A New Layer of Chance

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The site is located in the north medina quarter of Marrakech, a few hundred meters west
of Ben Youseff Madrasa. Externally, the building appears as a derelict ruin, although
lively small rooms sell merchandise to the bustling street along its facade. Internally,
numerous cellular spaces surround a large open courtyard and act as workshops for
merchants, tanners and cobblers. These workshops produce the items sold directly
outside. The courtyard is used for storage, with building materials, carts and stray cats
strewn across its floor – an organised mess.

Chance procedures, with the assistance (hindrance) of the I Ching, have led to a project
that proposes a new layer of workshops that span above the existing structure, and a
suspended mirrored box that occupies the courtyard. Building elements such as
columns, walls and windows were set out using paint flicked on survey drawings; the
columns’ diameter being determined by the size of paint drip. Tapered arch beams of
reinforced concrete rest on top of these columns and provide a platform for the
development of workshops, as and when they are needed. This organic growth is
habitual throughout Marrakech. The mirrored box provides storage space and a roof
terrace for the workers, with newly painted reclaimed rugs as canopies. It is suspended
from this primary structure using an amalgamation of rope and cable. Dripped coloured
paint oozes down the mirrored facades, providing a distorted and reflected view of the
existing ‘ruin’. Paint tin bricks are the building block for the workshops and columns,
whereby recycled paint tins are the formwork for a poured concrete and paint mixture.
The entire paint tin is utilised, as an empty tin becomes a porthole window and its lid and
base become tiles.

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j.macmanus@my.westminster.ac.uk

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