Summer ’09 Project Update

Project Director, Cloe Medina Erickson, recently returned from Morocco after two busy and productive months on the Igherm Restoration and Library Project.  The highlights of the trip included a visit from Salima Naji, a Moroccan architect and anthropologist who specializes in rammed earth architecture and the restoration of ighermen (Moroccan fortified granaries).

Salima Naji and Cloe Medina Erickson
Salima Naji discusses the work with Cloe Erickson and Mohammed Farouq. Photo: Kristoffer Erickson

Salima and her husband David Goeury, a specialist in geography, visited the project site during the first week of May and donated their invaluable time to perform a diagnosis of the structural integrity of the igherm. The southwest corner of the building was the only area found to be of extreme concern and in demand of immediate restoration.  Of secondary concern was the foundation and the third area of concern was the roofs.  During their visit the team:

  • established relationships with local craftsmen and laborers
  • created budgets for the three areas of concern
  • organized labor crews, including a team of three rammed earth master craftsmen from the neighboring village of Anergui to renovate the southwest corner
  • wrote contracts assuring that throughout the project we will pay local wages ($6/day laborer, $9/day craftsmen)
Salima and Cloe discuss plans for the southwest corner with the master earth builders.
Salima and Cloe discuss plans for the southwest corner with the master earth builders. Photo: Kristoffer Erickson

Renovations began the following week focusing on stabilization of the building and continued until the end of June.  Throughout this time more progress was made than expected because the project’s limited funds were stretched by harvesting the majority of the construction materials (stone and earth) free of charge from the surrounding land.  The following was accomplished:

  • complete foundation restoration on all facades
Foundation restoration.
Foundation restoration. Photo: Kristoffer Erickson
Stones were carefully chosen to make the new foundation appear original.
Stones were carefully chosen to make the new foundation appear original. Photo: Kristoffer Erickson
  • paving of the interior courtyard and entry with stone
Stones for courtyard paving.
Stones for courtyard paving. Photo: Kristoffer Erickson
  • extensive support buttressing of the southwest corner with large stone terraces
Terraces to buttress the load of the southwest corner.
Terraces to buttress the load of the southwest corner. Photo: Kristoffer Erickson
  • complete renovation of the southwest corner, including demolition and new rammed earth
The southwest corner coming down.
The southwest corner coming down. Photo: Kristoffer Erickson
And going back up with traditional rammed earth craft.
And going back up with traditional rammed earth craft. Photo: Kristoffer Erickson
Finished southwest corner.
Finished southwest corner. Photo: Ross Lynn
  • initial façade renovation with new martoub (stucco made of lime, earth, and straw)
Martoub was applied to the exterior, to be finished in the fall.
Martoub was applied to the exterior, to be finished in the fall. Photo: Kristoffer Erickson

Through a partnership with Montana State University, adjunct professor Bill Rea and seven university students spent six weeks working on the project in exchange for graduate and undergraduate credits from MSU’s School of Architecture.  Their work focused on:

  • documentation of the building’s original system of rammed earth blocks
  • macro and micro circulation studies for the library
  • renderings of the stages of renovation
  • documentation on how the igherm can be used as an educational tool to locals and tourists
  • creation of a short film  on the state of educational facilities in the region and a promotional film for future fund raising efforts
  • construction of a scale model of the igherm
MSU student Chad Evans assembles the model.
MSU student Chad Evans assembles the model. Photo: Kristoffer Erickson

Cloe’s husband, Kristoffer Erickson, employed his knowledge of remote power systems gained as an expedition photographer and athlete for The North Face in the design and installation of the project’s solar electric system. The system was purchased with a $3000 grant from the TRA Fund, and will be used to power computers and cameras during the renovation phase until the opening of the library.  At this time, it will be installed in its permanent role for lighting the book storage, reading/community room, and public computers.

Bill Rea helps install the solar system.
Bill Rea helps install the solar system. Photo: Kristoffer Erickson

On May 27, two engineers from CERKAS, the Centre de Conservation et de Rehabilitation du Patrimoine Architectural des Zones Atlasiques et Subatlasiques, made the two day journey from their offices in Ouarzazate to visit the project.  They performed a walkthrough providing advice on historically accurate structural rehabilitation methods and afterward gave their full approval of the project.

Fall 2009 & Spring 2010

Work will resume in September and include the completion of the façade renovation and the collection and purchase of materials in preparation for work in the spring.  Renovation of the building’s two roofs and six towers is planned to begin in April of 2010. This phase is funded in part by a 2,000 euro donation from the French association, Les Amis de Amezrai, and its local partner association, Amezrai SMNID under the direction of Joel Talon and Youssef Oulcadi.

Cloe Erickson (left) meets with Youssef Oulcadi (right) discussing the igherm.
Cloe Erickson (left) meets with Youssef Oulcadi (right) discussing the igherm.

Fund raising efforts throughout this fall and winter will focus on raising another $2000 dollars needed for the roof and tower restoration as well as the funds needed, approximately $10,000, for the restoration of the interior of the building which will house the library.

Tax deductible donations can be made here.