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medina of fes, morocco

The medina is the original fortified urban center of fes, and  has been continuously occupied for over 1200 years.  The city resembles a living organism that has adapted and thrived within its hot environment, and can offer many lessons for sustainable urban development in desert climates.

The medina is built up of a continuous building matt that interlocks within a network of narrow alleyways and covered walkways, some as narrow as 2 feet wide. The main gateways into the city and its widest alleyways are oriented with the prevailing winds which naturally ventilate the city by funneling the breezes. In addition, the  narrow alleys with high vertical walls keep the direct sun from reaching the ground level , creating a cooler ground level  microclimate.  

The main building typology within the medina are  3-4 story mudbrick or concrete buildings with a central courtyard and flat rooftop. The thick nearly windowless walls of the buildings act to absorb heat during the day and release heat at night, creating a more comfortable interior temperature. The vertical central courtyards bring in daylight and naturally funnel the heat up and out of the buildings. The rooftops allow for private and cool outdoor space in  evenings.

The Fes medina is not an artifact, it remains a vital and occupied city and has evolved to include modern plumbing, electricity, satelite and internet access.  This series of images seeks to document this unique example of urbanization that is closely connected to its enviroment,  and which has prospered for over 40 generations.

mac kane