I chose the title Zhuzh (also written as zhoozh or zhoosh according to the Cambridge Dictionary online) meaning to change... Read More
I chose the title Zhuzh (also written as zhoozh or zhoosh according to the Cambridge Dictionary online) meaning to change something to make it more interesting or attractive. The unusual word itself was appealing for this unusual project situated on the Noor Solar Energy Complex in Ouarzazate, Morocco.
The project consists of transforming or zhuzhing up two stockpiles of loose soil that resulted from the leveling of the platform for the installation of one of the solar plants installed on the overall solar complex which is nearly 3000 ha in area. The earth was fashioned into two mounds with a ziggurat-like stepped silhouette outlined against the vast blue sky. Glimpses of the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains can be caught from various points of view from the south of the installation.
I wanted to capture the feeling of the enormity of the boundless views under clear blue skies to the horizon and the sense of wonder that was evoked as I visited the stockpiles for the first time - wonder at the enormity of Creation, but also wonder at the size of this impressive solar energy production complex. I also tried to nurture the feeling of finding protection and some form of intimity at the top of the eastern stockpile which now has a raised berm around it, orienting the views over the rectangular reservoirs at the base and providing protection from the wind.
The flat top was a reference to the flat topped buttes in the wider landscape and a reminder that this mega industrial complex is in fact situated on top of such a giant butte, able to function because of the vast exposure to the sun that the surrounding landscape affords.
The addition of stone steps and circles transformed the works into two spaces that take on an almost spiritual character. Arriving at the summit brings the visitor to the top of these sculpted mounds offering 360° views over the solar installations and the neighbouring valley. The silence, except for the wind which frequently blows in the afternoons, is inspiring. One literally feels "on top of the world." To the North and South, are the solar installations, including in the north the impressive tower of the 3rd production plant with the Atlas Mountains as a backdrop; to the East, rectangular water reservoirs containing water used for cooling operations in the production of electricity, and to the West a natural valley beyond which the reg of the region is interrupted by numerous flat-topped buttes.
The transformation of the loose stockpiles into compacted permanent features helped avoid the environmental problem of finding a suitable dumping site for 700 000m3 of material and has ended up providing the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) a space to bring visitors to give them an overall view over the solar complex. The enormity of the project made it essential to ensure adequate compaction confirmed through laboratory testing, and slopes that were limited in most areas to 30%. The spiral path that allows gentle access to the top, was also a feature that helped ensure its stability by breaking the slope into several segments. Drainage of rainwater from the storm episodes that sometimes occur was also as major considération in designing this work.
Dramatic views are attained of the stockpiles, silhouetted against the often-blue sky of Ouarzazate, and from the stockpiles over the natural and industrial landscapes. They are in scale with the vastness of the surroundings.
The direct client was the construction company SEPCO who are employed by Acwapower who are the developers of the second power plant on the overall project created and managed by the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN)