Rehabilitation of the historical and cultural heritage of an oasis

To improve living conditions and touristic potential through the amelioration of built heritage
At FIGUIG in Morocco
In 2003

Figuig is a pre-saharian oasis which has been undergoing for several years the negative effects of its frontier position. The political instability and the socio-economical problems bound to the closure of the frontiers between Morocco and Algeria have limited the possibility of commercial and touristic activities, while favoring the flux of clandestine goods that strongly compete with both local products and legally imported ones.

Although the region has a high potential due to natural resources, richness of landscape sand biodiversity; although the strategic position could favor relations of vicinity with bothMediterranean and Saharan territories, Figuig has been unable in recent times to play any relevant role in the national economy.

The city is characterized by a specific spatial arrangement made of an interwoven constellation of seven separate Ksurs (neighborhoods), each linked to one or several palm-groves. This spatial and cultural structure is now disappearing due to the abandonment of the historical centers and to the construction of new dispersed settlements around them. Most important, the ungoverned expansion of settlements is causing a great amount of urban management problems, mainly consisting in the lack of infrastructural links and in the uneven distribution of public services and welfare provisions.

Given such a problematic background, Africa’70 elaborated a rehabilitation project on thehistorical heritage of the oasis in conjunction with several local associations, pursuing the amelioration of the living conditions of Figuig’s inhabitants through a number of initiatives addressing the poor conditions of its built environment.

The role of ASF-Italia: the final objective of ASF’s work is to trace a methodological path on how to elaborate the strategic plans that are necessary for a sustainable governance of Figuig’s territory. The first on-field investigation was conducted in October 2005, aimed toshed light on the recent evolution of Figuig’s urban fabric. Relief maps were drawn on each Ksur, highlighting the numerous factors that contribute to their specificity and the most evident problems in the state of conservation of the buildings and the urban fabrics, together with problems generated by the casual introduction of inappropriate building techniques.

Short term perspectives: a few pilot construction-sites will start, aimed to restore some keybuildings in cooperation with local manufacturers. The objective is to enable local craftmen to independently restore, transform and maintain the built heritage of the oasis by freelyresorting to a variety of appropriate construction methods.

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