Morocco: Sustainable Community Design
A Community Design Build Program.

Students work side by side with local craftsmen and fellow students, analyze and solve on site design build issues, work with traditional building materials and tools, and see first hand the impact architecture has on the revitalization of a community.

Montana State University

Program Coordinates: 31◦ 50’ 16.90” N, 6◦ 06’ 38.72” W
 Summer, 5 weeks
(arrival and departure in Marrakesh, Morocco)
 Graduate and Undergraduate
 2.5 GPA, Instructor consent via interview process
Course Credit Options: 
6 credits
Cost: Program cost + tuition + international airfare

Architecture Program Brief

The pinnacle project of program is a design build project that will directly benefit the inhabitants of the rural region of Zawiya Ahansal, Morocco. The project will provide the villages with a sustainable, traditional, and modern design solution for a pressing community need.

Key web-links:
Non Profit Partner: Atlas Cultural Foundation:
School of Architecture, Montana State University:

For additional information about this program, contact:
• Cloe Medina Erickson, Program Director,
• Chris Livingston, AIA, Architecture Faculty,, 406-994-6985

Key Individuals:
Lead faculty: Chris Livingston, MSU

  • Zawiya Ahansal
  • Before and after the restoration of the Ait Sidi Mouh Igherm.

Academic Program:
The program is an international service learning program that offers university students the opportunity to assist in ongoing community development projects in the rural communities of the Zawiya Ahansal region in the Central High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The program is accredited through Montana State University and is partnered with the Atlas Cultural Foundation (ACF), a non-profit organization with the mission of collaborating with rural Moroccans in order to improve their quality of life in the fields of cultural preservation, community education, and public health.
Students will work with ACF and their partners to assist with community development projects in addition to living and learning with the local community. All majors and academic levels can apply to the program.

The program offers a five-week international experience for undergraduate and graduate students to travel to rural Morocco accompanied by Montana State University faculty and live and work in a small community. The student work will directly benefit ACF’s long-term programs in this region.
The foundation of the program is a real world experience of living, working, and learning in a rural Moroccan village. Students engage in meaningful, community-identified work; are immersed in an intercultural living environment in which they engage in cross-cultural dialogue; observe, study, and participate in the host culture; work with faculty and professional mentors; and generally engage in a variety of formal and informal intercultural exchanges. These experiences are then reflected upon in direct and indirect methods with peers, leaders, or cultural informants. Through reflection and observation, new learning occurs and is then tested and applied in the field.

What to Expect:

Zawiya Ahansal is a remote and mountainous region located between 5,000 and 12,000 feet in Morocco’s Central High Atlas Mountains. It is a high desert region with temperatures extremes in May and June ranging between 32 and 100 F. Regional equivalents are the City of Rocks in Idaho and southern Utah. Students should be prepared and comfortable with working in all weather, including rain, wind, and heat and should be physically fit and able to hike in mountainous terrain. In addition, all students will need to be physically able to work and hike at 6000 feet above sea level for extended periods of time. Students will be living with local families in registered guesthouses and should therefore be comfortable with and respectful of Muslim culture. Meals are prepared by your host family and are traditional Berber Moroccan cuisine. Sleeping rooms will be shared amongst students and are separated by gender.

Program highlights include:
• Living with the sheikh of Zawiya Ahansal.
• Assisting the Atlas Cultural Foundation on their current service projects, design build opportunities and learning about international non-profit organizations and management.
• Learning about non-profit Moroccan association structure and being a part of various stages of sustainable development projects.
• Trekking in the Atlas Mountains.
• Touring the medieval city, or medina, of Marrakech.
• Enjoying the region’s natural surroundings during days off.

Recreational Opportunities:
On your days off you will have the opportunity to enjoy a multitude of outdoor endeavors in the region of Zawiya Ahansal. Such activities include day hiking, trail running and world-class rock climbing in the Taghia Cirque (if you have previous skills and your own equipment). You will also have time to wander through the villages to take pictures, visit the local market and sketch.

Community Partner: Atlas Cultural Foundation
Atlas Mountains:

Architecture students will also have the opportunity to:

• Visit the Atlas Cultural Foundation’s restoration projects.
• Learn about and observe traditional stone and rammed earth building techniques.
• Participate in a community preservation and architecture workshop with the Atlas Cultural Foundation and local association Amezray SMNID.

In addition to the program’s service learning component, students will:
• learn and practice cultural competency methods.
• gain life skills required for living and working in a rural developing region.
• learn about NGO management and programming.
• learn about ancient building techniques.
• Explore and discuss architectural theory.

Program Learning Outcomes:
By the end of the course, all students will learn, do, and obtain the following:
Technical Skills
• Develop technical skills in such areas as cultural preservation, community education, and rural health
• Develop an understanding of traditional methods and techniques
• Develop interpersonal communication and collaboration skills
• Develop problem solving and critical thinking skills
• Obtain models of alternative career development in your field
• Participate in and gain knowledge of sustainable community development and international non-profit management
Personal Skills
• Increase self-awareness
• Increase cross-cultural observational and communication skills
• Enhance intercultural sensitivity and understanding
Community/Global Citizen Skills
• Develop increased civic responsibility
• Increase global awareness
• Increase participation in and/or knowledge of global events