Monuments in Casablanca

The monuments in Casablanca

Individual small buildings have a strong symbolic function, as is the case with monuments from the colonial era of the city of Casablanca, which reflected the domination and appropriation of the territory while commemorating events or people.

The monument commemorating the landing of French troops in 1907, under the command of General Drude was on Mohamed V square at the site of Drude’s headquarters. During the independence, it was moved to the garden of the French consulate. There was also a monument dedicated to John Dal Piaz (1865-1928) created in 1931 and placed on the central median of bd du 4 ° Zouaves. Dal Piaz was a businessman and the president of La Compagnie Générale Transatlantique.

A Monument in memory of Charles de Foucauld, “explorer of Morocco,” was also constructed by Albert Laprade and inaugurated on December 29, 1922, by Dauer. The monument, without its inscription, is still located within the walls of the La Casablancaise stadium

Placed in the center of Mohamed V square, you will find The Equestrian statue of Lyautey by François Cogné, 1938. She pays homage to the first general resident of France in Morocco. The bas-reliefs evoke his achievements, such as that of the port of Casablanca, which then bore the name Lyautey square. After independence, the statue was moved to the garden of the French consulate.

The monument of Victory and Peace, created by the sculptor Paul Landowski and inaugurated by Lyautey, installed on Place MV, then called Victory, commemorates the mutual aid between the French troops and Moroccan women during the 1914-1918 war, but also the Moroccan war of occupation. The monument was dismantled in 1961 and placed in Senlis, in front of Spahis’ former barracks.

THE EDICULES

In Casablanca, the entrance is a small building with various functions, placed in the public space. Although it is often a practical necessity, its aesthetic is not negligible.

Examples of these structures are the arcades of the “Portuguese prison.” It is a building in the old medina destroyed to provide access to the port from the United Nations Square. They were placed on the Hassan I boulevard at the margins of the Arab League park by Albert Laprade in 1916 as decorative elements entering the park. Others have been placed near the Church of the Sacred Heart.

You can also find an old newspaper kiosk located in the heart of the Burgundy district’s garden city. A service station occupies the western end of the triangular lot of the garden city in the Burgundy district.

The first modern and integrated Electric transformer is located in a park Bd Roosevelt. Many transformers are placed in the public space but are not integrated so harmoniously.

There were other koubba * factory * integrated into the Arab park. In reality, it was the pavilion of the city of Rabat during the Casablanca exhibition, which took place in 1915 at the site of the current central market. This aedicule, produced by GOSSET, was dismantled and then rebuilt to serve as an exhibition or showroom.

THE BUILDINGS OUTSIDE

COMPLETE COMPOSITION OF A BUILDING FACADE

There are types of buildings in Casablanca. It is essential to understand its overall composition and the vocabulary of its writing. The first look is on the facade: you can read it horizontally and vertically to understand its elevation.

A type of composition characteristic of the architecture of Casablanca in the years 1920-1930. The arrangement of the two front sections may vary.

THE CORONATION OF THE BUILDINGS IN CASABLANCA

The crowning is a way of highlighting an element of the building.

An example was the Cupola with a lantern in the Maret building, bd Mohamed V.

Another is the Cupola as crowning of the facade. mm. La Princière, rue Driss Lahrizi n. 57.  A dome as a corner crown of  Imm. Lévy and Charbon, av. Hassan Sghir and Nichakra Rahal Street.

A Cupola was made as to the crowning of an aedicule, inspired by traditional marabouts. It is Ex-pavilion of Cie Paquet, park of the Arab League.

The Square corner turret of  Imm Maroc Soir (ex-imm. Of La Vigie marocaine), in bd Mohamed V.  There is also a Round angle turret in mm. Bourliaud, Abdelkrim Diouri, and El Mediouni streets.

A Pergola was highlighting the rounded corner of mm Liscia, av. Lalla Yacout and rue Ibn Battouta.  Another Pergola is highlighting the entire corner building in the  Streets of Ouled Ziane and Azilal n. 95, in the 1930s.

