What is meant by laitance

Tadelakt تادلاكت
Initiation into an ancient plastering technique in Marrakech
The mysterious fama that surrounds the Tadelakt is increasingly attracting builders in our latitudes. Annegret Diethelm and Attilio D’Andrea were also captured by this attraction after attending a course on traditional, smooth lime plasters at the Conservatoire des Ocres in Roussillon and doing a few self-experiments. Now they wanted to get to know the technique of Tadelakt in more detail at their place of origin in Marrakech. Insights into a fascinating work and transformation process.

Tadelakt - Explanation of terms and career of the master, the maâlem
Tadelakt is the Berber language transformation of the Arabic word Dalaka by adding Ta- and -t: Ta-delak-t. Dalaka is translated as rubbing, toweling, polishing, leveling, leveling, massaging, caressing. The master, Maâlem (derived from allama - teach) who makes the tadelakt is called a dallak. The masseur of the hammam and the physiotherapist have the same name, Dallak.

Knowledge is passed on directly, verbally, from father to son, from master to student in the intimate atmosphere of the workshop. Gradually the talib (student) is introduced (initiated) into the secrets of the craft by observing the gestures, the movements of the master, getting to know tools and materials. He begins with the most ungrateful work (cleaning and preparation of the work area) and through constant practice, patience and passion he achieves the status of the maâlem, the master.

Time - taking time, giving yourself time - is the most important prerequisite for the execution and success of the Tadelakt. Maâlem and Talib follow the rules of the material of which the tadelakt is made - the lime - and their movements fit into its rhythm.

The traces of the origins of Tadelakt plaster are lost in the past. In historical times, compacted lime plasters existed in various parts of the world. The stucco Veneziano or stucco lustro was already known in ancient Italy. The fact that this plastering technique developed into a perfect craft in Marrakech is due to the shell limestone deposits in the area, which naturally consist of a perfect mixture of suitable minerals. The oldest surviving example of its use as a tadelakt in Marrakech is the Koubba Ba'adiyn, built around 1100 shortly after the city was founded by the Berber Almoravids, sunk in later layers of civilization and only dug up again in 1952, a wash and toilet facility that originally belonged to a mosque . It seems unlikely whether the warlike nomads from the Sahara developed the construction technique of smoothed, compacted lime plaster themselves, perhaps it was more artisans from Spanish Andalusia, which had also belonged to the Almoravid rulership since 1190. While the waterproof Tadelakt plaster was initially used for its intended purpose primarily due to its technical properties - for example, to seal the large water reservoir of the 12th century Menara Garden on the outskirts, but above all for the hammams, the numerous traditional bathing facilities - the The aesthetic qualities of the smooth, shimmering surfaces ultimately also help plaster the interiors and facades of representative buildings with Tadelakt, often with an ornamental pattern. For about 30 or 40 years, Morocco has developed into a tourist destination, and Marrakech as one of the four royal cities is one of the most frequently visited places. In the bathrooms, courtyards and salons of the hotels and riads, i.e. the grand old townhouses that were increasingly being converted into holiday residences, the foreign guests encountered the mysterious glow of the Tadelakt, which gradually became known beyond the Mediterranean and beyond is becoming increasingly widespread even with us today.

Stage at Jamal Daddis in Marrakech
Jamal Daddis offers tadelakt stages in Marrakech several times a year, which, in addition to learning the technology, give insights into the culture and life in Morocco (www.atelier-pittoresque.com).

The art historian and architect from Ticino found Jamal Daddis, who runs his studio in St. Etienne near Lyon and learned the craft from a maâlem (tadelakt master) in Marrakech and is in close contact with his hometown, and also in his colleague Hassan Imaghrå their own maâlemin (teachers), who were able to introduce the two Swiss people with patience and attention to the rules of the art of tadelakt. An experience report.

