Rethinking the Urban Factory, Mohammedia

The GEN Z Series flies to the beautiful port city of Mohammedia in Morocco to meet CMK Archi’s Project Manager Najlaa Rachidi, a 2022 B. Arch graduated creative architect from L’École Nationale d’Architecture, Rabat. It is interesting to note that Mohammedia’s historical name was Fedala till 1960. The Arabic name Fedala comes from two words ‘Fadl Allah’ meaning “Favor of God”. Mohammedia, the rich oil port city on the west coast of Morocco is located between Casablanca and Rabat in the region of Casablanca-Settat. The Samir Refinery makes Mohammedia the centre of Moroccan petroleum industry.

Najlaa Rachidi comes across as a very warm person, who would never miss an opportunity that comes her way.  Having born and raised in Morocco, she comes from a family of academician. Najlaa Rachidi informs, “Both my parents are academicians. My mother has retired as an Economics teacher and my father runs a business. I am the first in the family to pursue a career in architecture. As a kid, I was always fascinated by ancient scientists, who could do more than one thing at once (smiles). As I grew up, I started exploring multidisciplinary career options until I stumbled upon the exciting field of architecture.”

Urban Integration

An individual filled with curiosity and eagerness to explore the world, Najlaa Rachidi completed her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, while she was pursing her architecture degree. She enthuses, “English Literature opened up my imagination to a world of knowledge. My quest to explore design narrative and poetry helped me gain an understanding of the human condition and how people interact with their environment. I am particularly interested in the field of neuroarchitecture. I am looking forward to combining all the fields I have studied or work on to create a unique approach to design.”

Johnny D interacts with Najlaa Rachidi to explore her journey in the field of architecture and her thesis ‘Rethinking the Urban Factory, Mohammedia’.

Entrance Lobby

What was your childhood ambition? Did you always wanted to become an architect?

I have always enjoyed science and the arts equally since I can remember (smiles). However, I was unaware about ‘architecture’ as a specialized field. When I was a child, my parents were renovating the house. I would paint a lot and play with bricks. Eventually, I became certain that I wanted a job that combined technical expertise with creative fulfillment and here I am (smiles).

Exterior View

How has architecture influenced your life as a student?

Studying architecture seemed like a bundle of excitement, risk, success and unquestionably educational events. Life was nothing more than a rollercoaster trip. It was difficult at first to fulfill the deadlines, when you had to work non-stop in college and at home. However, I have emerged stronger and now can handle difficult things more easily as a result of all that grilling and working under pressure. Above all, there is a sense of fulfillment that comes from designing a space and making it come to life.

Master Plan

Briefly tell us about your University and the Course.

After six years of study at Rabat’s National School of Architecture, I earned my degree in architecture. The Course includes a wide range of topics, including history, space psychology, sustainable design and ecology, urban planning and structure. The learning process was enhanced by the several themed seminars and study trips that we had.

Integrated Training Centre

Briefly describe the significance of your project with the ‘Title of the Project and Site Location’.

My project ‘Rethinking the Urban Factory’ explores how factories can re-integrate the city as projects that offer production, support, training, proto-typing and other services. Their size, which is smaller, highlights these structures’ cooperative qualities and adaptable flexibility. Located in the Industrial Port zone in the city of Mohammedia, Morocco – The primary advantage of the location is its closeness to the apprenticeship training centre, which establishes a link between professional training and knowledge.

Evening View – I

Furthermore, the business centres that surround the area foster an ambiance of cooperation and enterprise. The idea of this hybrid factory 4.0 with a rich and varied programs that underlines its openness to the public was made possible by the site’s location – Where everything comes together to form a cohesive environment. In an integrated program centred on smart manufacturing, innovation and entrepreneurship, the building unites industry, engineering, culture, education and business.

Plan – Ground Floor

Once inside, the arrangement is purposefully kept basic to optimize the rooms’ adaptability. Additionally, displays and testing initiatives that are started in the laboratories might take place on the terraces. The façades are developed to reinforce the reading of the program. The volume celebrates manufacturing and invites the passerby inside. The envelope permits expression of use and a fluctuating presence during the day and night.

