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Chwiter Learning Center for Sustainable Construction

Published in 2A Magazine Issue #15&16 Autumn 2010 Winter  2011

Aziza Chaouni

is founding principal of Bureau E.A.S.T and assistant professor at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto. Chaouni’s personal research is focused on green technologies in arid climates. At the University of Toronto, Chaouni teaches graduate options studios sponsored by the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism set in the Moroccan Sahara, investigating sustainable modes of construction and their integration with tourism.  Chaouni is also the Director of the Research Board of DO.CO.MO.MO Morocco, a chapter of an international organization that seeks the preservation of the modern heritage. She holds a Master of Architecture with Distinction from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Civil Engineering from Columbia University.

Firm Description

Bureau E.A.S.T. is a collaborative design practice based in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Fez, Morocco.  Founded by Aziza Chaouni and Takako Tajima, Bureau E.A.S.T. is a collective of architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners, and engineers.  This diversity is reflected in the range of projects currently within their office – from the landscape master plan to revitalize a forgotten river to the intimate residential garden; from the renovation of a non-profit animal hospital to the adaptive reuse of a 17th century palace.  Their work has been published and exhibited internationally, including the International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam; INDEX: Design to Improve Life in Copenhagen; and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN HABITAT) World Urban Forum.


Every project is a new research. Be it a building, a restoration of a river, or new urban design guidelines, we start with a fresh set of perspectives and without preconceived methodology. What is recurring in our approach however is our anticipation of change and our commitment to an iterative process. Design production should not be limited by current aesthetic preference and/or immediate programmatic needs but instead, project ideas into the future and imagine how buildings, landscapes, and cities may evolve and adapt to new conditions. We see constraints as possibilities rather than dead ends and as a means to compel creativity and innovation. Our commitment is neither to a style nor an aesthetic but to make our built environment better.

Chwiter Learning Center for Sustainable Construction

International competition organized by the International Union of Architects

Team: Bureau E.A.S.T. (lead architect and team leader), Transsolar, Fletcher Studio, Team Maroc,

Thornton Tomasetti, Essakali Architect.

Third place.

The new city of Chwiter, located 20 kilometers northeast of Marrakech in the inland region of Morocco, is noted for its hot and dry desert climate.  We proposed to utilize rammed earth construction and natural ventilation so that the architecture of the building embodied energy conservation.  The slowly forgotten local technique of building with earth, well suited to the arid climate, was combined with newer sustainable systems including: compost toilets, solar panels, and passive cooling solar chimneys.  The architecture would serve as an educational tool for the students of the Learning Center for Sustainable Construction as well as for the public by introducing public spaces into the educational program.  Comprised of several smaller structures inspired by the traditional fortified villages of the region, we organized the buildings around three central courtyards each with its own specific microclimate: a public forecourt covered with a tensile structure that collects water, a middle courtyard that acts like a green lung by providing cool air to the earth duct cooling system, and a working space for students to experiment with building techniques that is covered with a retractable canopy which holds flexible solar panels.  With the expertise of each of our team members, we created a unique building system based on current and local knowledge of sustainable construction and a learning center that promotes public learning and interaction.



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