Inspiration Abroad: Morocco and Dubai by Atelier Drome

marrakech - jemaa el-fna.jpg

You know when you travel to a place and everyone always craves the “local” experience? Well if you want that, my first suggestion for you would be to visit Morocco. It’s hard not to see and experience the day to day life of locals in the old medinas of Morocco. The old medinas are the ultimate transformation of space. Before 10am and after 8pm the storefronts are closed and streets are for the most part empty (other than your local gang of cats). During the day the streets lined with doors become lines of shops spilling out onto the streets.  Now you’re dodging either the donkey and cart or the man speaking French to you trying to sell you Aragon oil or black soap. The old medinas are where Moroccans spend their days buying, selling, eating, socializing, and of course drinking mint tea.

Opposing the streets are lush interiors containing courtyards filled with plants, intricacies of plaster hand carvings, and tile work. You’d find this type of detail not only in Mosques and palaces, but in buildings like the airport and train station. 

The Yves Saint Laurent museum in Marrakech, designed by Studio kO, was one of the few “modern” buildings we saw in Morocco. Its appearance was out of simple masonry that transformed into a lightweight, delicate material exploring new patterns and defying gravity with an upward sloping curve.

The last stop was to Dubai for a wedding. Most of our time was spent visiting and celebrating with college friends, and not a lot of time for sightseeing. And yes, we were awe struck by the mammoth that was the Burj Khalifa, but it was the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi that I will dream about for years to come. Abu Dhabi is a city that is built on multiple islands and connected with bridges, so a building nestled in the water along with the mangroves only seems natural right? The museum is contained within a series of buildings all being protected by the layers of structure creating the massive dome above. All of the supporting structure of the dome is hidden from the perspective of viewers making it appear to be floating regardless of where you were in the museum. We learned from a friend of Sultan’s, who worked at the Louvre, that the structure is meant to resemble stars and in the morning the light would beam through the dome creating changing patterns on the ground, buildings and water surface. The overall experience was dreamlike.    

Inspiration Abroad is an ongoing series from the travels and explorations of the team at ATELIER DROME team and the things that inspire, delight and invigorate.

This inspirational edition is by designer Cassie Lang, a Washington native who loves getting outdoors, exploring the world and it was through the search for balance between art and math that she found herself falling in love with architecture where the two blended perfectly. Read more about Cassie in her bio.

How Ordinary Materials Can Create Extraordinary Textures by Lisa Town

Here at Atelier Drome, part of the regular design process involves creating a board of inspiration images which means we are always on the look out for new ways of using materials to create beautiful spaces and structures as well as solve design issues. Sometimes the difference between creating something truly unique that fits the character of the space does't involve the use of new and advanced materials but rather using an otherwise ordinary material in an extraordinary way to create an entirely new experience.

For a residential building in Tehran, the material of choice for Admun Studio is brick which is a typical material used throughout Iran. The design team was brought on after the structure itself was completed and they were left to resolve several issues through the design of the façade. They describe the need to “provide maximum privacy yet fulfilling other features such as moderating light, limiting view from outside, organizing chaotic experience of the terraces and decreasing high-traffic neighborhood noise” that lead them to the artistic design of a modulating textural surface. Using these simple materials in a new way, the surface not only solves several issues at once but creates a unique visual piece in the neighborhood

Images © Mehdi Kolahi

Repetition is often the key to creating what looks like a new material by way of using a simple smaller piece multiple times that is then transformed into a larger surface structure. In Japan, Kengo Kuma & Associates did just that with a Starbucks location. The design sought to marry a new, modern space with the surrounding design aesthetic of traditional Japanese structures by using “a unique system of weaving thin woods diagonally.” The result is not only unique but creates kind of a vortex that feels as though it wants to suck the passerby into the café and possesses that dynamic energy that goes beyond just creating visual cues or leading lines intended to draw people inside.

images © Masao Nishikawa

In Spain, the simple material of wooden sticks is used as well but takes on an entirely different character designed by Ideo Arquitectura. This time, the surface takes on a softer feel as the ceiling of a bakery that is in a long narrow space lined with old, exposed brick that would otherwise feel like a dark cave. Instead, the sculptural ceiling guides visitors in and creates an almost glittering surface and reinforces the overall brand of the shop while creating visual interested that works with the highly textural existing walls without clashing or completely dominating them.

images © Imagen Subliminal