AT THE TOP OF THE FAÇADE

There are buildings in Casablanca with protruding cornice supported by modillions in Imm. Soto, place d’Aknoul. There are buildings with a semicircular pediment with tympanum bearing the hotel’s monogram, such as the Touring Hotel (former Franco-Belgian hotel),  in rue Allal ben Abdallah.

There is a  curved pediment with a guardrail to crown an oriel window found in Bd Mohamed Vn. 392 and rue de hune.  A triangular pediment with projections above an oriel window is also shown in Bd Hassan I “n. 29.

TOP ANGLE OF THE BUILDINGS IN CASABLANCA

There is a pediment with cut sides found in the building in Ibn Battouta and Abdelkrim Diouri streets. An arched pediment with returns in Imm. Guernier, bd de Paris and rue Moulay Abdallah.

There is a protruding cornice of a corner building in mm Les Studios, bd Hassan Il, and rue Omar Slaoui. There is a  Fronton with projections in mm. Tazi, place of November 16.

THE STAGES AND THEIR COMPONENTS

THE LOGGIA

The loggia is a room upstairs, often on the top floor and open to the outside, is where the great apartments are sometimes located. It can become a gallery or passageway, a distribution space along a facade, carried by a corbelled structure (elongated overhang of one storey compared to that of the lower storey, held by supports or door-to-door.), posts or integrated into the facade.

ORIEL

It is a work forming a front overhanging on one or more levels with openings in Casablanca’s buildings. The oriel is an essential element in the composition of the facades, and it is often doubled to frame them.

In the 1930s, generally called a bow window, it became a symbol of modernity to punctuate the entire facade.

THE BALCONY

The builds in Casablanca have balconies. The balcony is a platform with railing overhanging the facade of a building, placed in front of one or more bays located upstairs.

THE SUB-FACES

The facade is generally not seen from the foot of the building. However, the visual effects formed by the undersides of the projecting elements are often spectacular.

Concerning the CLIMATE

Casablanca is a sunny city. Therefore, the architects planned to protect the openings from light by awnings, horizontal or vertical sunshades, and trellises.

THE WINDOWS

The openings allow light to enter, and it takes very varied forms according to the eras and the sources of inspiration. In Casablanca, the evolution in the twentieth century shows that the window, initially simple piercing in the facade, from the years 1950 comes to constitute the facade itself, with the curtain wall.

THE GROUND FLOOR

The composition of the ground floor of a building indicates both the stylistics, the regulations, and the neighborhood’s identity.

EXTERIOR DOORS IN THE OLD MEDINA

In the old medina, the door is generally the only element of ornament outside the house. This principle will be taken up in culturalist achievements such as the Habous.

THE EXTERIOR DOORS OF THE EUROPEAN CITY

The doors in the entrance are significant elements of architecture and decor. In European architecture, the door is a component that harmonizes with the other decorative elements of the facade.

The door is often also highlighted by the elements that surround it to constitute a decorative whole.

An example is an Art Deco writing door set back from the alignment, with the effect of monumentalizing the entrance in Imm, Benmergui, Driss Lahrizi streets n. 38 and Moulay Abdallah.  The following characteristics are observed:

  1. Fluted frieze in ocher stone.
  2. Marble veneer imitating the arrangement of keystones forming the lintel of a flat vault.
  3. Transom with wrought iron involutes.
  4. Glass and iron lights with geometric shapes: the portal is located under a recessed arcade gallery, which explains the need for artificial light.
  5. Ocher lintel decorated with triangles with broken sticks and volutes.
  6. Headband protruding at hand height.
  7. Nested octagonal columns, veneered in pink marble with an edging of golden smalt to highlight the ends.
  8. Two openwork wrought iron leaves, in axial symmetry; central medallion with motifs symbolically evoking leaves, flowers, feathers.
  9. Marble slabs as the base of the columns.
  10. Plinth.

