The Great Canopy
The ‘great canopy’ or “la grande ombrière”, as it is called Zevaco, is the first space that presents itself to visitors after they move past the signal tower marking the entrance to the site, and make their way down a set of stairs. It is “a place of relaxation, conversation, and meetings”, providing access to various portions of the site: (1) the palm grove and swimming pool, (2) the hotel, and (3) the market. This 3,000 m2 public square is shaded by an alternating rhythm of steel and concrete beams, suspended with hidden steel rods. The canopy includes a refreshment bar, planters, flower pots, basins filled with river pebbles, and benches, all designed around a system of seguias which cross the site. Visitors can cross the seguias using a system of walkways or by stepping over them. Some of the basins, fountains, and benches are covered in blue zelliges, blending tradition and modern design. On the ground, a dialogue between changing shadows and water circulating through the site emerges–showcasing the site’s blending of natural and artificial systems in a poetic manner.
The main feature of the ‘Great Canopy’ is a refreshment fountain which allows visitors and locals alike to draw water from the natural springs. The fountain itself is a concrete volume with vertical impressions leading down towards spouts built with cedar and copper where the water emerges–marking a celebration of water.
Deprived of its pools and the shade provided by its pergolas, the Great Canopy is now a place for informal and unstructured trade, creating a chaotic space. The Brutalist aesthetics of this space have been damaged by several renovations. The previous views towards the oasis and ryad have been obstructed by a newly constructed mosque to the south and informal market to the north, creating a sense that the Great Canopy is an isolated archipelago on the site as opposed to part of a deliberate sequence.
In 2017 ACP received support from the Getty Foundation to create a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the Complex, transforming its abandoned buildings into pedagogical and cultural spaces. Using a participatory design approach that brings various stakeholders and the local community into the design process, a new phased masterplan for Sidi Harazem was developed. Phase one of the rehabilitation is currently underway: an adaptive reuse approach that will transform the market and hotel into cultural spaces for locals and visitors alike.
Watch the Thermal Station transform below, from its current condition to Aziza Chaouni Projects’ new masterplan!