Stations on the way to the Tadelakt
“When we arrived at the workshop in Marrakech, the walls of the kitchen and dining room, which the four of us were supposed to cover with Tadelakt over the course of a week in May 2011, had already been given a rough base plaster (lime with a little cement). The basic rule for plastering work is to observe the adhesion between the successive layers, i.e. the load-bearing layer must be coarser than the next. The mixture of slaked lime with its natural additives had also been soaked in a tin barrel the previous evening. In a first step, we mixed the sprinkled red and gel oxide pigments with the naturally slightly gray-tinted lime plaster. All lime-compatible pigments can be used to color the plaster. After removing excessively coarse plaster particles, the base plaster was moistened, whereby far more water is required in the dry and hot May climate of Marrakech than in the more humid climate of Switzerland. After assessing a small test area, we all began with the application of the ocher-colored plaster with the fragrant cedar wood, whereby the movement always had to be from bottom to top. When the wall was completely covered with a thick layer of very liquid plaster, the long period of time followed the circular movement of the taloches: ‹Talocher bien! Talocher bien! ›Only when the surface had begun to become smooth and slightly drier, that is, the setting process had begun, did the hand-size piece of plastic, cut out of a cauldron and carefully sanded along the edge with emery paper, follow , and the actual process of compacting and smoothing the plaster could begin. This work step can be compared to the process of modeling, especially when it comes to organically shaping corners and edges. Calm, concentration, care and patience are necessary: ​​‹Tranquille, tranquille - doucement, doucement!› In a meditative manner, as it were, the four ‹plastiques› glide continuously, gently and calmly over the increasingly smooth, increasingly thick layer of lime plaster. By pushing the coarser particles into the depth of the plaster layer, the surface becomes more and more dense, reflecting the light more and more, making it gently glow and shine. The compression is completed with the polishing stone, a river pebble that is smoothed on one side and nestles in the cupped hand. It is polished and pressed - ‹Serrez bien!› - until the ‹Laitance›, the milk of lime, appears as a white veil on the surface. Then it is enough! - The next morning we applied the 'Savon noir', the olive oil soap, diluted with water, with a sponge. A final polishing with the ‹Caillou›, the polishing stone, converts this natural soap into lime soap, which makes the Tadelakt dirt and water-repellent without impairing its diffusibility. Wiping off the superfluous soapy water ... - the rest of the work is done by the time, the air, the slow drying during which the color lightens, the completion of the lime cycle, during which the lime plaster returns to its origin in a decade-long process Reconverted limestone.

1000 years ...
‹Une technique millénaire d'enduit à la chaux - a thousand-year-old lime plastering technique› is the subtitle of the book ‹Le Tadelakt› by Jamal Daddis, which explains the process step by step in picture and text in a clear way from beginning to end Background and further information can be found (Edisud Verlag, Aix-en-Provence, 2007, new edition 2011). 'Millennial' - this of course primarily refers to the thousand-year history of this fascinating surface technology. In the broadest sense, this 'thousand-year-old' can also be carried over to the entire process: from limestone to the lime kiln, to extinguishing, to soaking, applying, compacting and smoothing to setting and thus to slowly converting back to the original stone. Man as a craftsman, as a 'Maâlem', as a 'Dalaka', intervenes in this cycle for a short period of time by making raw walls glow with the help of the natural, patiently and passionately applied material. These surfaces last for centuries, as can be seen when looking at the Koubba Ba’adiyn.

Unfortunately, it is a fact that in our time of ever-increasing acceleration, a lack of patience, a lack of understanding, a lack of skill and the desire of building owners for decorative wall surfaces have led to the invention of quick-to-use replacement products for the real Tadelakt from Marrakech. But these products never achieve the shine, the mysterious shimmer of the simple, masterfully executed, ultimately simple technique of Tadelakt, which 'only' requires what is all too often missing on the construction site today: time, patience, passion, a certain gentleness, following the rules and rhythm of one of the oldest building materials. "
Order the issue "2012/1 - January / February"
text Annegret Diethelm and Attilio D'Andrea
picture Annegret Diethelm and Attilio D'Andrea