THE INTERIOR AESTHETICS OF THE BUILDINGS IN CASABLANCA

ENTRANCE AND VESTIBULE

The most common thing noticeable in the buildings in Casablanca are spaces where the design is still very observable. The foyer/lobby is an entrance to a structure connecting the front door and the interior distribution with access to the floors and, possibly, to the courtyard.

A standard ground-floor plan makes it possible to understand the lobby’s distribution, the entrance, the courtyard, and the various rooms.

An example of this design is the Élie Saad property located in rue Ibn Battouta, Casablanca. The plan of the ground floor of the building is described as follows:

The ground floor is made up of stores in front with offices at the back for the four stores on the left, which will be transformed into back-stores. The openings and doors on the courtyard allow lighting., ventilation, and access. Access to the building is made in two stages: first is a vestibule/foyer with marble steps, then a glazed wooden door which provides access to the entrance itself, with the staircase climb on the right, and on the left a corridor giving access to the courtyard. The concierge’s lodge has direct access to the entrance and the patio. There is a set for a doctor’s office, which then transformed into a warehouse for goods.

THE COURTYARD

In Casablanca, courtyards are very common. The patio is an essential element in the composition of buildings. It allows light to enter. It often gives access to another building block at the back of the plot. Its decoration is more straightforward, and the apartments are usually smaller in the rear building.

Functional rooms, such as the kitchen and the bathroom, are often located on the courtyard side.

There are sometimes garages there when the building has a porte-cochere. Examples of these design are as follows:

A building in Casablanca located in mm; Coriat rue El Mediouni has an interior courtyard, with accommodation on the ground floor. The center was once a planted garden. At the back, is the staircase leading to the rear-courtyard apartments.

The apartments in Oudjari Street n. 5, Casablanca have a low-angle view of the courtyard: the courtyard provides light for the apartments’ windows. Another yard is opening onto the street of Mostafa el Maani Casablanca, with significant space on the ground floor. The courtyard becomes a semi-public space for shops.

THE STAIRCASE

Access to the upper floors is by stairs but, from the 1920s and in the most opulent buildings, elevators were used.

The  Former German consulate, Place de Belgique, has a straight staircase during the late 19th century. The stairs have support ramp, handrail, fly, the start of the stairs, riser, and then the steps.

Another design of the staircase is in  Rue Oued Zem n. 10, Casablanca. It is a helical-shaped staircase accentuated in marble and fitted with a wrought iron handrail. The ending of the stairs is often a decorative element.

There is also a pedestal staircase with a globe-shaped luminaire in Abdelkader Mouftakar and Nationale streets.  A wrought iron staircase can be found in Imm. Hazan, Bouared Ali, and el Mediouni streets n. 70. Another wrought iron staircase with a motif similar to the previous one, by the same architect, is found in Imm. Ettedgui and Shriqui, Bd Mohamed V.

There is a wrought iron staircase with a recurring fountain motif in a building located in Imm. Hassan and de la Salle, rue El Guernaoui el Mokhtar n. 6 and av. Hassan 1.  The start of the wrought-iron staircase embossed brass is found in Imm. Doctor Roussel, rue Moulay Abdallah n. 149. Marble and wrought iron staircase exhibit an Art Deco pattern in Imm. Subaqua, rue Sahraoui n. 20-24. Another wrought iron and brass staircase starters are found in Imm. Hachuel, rue Ibn Battouta, and av. Houmane el Fetouaki.

THE ELEVATOR

The elevator makes it possible to build tall buildings and to change the social hierarchy in the distribution of apartments: the wealthiest inhabitants now occupy the apartments at higher levels because the latter has become easily accessible:

The elevator is often placed in the heart of the stairwell. The shaft is sometimes made of wrought iron, and decoration is usually identical to that of the building’s door.

There are also elevator shafts integrated into the wall with a copper cladding, and a solid door. Some of them have frieze decorations of ovals and darts and rosary like the one found in Imm. S. Lévy, bd Mohamed V.

THE LANDING AND DOORWAY

The landing provides direct access to the one-story apartments in Casablanca.

The landing in Imm. Tabet, bd de Paris, and rue Sahraoui n. 30 serving two apartments. Octagonal bays open in the wall.

