Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Ait Iktel

Morocco, Abadou

Ait Iktel, 1995 and ongoing
Association Ait Iktel de Developpement
Project Conception: Ali Amahan

Like many of Morocco's 3000 villages, Ait Iktel existed in relative seclusion until recent years. Located in the remote High Atlas Mountains, the village had no electricity, and widespread drought forced women to spend many hours each day fetching water from faraway sources. Most of the village's 2000 inhabitants are members of the Ghoujdama Berber tribe, who are traditionally depended on agriculture, mostly grain crops, for their livelihood. At least one number of each family works in a city in Morocco or abroad, providing the means for subsistence to relatives in Ait Iktel.

One such emigrant, Ali Amahan, formed the Association Socio-culturelle des Ghoujdama in 1992, bringing together members of the tribe, who have moved to Casablanca and Rabat. Out of this group emerged the Association Ait Iktel de Developpement (AID), formed in 1995.

The objectives of AID were to provide basic social services and infrastructure and to organize economic activity. All projects were undertaken with the full participation of the villagers. Leaders of AID worked closely with the jemaa, the traditional assembly of head of families, with each member's opinion considered until consensus was reached. AID also represented the community in securing government endorsement for their projects and in raising funds.

Today, electricity runs 4 hours a day in Ait Iktel, and streets are lit during the evening. The entire population has access to water through a network that supplies traditional street fountains. A new school, with a schedule that permits children to help their families in daily chores, hold classes in Arabic and French and teaches the traditional Berber dialect. Liberated from the heavy labor of carrying water, girls and women have access to education and the weaving workshop; about %85 of girls, between the ages of 4 and 19, are now in school. A new library has been created and the existing dispensary has been repaired and upgraded into a health center and provided with an ambulance.

These facilities and services have been incorporated either into new structures built in local stone or into the existing architecture of the village, characterized by inlaid stonework in a variety of patterns.

All work has been based on traditional techniques or on the construction experience of the village's returned emigrants. Of the new structures, perhaps the most visible and symbolic is the 2.5 km seguia, or water canal, which has increased the area of land that can be irrigated.

The canal crosses the valley over a bridge constructed in local stone, which has become a landmark in the area. Another important achievement has been the construction of two semi underground reservoirs, which are sensitively integrated into the landscape.

AID's accomplishments have set a model for the surrounding villages, most of which have now created similar community organizations.

By closing the distance between decision-makers and beneficiaries and circumventing the public sector's shortcoming, Ait Iktel demonstrates how, through architecture, a village can mobilize itself to improve its present and safeguard its future.


Aga Khan Award for Architecture
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