French architects plan a vertical city in the Sahara

OXO Architectes and Nicolas Laisne Associes' la Ville Tour des Sables will create a souk in the sky
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La Ville Tour des Sables by OXO Architects and Nicolas Laisne Associes
La Ville Tour des Sables by OXO Architects and Nicolas Laisne Associes

Could a plot within Morocco’s section of the Sahara Desert become the unlikely site for this lofty complex, housing a host of amenities, including an observatory and a hotel?

The concept is for a ‘vertical city’ – a term much loved by architects of skyscrapers – standing 450m above the dunes. La Ville Tour des Sables, or the Sand Tower Town is the work of two French firms: OXO Architectes and Nicolas Laisne Associes, who envisage an asymmetrical structure, which from a distance would look as if it were hewn from Saharan rock. That effect is achieved by the ochre screens and sensors, which would also produce the tower’s energy.

 

La Ville Tour des Sables by OXO Architects and Nicolas Laisne Associes
La Ville Tour des Sables by OXO Architects and Nicolas Laisne Associes

In fact, much of the action would take place at ground level, with a series of over-lapping canopies mimicking the shading achieved in the narrow maze-like streets of North African souks.

Inside the tower, a pool at ground floor level would be positioned to reflect the atrium. As well as the hotel and meteorological observatory, there would be housing, a prayer room and restaurants, plus a swimming pool and an indoor vertical garden planted on a central column. Meanwhile, at the building’s peak a couple of platforms would serve as helicopter landing pads.

 

La Ville Tour des Sables by OXO Architects and Nicolas Laisne Associes
La Ville Tour des Sables by OXO Architects and Nicolas Laisne Associes

“It now forms a landmark in the desert and creates a new way of living by turning the extreme characteristics of its climate into sources of energy,” says Manal Rachdi, founder of OXO Architects and partner-in-charge of this project.

The vertical city is an ongoing study at the moment, but the two Parisian firms have a good track record of working together. They garnered recent success with their winning competition entry to build a learning centre for a polytechnique school at Paris Saclay University, in conjunction with the Japanese practice Sou Fujimoto Architects.

 

La Ville Tour des Sables by OXO Architects and Nicolas Laisne Associes
La Ville Tour des Sables by OXO Architects and Nicolas Laisne Associes

That Parisian project should break ground soon, while this desert mirage is still ‘under study’. Nevertheless, it remains an ambitious project for one of the fastest growing economies in the region.

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