There are wooden apartment doors with circular glazed transom (frosted glass) and geometric decoration in wrought iron, allowing to illuminate the hall without being seen. Some doors have a brass doorknob. There are brass and earthenware door handle, with peephole added found in Rue Chakib Arsalane in the 1910s. Doors have manual ringing.

THE TERRACE

In most Casablanca buildings, the roof is covered with a terrace, which makes it possible to create spaces for drying clothes, even storage spaces, or even temporary accommodation.

The Élie Saada property, in rue Ibn Battuta features a terrace, a space devoted to services. In this high standing building, you can find the Staff accommodation, laundry room used by staff, and linen room or storage room in the top of the two side windows: We can also see the feet of the three chimneys of the three apartments as well as those of the kitchens.

ORNAMENTS

The decorative lexicon is wide-ranging in Casablanca, primarily until the 1930s, when the decorations gave way to the nudity of the walls and the enhancement of the structural forms for themselves.

The sources of these decorations can sometimes be found in traditional Moroccan architecture, and sometimes in the European reference. Thus the decorative expressions will be studied selectively, according to the most symbolic elements, and from a few significant examples.

Example of a neoclassical European lexicon: the facade of this building contains many added elements with a decorative function.

Designs of The Circle of the Jewish Union, in rue Sahraoui and Abou Soufiane:

  1. Balustrade
  2. Cornice
  3. The arched pediment above an oriel window
  4. Carved leather cartridge framed by double consoles
  5. Column
  6. Tied up column
  7. Niche in the form of a blind window
  8. Twin pilasters
  9. Console
  10. Clip.
  11. Boss with slit lines.
  12. Alège
  13. darts
  14. Ionic-inspired capitals, with abacus flowers for the pilasters and without flowers for the columns
  15. Modillion
  16. Denticles

Descriptions of the 17th century French European lexicon found in Imm. Coriat, El Mediouni street n. 58.

The entablature above the loggia has ova and stingers, denticles. The medallion is surrounded by pearls and surmounted by ribbons and flowers (bellflowers).

Another design includes a cutout leather locket decorated with a garland of flowers. Some are campanulated base in fall, monumental fluted pilaster, and festoon garland. There is also a modillion with discs framed by campanulated stations, and modillion with volute) and drops.

VARIATIONS ON A DECORATIVE ELEMENT

THE MARQUEE

The marquee is an element forming the blooming between the body of the column, the pillar or the pilaster, and the load. The support is essentially formed with the body (spine or basket) and a coronation (abacus). The astragalus can also be part of the marquee.

Initially a support element, in classical decorative orders, it became an essential decorative element of architecture. In Casablanca, it takes many forms according to the scriptures. It then disappears from architecture to return only to the era of post-modern writing, in a refined way.

There are apple decorations for the marquee and abacus in triangles found in Rue d’Anfa. Other designs are Hispano-Moorish-inspired, whose leaves have disappeared. The cubic abacus with rounded angles found in La Grande Poste, bd de Paris, and av. Hassan IL LAFORGUE, 1920.

There is also octagonal marquee with geometric decorations of brackets fond in Brasserie Montparnassei in rue Allal ben Abdallah.

There is a Byzantine-inspired marquee with abacus carved with flowers in the Palace of Justice in place Mohamed V and rue Molle. There is a marquee with four faces and beveled angles, decorated with thistles, in the Art Nouveau spirit. Imm. Zackar, Allal ben Abdallah and Mohamed Stitou streets, in the mid-1920s.

A stylized Corinthian marqiee on a front pilaster found in Imm. Hazan, Bouared Ali and El Mediouni streets n. 70 and a very high abacus, of Hispano-Moorish inspiration at Comptoir Métallurgique Marocain, bd de Paris and rue Laymouna.

CONSOLE

Overhanging support stretched in height; often, S-shaped, the console is an element that uses reinforced concrete; however, it remains the pretext for decorative variations. It can be in stone, concrete (plaster), or molded cement.

