Tiles of Marrakech

written by:
March 15, 2012

I was in Morocco last week and it should come as no surprise to design fans that I was ensorcelled by the variety and complexity of Moroccan tilework. From elaborate mosaics on palace walls to simple geometric designs on the street, I found myself snapping photo after photo of tiles. Here are a handful of highlights from my time in Marrakech. Look for more in the next couple days from Casablanca.

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  The decorative arts are quite maximalist in Morocco, making this courtyard in the 19th century Bahia Palace all the more of a respite. The geometry remains the same, but here we actually see the form of the arch take prominence. Stunning.
    The decorative arts are quite maximalist in Morocco, making this courtyard in the 19th century Bahia Palace all the more of a respite. The geometry remains the same, but here we actually see the form of the arch take prominence. Stunning.
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  I snapped this one walking down the street in the medina, or old walled city. Nothing special in terms of placement, it's just a door frame, but dazzling nonetheless.
    I snapped this one walking down the street in the medina, or old walled city. Nothing special in terms of placement, it's just a door frame, but dazzling nonetheless.
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  Here's another star pattern taken in the streets of the souk. Part of what's so thrilling about the decorative arts in Morocco is that no surface is left unconsidered, and a bit of aesthetic filigree like this totally elevates a pedestrian entryway.
    Here's another star pattern taken in the streets of the souk. Part of what's so thrilling about the decorative arts in Morocco is that no surface is left unconsidered, and a bit of aesthetic filigree like this totally elevates a pedestrian entryway.
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  Here's a bit of rigid geometry on the facade of this public bath house. Note how the simplicity and repetition of the tiles plays so nicely against the baroque carvings on the wood up above.
    Here's a bit of rigid geometry on the facade of this public bath house. Note how the simplicity and repetition of the tiles plays so nicely against the baroque carvings on the wood up above.
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  I snapped this one in the bathroom of one of the rooms at the hotel and restaurant La Maison Arabe. The warmth of the color and the hand laid tiles make for an amazingly cozy feel.
    I snapped this one in the bathroom of one of the rooms at the hotel and restaurant La Maison Arabe. The warmth of the color and the hand laid tiles make for an amazingly cozy feel.
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  Probably the most astounding architecture I saw on the whole trip was here at the Madrasa Ben Youssef, a Koranic school that dates from the middle of the 16th century. The courtyard was as astounding as the small cells in which the students slept and the whole thing is widely regarded as the most impressing building in Marrakech. The mosaic is largely done in green, which is the color of Islam.
    Probably the most astounding architecture I saw on the whole trip was here at the Madrasa Ben Youssef, a Koranic school that dates from the middle of the 16th century. The courtyard was as astounding as the small cells in which the students slept and the whole thing is widely regarded as the most impressing building in Marrakech. The mosaic is largely done in green, which is the color of Islam.
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  In the entry, they kept a handful of the original tiles from the 1560s alongside those from the restoration that lasted from 1997–1999.
    In the entry, they kept a handful of the original tiles from the 1560s alongside those from the restoration that lasted from 1997–1999.
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  Maybe they were on the short side in the 1560s, but I just fit through this doorway off of the central courtyard. The eight-pointed Moorish star was one of the main design motifs throughout the building.
    Maybe they were on the short side in the 1560s, but I just fit through this doorway off of the central courtyard. The eight-pointed Moorish star was one of the main design motifs throughout the building.
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  This is at the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech, just outside what is now a gift shop. Yves Saint Laurent had the gardens when he was alive and the villa that he shared with Pierre Berge is just adjacent. I loved the blue of the building and if you notice the bench you can see how nicely the rich, deep tiles compliment the wall. And that kid cracked me up, dancing and playing on the bench in front in a big show for his parents.
    This is at the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech, just outside what is now a gift shop. Yves Saint Laurent had the gardens when he was alive and the villa that he shared with Pierre Berge is just adjacent. I loved the blue of the building and if you notice the bench you can see how nicely the rich, deep tiles compliment the wall. And that kid cracked me up, dancing and playing on the bench in front in a big show for his parents.
  • 
  Here's another glimpse inside a doorway just off an alley I was wandering down. Here you get a variety of tiles but I was really impressed by the MC Esher–style cubes. Great play with three dimensions, especially on a stairway.
    Here's another glimpse inside a doorway just off an alley I was wandering down. Here you get a variety of tiles but I was really impressed by the MC Esher–style cubes. Great play with three dimensions, especially on a stairway.
  • 
  Here's another pretty impressive mosaic display, this time at the Saadian tombs. Built contemporaneously with the Madrasa Ben Youssef, this complex of buildings and courtyards houses the remains of the Saadian dynasty. The first recorded burial came in the mid 16th century and the place was used as a tomb until the late 18th century. The depth of the structure was pretty impressive and the tiles give it a sense of infinity.
    Here's another pretty impressive mosaic display, this time at the Saadian tombs. Built contemporaneously with the Madrasa Ben Youssef, this complex of buildings and courtyards houses the remains of the Saadian dynasty. The first recorded burial came in the mid 16th century and the place was used as a tomb until the late 18th century. The depth of the structure was pretty impressive and the tiles give it a sense of infinity.

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