Scape Design conceives landscape with cultural roots for Fairmont Taghazout Bay

Scape Design has revealed its concept for the landscape of Fairmont Taghazout Bay slated to open during the first quarter of 2019. With the majesty of the Atlas Mountains as a backdrop, the five-star Moroccan resort is idyllically positioned on an 180,000 m² swathe of pristine Atlantic coastline 18 km north of Agadir. It is just one component of Taghazout Bay, the 615 ha cultural and touristic destination originally masterplanned by Scape in conjunction with architectural practice WATG in 2010 to be part of Morocco’s national tourism strategy, ‘Vision 2020’.

Sud Partners, a subsidiary of AKWA Group, commissioned Scape to conceive the conceptual, schematic and detailed landscape design for the Fairmont Resort at Taghazout Bay. Featuring 155 spacious guestrooms and suites with sea-facing views, the property also encompasses 56 Fairmont-branded luxury waterfront villas with individual pools, four of which will be used solely by the hotel with the remaining 52 to be privately-owned residences.

Scape’s objective when creating the masterplan was three-fold. Zones were orientated to maximise views whilst minimising structural fill and the visual impact upon the surrounding landscape. It was also essential that the design of the landscape would feel contemporary and, despite the arid landscape, convey a sense of luxury through lush gardens that are synonymous with Taghazout residences. Created in conjunction with the London office of lead architect HKS, the masterplan concept also creates a layout and narrative drawn from the culture, geology and natural landscape of the region to inform the feel of the residences’ beachfront terraces as well as the grounds of the hotel and its numerous pools.

Today, Taghazout, is a relaxed, multicultural surfing enclave. However, it is the community’s ancient roots in the Berber culture and the geography of the Atlas Mountains which have shaped Scape’s design. For countless generations, these semi-nomadic tribes would repeat journeys stretching from the rough mountainous terrain to where the grazing land of the foothills meets the abundant fishing stock of the ocean. These familiar routes follow the paths of the wadis, the dry troughs that transform into riverbeds leading to the Atlantic Ocean when intermittent rains fall on the mountains.

The Resort

At the Fairmont, dry channels framed with abundant grasses and succulents snake their way from the resort’s entrances through the property towards the waterfront, articulating spaces and drawing guests towards carefully positioned vantage points. Water is used sparingly in the xeriscape so that when it does appear as guests explore their beautiful, arid surroundings, the drama of the unexpected delight at key focal points is amplified.

The natural ravines and wadis in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains rise up behind the resort and are still used for productive arable landscapes as well as nomadic grazing in the Berber tradition, particularly in the natural argan woodlands for goat herds. These influences can be seen throughout Scape’s diverse planting selection. Native and introduced species have been carefully selected to cope with the dry climate whilst also framing views and adding the colours and fragrances that have become synonymous with the region.

The Hotel

A plaza lined with date palms and olive trees heralds guests’ arrival at the resort, transitioning to verdant pebbled gardens ahead of the understated porte cochère.  Windowless buildings establish a sense of intrigue heightened by the landscape’s locally crafted sculptures, luxuriant materials and the sound of splashing water that all hint at the grandeur beyond. Once past the dramatic timber entrance doors, a vestibule formed from floor-to-ceiling, six-metre-high glazed panels unveils the spectacular panoramic view over the beautifully manicured resort and the ocean beyond.

This concealment and subsequent reveal of exceptional views is a design technique found in some of Morocco’s oldest gardens, a practice integrated by Scape in respect for the locale to direct the navigational flow throughout Fairmont Taghazout Bay. Via the arrival and conference courtyards, intricate Berber screens and local stone walls enclose the guest as a way of building anticipation as they journey through and a new landscape space beyond is revealed. Although it is an utterly modern destination, age-old design principles and delicate Berber touches have been woven throughout.

Each restaurant offers an alfresco experience made that much more distinct by the surrounding landscape, whether it’s tea on the arrival terraces, a poolside family meal, or fine dining from elevated pavilions or cosy sunken nooks amongst the main restaurant’s shallow wadis and floating lanterns. A high-tech conference centre and ballroom is accessed through a series of arid garden rooms whose walls frame zen views and create shaded break-out seating. Provisions for active adults include fitness facilities and a competition-size tennis court, while families are well looked after with three separate spaces dedicated to entertaining children, whatever their age. In addition to a kids’ pool integrated alongside the main family pool, Scape has designed wet and dry play areas as well as a young adults’ facility with its’ own chill-out garden space. The kids’ club includes a young children’s area with bean bags and games, a climbing frame designed to look like a shipwreck beached in a vast sand pit, and a splash zone with pool presided over by a gigantic octopus with a variety of interactive jets and play equipment, all shaded by overhead sails to protect from sunburn.

Areas of tranquillity nestled amongst olive and almond groves provide exquisite vantage points that maximise the beauty of the shoreline and the organic nature of the wadis as they wind down through the terraced hillside and broaden as the topography eases near the ocean. Each one opens into a lush plateau with its own pool and food and beverage offering creating distinct destinations for relaxation and discovery. While the quiet, adults-only ‘rock pool’ is a tranquil shelter with both wet and dry seating at the swim-up bar and intimate niches in which to retreat and de-stress, the luxurious family pools and restaurant are carefully arranged as a place where parents and kids can set up camp for the day. Made up of three distinct water areas with infinity-edge tiers, the first ‘informal’ family pool cascades into a second which borders an elegant, ‘formal’ finger pool whose narrow shape is ideally suited for swimming laps. Each oasis enjoys panoramic views of Taghazout Bay with dramatic effect from day into night.

A particularly special destination, the tranquil spa garden is a sunken oasis nestled into a quiet corner of the resort. Composed of a cluster of buildings designated for different treatments, the spa reveals a concept shaped by the rustic charm of the quaint Berber villages. Each treatment space is accessed through a contemporary, glazed passageway and opens on to its own private, enclosed garden with lush bougainvillea and fragrant rosemary trailing over earthen-clad walls. There are also a variety of areas to unwind before or after treatments, whether soaking in the hydrotherapy pool, stretching on the yoga deck, indulging in a Moroccan-style hammam, or experiencing treatments uniquely tailored for each guest following a wellness consultation.

“From a tourism perspective, Morocco has traditionally been defined by the walled riads and street markets of Marrakesh and Casablanca,” says Phil Jaffa, Founder, Scape Design. “However, this project required Scape to create a new image of Morocco centred on the dramatic, yet more relaxed, nature of the coastal landscape of Taghazout Bay. Drawing upon the region’s Berber culture and blending it with the local geography and geology, we have envisioned a contemporary resort that seeks to lead each guest on a journey of unfolding drama and romantic elegance through a design that directly springs from the story of an undiscovered Morocco and its coastal heritage.”