SOURCES OR INSPIRATIONS OF INTERIOR DÉCOR OF THE BUILDINGS IN CASABLANCA

THE FLORA

This motif evolves according to the scriptures: figurative in eclecticism and Art Nouveau, it becomes more geometric in Art Deco.

WILDLIFE

Griffins in a frieze on the façade found in El Habacha Street n. 78.

Cement dolphins molded above a semicircular bay.

Head of a lion at the foot of a console in Allal ben Abdallah Street n. 113..

ANTHROPOMORPHIC FIGURES

  • These figures are frequent in the 1910s and early 1920s:
  • The human mask above a window
  • Putti above a semicircular bay
  • Head of a satyr above a cartouche crowning a portal
  • The human mask above a door
  • Head of a satyr in the crown evoking the procession of Bacchus
  • Masks of satyrs dressing a console
  • ITEMS AS DESIGN INSPIRATIONS
  • Basket of flowers
  • Flowerpot is a wrought iron gate
  • Flower basket for a building entrance wall light
  • Pot in the round, at the end of a balcony railing

Anchor at the foot of a console.  This building is representing the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. IN Bd Mohamed V and av. Hassan Sghir.

A sinking vase (acroterion) decorated with a garland and a sheep’s head

THE WRITINGS

The Sign of Comptoir Métallurgique Marocain

The signage of the newspaper, “La Vigie Marocaine.” The intertwined letters VM composes a starry geometric decoration reminiscent of traditional Moroccan motifs.

Sign of the Fiat dealership

  • A Latin inscription in mosaic meaning “Salvation,” at the entrance of the building
  • Chronogram
  • A plaque for the architect and the contractor as an advertising and documentary tool
  • Plate of the architect and the metal contractor
  • Chronogram in Roman numerals

GEOMETRICAL DESIGNS

  • Friezes based on diamonds and circles
  • Rhombuses and triangles for a part in openwork wrought iron
  • A facade panel in squares which is filled with lines of fishbones and green and blue zelliges
  • Chevrons
  • Repetitive geometric frieze
  • Eight-pointed star with ceramic square
  • Arrangement in swastika of the braces of this semicircular opening
  • Solomon’s knot in wrought iron for a balcony railing
  • Examples of symbolic composition in wrought iron doors
  • Fountains and clouds
  • Sun and sea
  • Fountain, clouds, and bird

A RECURRING DECOR

The fountain motif has been very fashionable since Edgar Brandt’s Oasis screen, 1924.

THE ABSENCE OF ORNAMENTS – THE FREEDOM BUILDING

The absence of ornaments does not exclude aesthetics. The Liberté building is part of the “streamline” or “ocean liner” aesthetic, a modern architecture trend whose lines are inspired by large ships.  Located on a triangular plot, this corner building with a spectacular bow is devoid of ornaments, but its aesthetic is no less legible. This 17-story residential tower, the tallest in Africa, is located on edge between the “European city” to the north and the “new indigenous city” to the south. The island is a symbolic gesture of development, primarily technical progress and colonial prosperity.

The Imm. Liberty, in boulevard Moukaouama, place Lemaigre-Dubreuil.

  1. Pergola highlighting the shapes of the façade is like a visor.
  2. Small awnings are highlighting the top terraced floors.
  3. In the center of the south facade, two posts extend the pillars of the first two levels and mark the verticality.
  4. Alternating solid and empty for the balconies giving the regular horizontal rhythm of the facade. The white coating makes it possible to play with the contrast between shadow and light for a building that is always sunny.
  5. The central openings are forward, which emphasizes the central axis of symmetry and verticality
  6. The angles are softened to draw a curved shape of the south facade; thus, the building is integrated into the circular square it dominates.
  7. The first two levels are dressed first with a stone boss, then with acrid plates at the base. The building, darker, also seems more stable, despite the suspension suggested by the pillars.

THE BUILDINGS BECOMES THE ORNAMENT

With the disappearance of decorations in modern architecture in Casablanca, the aesthetics of the building are often linked to forms and structural elements, which are highlighted and thus become components of the ornament.

