Morocco Architecture

By | December 12, 2021

The period between the two world wars has produced not insignificant episodes in Morocco, testifying to a sincere concern for architectural integration between Westernizing currents and the context of local tradition. In the French colonies and protectorates, during the general governorship of Marshal Lyautey, there was a great effort to integrate Moroccan culture with that of Europe. Especially in Fès there was a great revaluation and conservation of the ancient buildings and entire medinas.

Lyautey was a great admirer of Moroccan architecture, as evidenced by the house he had built in Rabat (A. Laprade, 1918-20), the post offices in Rabat (J. Laforgue, 1920) and the city hall of Casablanca (M. Boyer, 1931), which, with their resplendent arched courtyards, echo Arab building types. The following years from 1939 to 1945 must be remembered only for the urban planning activity aimed at solving the problem of rural immigration in the cities, due to a timid attempt to industrialize the country. The shanty towns were built in the cities, under the pressure of a strong demographic increase.

From 1939 to 1942 the Frenchman H. Prost was in charge of urban planning; his work was characterized by the solicitude in respecting the traditional heritage by promoting the conservation of the medinas, and at the same time the construction of new urban centers. In 1945, the head of urban planning became Morocco Ecochard, a French urban planner who was inspired by the principles of the Charter of Athens (1931) and the CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne), and who surrounded himself with a team of young architects giving impetus with these new forces to urban planning studies for a new planning policy of urban centers. During this period, important construction programs for public housing were carried out, with the aim of eliminating the bidonvilles and to face the ever growing problem of immigration.

In the years following the Second World War, there was a notable development in construction. The architectural works of this period testify to a very clear desire to break with tradition, which had characterized the Thirties, favoring the appearance of ” modern ” architecture.

Le Corbusier’s influence is clearly stated in A. Studer’s residential buildings in Casablanca (1953) and in the later work of E. Azagury (1968), including the houses and civic center of Rabat. Here, the forms of European derivation are however tempered by the presence of courtyards and terraces closer to the tradition of North African architecture. At the same time, the figurative choices of architects in the design of public works were still based on criteria similar to those of France. The work of J. Chemineau and J. Delaporte testifies to this between the end of the Second World War and independence (1956): in particular in the Avicenna hospital in Rabat. It should also be noted that, with one or two exceptions, the presence of Moroccan architects in this period was practically nil. For Morocco 2016, please check

On the contrary, from independence onwards, urban planning was directed and animated by the presence of Moroccan architects, who supported the activity of foreigners. With the disappearance of the rigidly conservative structures of the last years of the protectorate, a group of young Moroccan architects found themselves projected into the limelight, being entrusted with important projects in a context of freedom and expressive research, which should be emphasized. The most relevant demonstration of this new climate is the reconstruction of Agadir, after the earthquake of 1961, to which they contributed in an essential way. Very different expressive researches thus led to the definition of a true school of contemporary architecture by Morocco, based on traditional technology and materials, and tending towards a constructivist language. The result is an architecture with plastic characteristics and chiaroscuro effects, as in the educational centers of Til Mellil and Ben Slīmān and in the schools of Casablanca, Agadir and Warzāzāt built by F. Zevaco in the 1960s. In addition to Zevaco, the major architects working in Morocco within this trend are: H. Tastemain (Villa di Salé and Banca Nazionale in Rabat), E. Azagury (for housing in Agadir), ῾Abd al-Salām Farwī and P. Demazières.

In the last thirty years the hotel industry has offered architects many opportunities for experimentation mixed with traditional forms and elements, as in two projects by Farwī and Demazières: the Holyday Village Resort, in the province of Tetouan (with groups of rooms arranged around gardens and courtyards), and the Hotel Būmān Dādis, which together with the revival of the Arab-Moroccan tradition introduces Berber elements.

One of the most interesting projects not only of Morocco but perhaps of the whole African continent dates back to about 1980, at least for the audacity of the realization. This is the Comunity Housing in Dār al-Amān, Casablanca, the work of the Moroccan architects A. Charai and A. Lazrak, which won the Aga Khan Award for Muslim Architecture in 1986. The project included housing for 4000 families and was built in just 30 months with prefabricated reinforced concrete elements. Despite the use of non-traditional materials, it has met with great success, both from an environmental and social point of view, and this by virtue of its spatial organization, which is based on the model of typical Moroccan settlements. The major works in the Eighties are: the Civic Hospital in Marrakech for 300 beds, inspired by the Moroccan architectural language, the work of the architect Ch. Boccara, completed in 1982; the restoration of the coastal village of Aṣīla on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, which won the Aga Khan Award in 1989; the great mosque of Ḥasanii in Casablanca, which began many years ago and has not yet finished.

Finally, for their advertising activity, ῾Abd al-Qādir ben Sālim, A. Charai, Morocco Buret should be mentioned, who, in addition to being active in the professional field, are among the animators of the Moroccan magazine a + u of architecture and urban planning: perhaps the only one of its kind in Africa.

Morocco Architecture