The project’s volumetric composition, transparency and chromatic connection all establish its visual character. The project is intended to be a landmark that embodies a pioneering approach to industrial architecture in addition to its adaptability and hybrid design.

Interior Plaza

Which National or International architect has inspired / influenced you? Please specify as to why?

I have always found inspiration and appreciation in Sanjay Puri’s creative ideas. He is constantly considering how to create an efficient and sustainable construction. The design tenet of Sanjay Puri is ‘to never repeat any design’. Every project he produces is unique and tailored to the site’s specific requirements and surroundings, because he starts from fresh. I enjoy how he develops a distinct narrative for every design, by adhering to a different story.  

Evening View – II

As an Intern, what is the most important lesson(s) you have learned from senior architects, while being a part of a project?

Having completed numerous internships, I believe the most valuable lesson I have learned is to always ask for explanations whenever possible. Senior architects have a lot of knowledge to share, but you have to be proactive and observant. Trying to learn, as much as you can and paying attention to details are essential.

Conceptual Model

What role do you perform as an Architect / Project Manager at CMK Archi, Mohammedia, Morocco?

In my current position at CMK-Archi, I have had the opportunity to design and oversee construction of various projects while collaborating with cross-functional teams to ensure successful execution. I have also contributed to the development of master plans and graphic documents and worked closely with clients and collaborators.

The Red Walkway

Hostile architecture is an eyesore and fast changing the urban landscape of prominent cities around the world. Architecture is meant to benefit the people / users at large, but the effects of hostile architecture are targeting people and depicting wickedness of the society and is against the ethos of architecture field. Elucidate your perspective about this unwanted trend in urban landscape.

In addition to becoming more common, hostile architecture is also drawing a lot of criticism. It furthers inequality, disinvestment and segregation throughout the urban environment and robs public areas of its vitality. Better public facilities are actually necessary for everyone. Nonetheless, hostile architecture hinders public spaces’ ability to serve both as a place where democracy can flourish and a means of sustaining local communities.  

Interior View of the Suspended Walkway

Which significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ did you liked the most, and why?

I am quite impressed with the GEN Z Series of ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ A platform that is dedicated to empowering the next generation of architects is extremely rare. I like the aspect of sharing experiences, because it fosters a feeling of unity and support, which is especially beneficial for people who might otherwise feel alone or uneasy in their struggles. Through openly communicating our personal stories and staying open to the knowledge of others, we can keep growing as a community and as individuals in the design field.

Sectional Views

How will the younger generation of architects make drastic innovative changes to mitigate the catastrophic effects of Climate Crisis? Elucidate your solution(s) and perspectives.

Encouraging young architects to become the next generation of urban planners and building designers is crucial to ensure that the built environment is sustainable and livable. The younger generation, in my opinion, is highly inventive and will undoubtedly open the door to reduce the consequences of the climatic catastrophes. Young architects also have greater awareness of the need to build sustainably and comprehend the gravity of the climate crisis, which will present opportunities for them to develop energy-efficient designs.

Outdoor Exhibition Space

Local charm of cities has diminished due to Modern Architecture as every city looks alike and similar. How should architects / urban planners / landscape architects modernize cities, while maintaining the local charm intact?

The first step is to understand the context and history of the city, so that architects can draw upon this knowledge when designing new buildings. This way, we can create designs that not only blend seamlessly with their surroundings, but also pay homage to the past. It is also important to master the art of fusion and strike a careful balance between the principles of modern architecture and the local context. Eventually, buildings should connect the past, present and the future to tell a story of a city’s past and its development since then.

Unique Urban Landmark

Looking at the past in the current present, what are the futuristic architectural changes you would like to see in your home city / town? Elucidate the reasons for your vision.

Mohammedia, the city where I currently reside has the potential to grow quickly. Rethinking the numerous under-utilized spaces and giving priority to high-quality, green public spaces are two things I would like to see happen. I would like to see an approach to industrial design that is more sustainable, given that the city is also an industrial one. An additional necessary futuristic change is to make the city more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly.

Image Courtesy: Najlaa Rachidi

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