The lines of composition play on the different planes in the stairs, while a triangular shape, which seems to constitute a suspended exoskeleton, surmounts the posts that support the auditorium.

The elongated band opening reinforces the dynamic of the composition.

An example of this building is the Post office in Sidi Othmane Street # 1, in the 1960s. The concrete sunshade is in rough formwork, coated, vast, and its braces are running on the facade, giving the impression that the building’s body is suspended. The cantilevered canopy of the entrance reinforces the idea of suspension.

THE NOTABLE MATERIALS USED TO CONSTRUCT IN CASABLANCA

STONES 

Stone is one of the oldest structural materials in Casablanca. Many constructions use it for houses or ramparts in the old medina, but also in the new city before brick or concrete replace it in the 1910s.

We have to note that stone is still used when one wishes to build traditionally, as is the case in Habous, or when one seeks to build low-rise housing, as is the case with the 8×8 sanitary grid in the 1950s.

But stone can also have aesthetic properties, not only for its varied colors depending on the quarries from which it comes but also for how it is worked.

SCULPTED ORNAMENTAL ELEMENTS SEEN IN THE STREET OF CASABLANCA

One great example is a fountain from the “reserved area” of Bousbir constructed by Edmond Brion and Auguste Cadet, between 1922 and 1939, in a neo-Moroccan style,

The fountain is composed of combined zelliges, in the center, and carved stone for the frame and the double side columns. The limestone’s softness from the Sale quarries makes it possible to hollow out in-depth and round off the angles. The stone is in the shape of a lotus leaf. There are other stones carved with Solomon’s knots.

MARBLE

Marble is often used in Casablanca as a decking material, especially since Moroccan quarries are numerous. It is secure, and its different colors and veins allow a wide variety of decorative assemblies.

EARTH TILES

Terracotta tiles are rare in Casablanca insofar as the coverings are often made in terraces; however, we note the presence of red tiles, in houses of European inspiration, or green tiles in the Moroccan tradition.

There are red, flat tiles in the military barracks at the former Camp Cazes, in Anfa, around 1915. Hollow tiles with genaise (front roof closure made up of tiles) were used for a Provencal style villa with false dovecote called Villa La Vigière in rue Omar Idrissi n. 46.

Green tiles were used for a small mosque and its Koranic school located in Maamaura and Oukat Badis streets. Green tiles were also used for the office building of the Palace of Justice, in Mohamed V square and Molle Street. More green colored tiles were used for the roofing of the cornice, Grande Poste, in bd de Paris and Hassan IL LAFORGLUE.

TERRACOTTA TILES: CERAMIC

Terracotta ceramic is an ornamental element used primarily in the years 1900-1920, both on the facade and the interior of the different structures in Casablanca.

TERRACOTTA TILES – ZELLIGES

Zellige is a polychrome earthenware mosaic made using fragments cut from brightly colored ceramic tiles. This old Moroccan technique finds new vitality and new uses in the twentieth century, particularly in Art Deco writing.

Zelliges are sometimes used in facades of the buildings in Casablanca.  They are particularly utilized to compose geometric patterns. It is a technique that consists of inserting ceramic in molded cement to enhance and animate facades. This technique was invented in the workshop of decorator E, Costes,

TERRAZZO

Originating from Italy and used in Casablanca, especially in the 1920s and 1950s, terrazzo is close to traditional concrete. The main difference is the replacement of sand and gravel by natural stones and crushed elements. These elements can be marble, granite, glass, mirror, metal, etc. placed in a grout that can be colored at will. Everything is polished to give it the shine of the natural stone.

One of its excellent characteristics is its malleability. Terrazzo can adapt to all shapes. The terrazzo allows its colors and shapes to imitate a floor mat like in the Rousseau streets n. 31eb Ibn Rochd.

CONCRETE

Concrete is a material that hardens as it dries, formed of pebbles, gravel, and sand bound by cement. It can be used either in molded elements or in compressed masses. In Casablanca, this material has gradually supplanted stone since the creation of the first cement plant, Le Palmier, in Roches Noires, in 1913. Many buildings were then built in reinforced concrete, or cement coating a metal frame.

