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Casablanca: The Compendium of Home

Heidi Lu


GSA ArchiPRIX 2020 Nominee


Sumayya Vally


12R - An African Almanac

ICA fellowship link:

My Major Design Project seeks to uproot and unearth the ‘silenced’ narratives of the largely under-documented trans-Saharan slave-trade through a contemporary retelling of Zaydana’s  history. Sigmund Freud would refer to exposing these ‘historical edits’ as unheimliche, meaning ‘[that which] should have remained hidden and secret and yet comes to light’ (Freud 1949:12). Architecture is often said to be a vessel for politics, memory and history, physically and metaphysically engaged with questions of the self and the environment in built form (Pallasmaa 1996). Through a speculative proposal - a home for Zaydana -  I explore how retelling  her story through a domestic architecture can reveal novel, emancipatory configurations and constructions of the home, particularly for black Morrocan women today.   


As with any cultural grouping; in Morocco, traditional ‘home’ typologies are indicative of various social orders and hierarchies in family structures, societal structures, and private/public relations. Arising from the French colonisation in Morocco, Moroccan women lived in “enclosed households” with harems, where extended families lived together. Harems were also where concubines were housed, in the service of kings and masters. Social and communal life is played out in several public ‘home’ typologies in Morocco - in the mosque, the hammam (public baths),the riad (courtyard), and the communal bakery. Looking critically at the construction of ‘home’ and its complex history and relation to several dynasties of power in Morocco, my project uses a close reading of the history of slavery in the region, resulting power-relations and gendered exploitation today as a conceptual setting for the new house for Zaydana, where histories of oppression, subversion and triumph of black female slaves are housed; a repository of both fact and fiction.  

Building on the notion of the Unheimlich as a concept related to “feeling” more than it is related to the visual, the project also draws on Pallasmaa’s ‘tools for memory’ (Pallasmaa 1996:47), tied to the haptic, the performed, the sensory and the felt, the realm of experience, rather than relying on the visual alone. The project uses these and other tactics through story-telling, performance and re-enactment to suggest a new architectural vocabulary of the Moroccan ‘home’ that attempts to undo the hegemony of the dominant narrative.

Veil. Lu, H. Unit 12. 2019

How much do you weigh?. Lu, H. Unit 12. 2019

Pregnant Ceiling. Lu, H. Unit 12. 2019

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