisticated architectural structure ensconced in the heart of the old medina of Fès.

In contrast, situated in a forest at the base of the Atlas mountains 80 km south of Fès, the Toumliline Monastery was founded in 1952 to serve as a rural haven for a community of Benedictine monks.  Despite being a Christian community in an Islamic land, this small monastery developed into a space of education and dialogue which hosted international conferences and meetings on interfaith relations, politics, and literature. During its short lifespan, the monastery also served as a school, library, and hospital for the local community.  After the last monks left the monastery in 1968, the site has remained abandoned.

This objective of this studio is to reactivate and transform the site of Toumliline into an experimental campus of learning and cultural exchange.  The new center at Toumliline will serve as a ‘mirror campus’ to the University Al-Quaraouiyine.  Disconnected from the urban fabric, this new campus must be a self-sustaining territory: dimensioned on available resources, built with materials existing on-site, and integrated into a circular economy. 

This studio will function on a collaborative model of design.  During the first part of the semester, students will work collaboratively in small groups to develop a territorial and programmatic proposal for the site in its entirety. After the midterm review and the studio trip to the site, the students will choose or craft a singular site strategy to develop together as a group. The overall site will then be divided into a series of smaller overlapping territories, upon which each student will develop an individual project. This approach will encourage students to explore issues of negotiation and spatial connection by accounting for the conditions created by the adjacent projects of their classmates, ultimately creating an ‘exquisite corpse.’ 

During spring break, the studio will travel to Fès, Morocco and also to France to visit Le Corbusier’s Convent of La Tourrette (to be confirmed).