Examples of these are the concrete balusters in the Courthouse, Mohamed V square, and Molle street Reinforced concrete makes it possible to create significant overhangs like in service stations in bd Ain Taoujtate rue des Ait Ishag.

ORNAMENTAL CEMENT

Cement is not just a structural element; it can be used for decorative purposes. Therefore, many friezes of Art Deco writing are molded in cement, which allows the reuse of the models.

An example is the colored molded cement in the decorative panels frames by metals as a facade ornament in rue Allal ben Abdallah.  There is also an underside balcony and geometric facade ornament in Rue des Anglais n. 78. Molded cement is easier to work with than plaster and more resistant to bad weather, making it possible to obtain all kinds of shapes in exterior decorations.

METALS

Beyond their use in the reinforcement of concrete, metals can have an aesthetic function. Accordingly, cast iron was used at the beginning of the 20th century in Casablanca for balcony railings, but it quickly gave way to ornate wrought iron, which became an essential element of ornaments.

GLASS

The glass was used as a suspended canopy of the large ticket office in Bank Al-Maghrib, bd de Paris in Casablanca. Another example is the stained glass window representing the Immaculate Conception proclamation in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Saint-Gobain glasses illuminate the cage and the main staircase of Bank AI Maghrib.

GLASS PULP

A glass pulp is a small colored glass paste tiles used to decorate the entrances, particularly in the houses and buildings in Casablanca. These mosaic tiles are often used in combination with terrazzo for floors and support paneling. They can also be gold or silver.

WOOD

Wood is widely used in traditional Moroccan architecture, both as a structural element and as an ornament. On the other hand, it is not often used in architecture intended for Europeans, being considered poorly suited to the humid climate of Casablanca.

Examples of these structures are the carved cedar wood used in Mahakma of the Pasha. Wooden frame and doors were used in the shops in Habous.  The small cubicle in Rue de la Douane and Place de Sidi Bousmara is also covered with slats of wood.

THE MEN RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEVELOPMENTS IN CASABLANCA

THE ARCHITECTS IN CASABLANCA

The Architect, project manager, is the one to whom the client entrusts the creation of his building. The Architect’s job includes the development of the program, adaptation to the site and the terrain, compliance with regulations, the choice of materials, the drawing of the plan, and the monitoring of the works (sometimes this task is entrusted to an execution architect).

An architect’s output is the fruit of the collaboration with the masters of work, engineers, and entrepreneurs but also that of his artistic inspiration. One can read the characteristics of an architect’s style, even if, throughout his career, the diversity of the programs, the wishes of the sponsors, and his inspiration can evolve: according to fashions and architectural writings.

Example: the development of the Town Hall project (current Wilaya), by Marius Boyer and Jean Balois.

We only know the architects who took part in Casablanca’s construction from the 1910s because this profession was not yet organized before. At the start of the jurisdiction, the first generation of architects came mainly from France; many of them were trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, such as Marius Boyer or Edmond Brion.

A second generation arrived in the 1940s, and, most of the time, the training was French, as for Alexandre Courtois, a student of Fine Arts, who came in 1942. But other nationalities interconnected such as the Italians, who are very active, such as Aldo Manassi or René Licari; Swiss, like Erwin: Hinnen; Germans, like Wolfgang Ewerth.

The first architects born in Morocco, such as Jean-François Zevaco or Élie Azagury, distinguished themselves after World War II. It was only in the years 1960-1970 that Moroccan architects began to work for their country, as is the case for Abdeslam Faraoui.

THE SURAQUI BROTHERS: AN EXAMPLE OF A JOURNEY IN CASABLANCA

Joseph (1893-1975) and Élias (1893-1977) Suraqui are architects from Algeria, naturalized French. Joseph studied geometry and Elias law. They came to Morocco at twenty to do their military service and rained in architecture by correspondence. They left a strong in Casablanca and all of Morocco because of their works. They began their careers in their joint agency in 1923 and were particularly active within the Jewish community. The study of their works testifies to the evolution of their style.

