An exhibition taking place in The Sacré Coeur cathedral of Casablanca from November 4 – November 26, Learning from Casablanca is a representation of the result of an architectural comparative research in the field of housing and urbanism. In the context of the 5th African Perspective Conference, AAMatters in collaboration with Casamemoire has initiated this exposition with hopes that looking again at Casablanca might open new perspectives to the complex problems of modernist neighborhoods being demolished to make way for new development projects. More information on the event after the break.
Casablanca served as modernist laboratory for European architects to experiment with new concepts for dwelling environments. In the Netherlands, however, the building according to modernist principles has resulted in the creation of problematic areas, with high migration and criminality rates. The original plan of the neighbourhoods was to create dwellings on a grid of 8 times 8 meter. During the past fifty years inhabitants took over the role of architects and built themselves extensions to the original plan within this grid. The local saying ‘Every Moroccan is an architect’ is practiced here to the fullest.
These processes of appropriation and user initiated dwelling transformation have inspired the design of the exposition aiming to recreate a suggestive landscape installation. Through the use of recycled pallets, the structure is based on a modular grid that recalls the grid that Ecochard, the architect of the neighborhood, had built for his project. This pallet system led to the possibility of producing different heights and paths, in a way that mirrors the different evolution stages of the original plan.
The roughness of the pallets, a universal symbol of construction, has been made milder with a careful placement of lights and pathways. Cushions, seats and teapots help to transform the pallet structure into a comfortable living room setting that reproduces the atmosphere of a typical Moroccan living room. Just like the pallet structure of this exhibition, neighborhoods in Casablanca have allowed further modification and changes demonstrating to be more flexible than European suburbs where the rigid system is now generating several problems in terms of architectural renewal and social integration. The lesson learned from Casablanca is that the built environment does not have to be a static entity, as is common practice in Europe and that this constant transformation can help develop a successful neighborhood were the inhabitants have a strong sense of place.