After World War II, the Suraqui brothers split up, and each went their way. After Independence, they settled in France, while keeping strong links with Morocco where they would return regularly. Joseph is more active in the field of architecture than his brother. His style is evolving towards the second modernity.

THE ENTREPRENEURS WHO CONTRIBUTE TO CASABLANCA’S DEVELOPMENTS

Entrepreneurs are essential players in the construction of Casablanca. They put their technical know-how at the service of architects or sponsors. They also participate in the creation of private buildings, bid for public competitions, carry out public works.

In Casablanca, until Independence, the majority of entrepreneurs are Italians, who sometimes come from Tunisia, who mark the city by bringing new techniques, such as that of granito. Family businesses such as the Battaglia, Ferrara, Liscia, Nigita, and Pappalardo are of Italian origin. These entrepreneurs rub shoulders with French companies, such as that of the engineer Gillet, representing the Edmond Coignet establishments specializing in reinforced concrete, or the Julia and Rieu companies, or Baille, Chapon, Gabriel, Nicolas, for the best known in the years 1920-1940.

Large international companies are also setting up branches in Casablanca, such as the Société des Grands Travaux in Marseille.

CRAFTSMEN

The work of artisans is essential for the techniques and expertise that they put at architects’ service for their achievements. Whether sculptors, decorators, or workers, they all help compose the architectural and ornamental landscape of Casablanca.

PARTS OF CASABLANCA’S HERITAGE AT RISK

Since the 1980s, destruction or abandonment has eroded the architectural and urban value in Casablanca. This process has not yet been stopped.

The Cinema Vox BOYER, 1935, which contained no less than 2,000 seats, and a flagship monument between Place des Nations Unies and what was Square Gentil, was destroyed at the end of the 1970s, to enlarge the square.

The destruction of the Villa of the Grand Vizier El Mokri in allée des Müriers, Colne d’Anfa, combining Art Deco and Neo-Moroccan, in 1995, generated a positive response and the creation of the Casamémoire association with, among others, Jacqueline Alluchon. The plot was divided, and part of it is still bare nowadays.

The Anfa Hotel, at the top of the hill of the same name, was destroyed in the 1990s. It had an architectural value and an intangible value, in the sense that part of the Anfa conference of 1943 took place there. The plot has been divided to build several villas.

The  Villa Puech, located on Boulevard d’Anfa, was destroyed as the urban regulations authorized 15-story buildings.

The destruction of the two-storey Art Deco building in January 2013  along with Imm. Anginot, Ennajrani, and El Balabil streets were done to replace it with another of five floors.

The office building in Imm. Customs, bd Houphouët Boigny, and the Almohads that had a modern second style, sober and elegant, was destroyed in the spring of 2018 to redevelop the port customs area and build a 25-story tower according to the project.

CHALLENGES FACED BY THE STRUCTURES IN CASABLANCA

The unused L’ARC Cinema in bd Ziraoui n. 221 and rue El Marrakouchi, the 1940s on an artery where the regulations authorize R + 7 (Ground floor + 7 floors).

The passage in Imm Hadj Omar Tazi, bd Hassan Il: Ouhoud and Tata streets that was a place of luxury consumption at the time of the protectorate, no longer corresponds to the current uses the affluent clientele. And its state of conservation suffers.

With its luminous glass roof, the center of the passage was recently encumbered by a restaurant whose pergola obstructs the perspectives and whose modern and inexpensive materials contrast with the original elements.

The profitability of real estate investments is also crucial. Indeed, heritage buildings belonging to private owners must allow a good return on investment to be preserved and maintained. This economic imperative, however, comes up against social reality. The increase in rents, which would ensure profitability, would induce a displacement of the less well-off populations who live in these buildings. However, legislation-protecting heritage must include questions to avoid too strong social homogeneity. It would border on the recreation of social segregation that could be further accentuated by possible gentrification. It constitutes a process of the residential reconquest of central neighborhoods to benefit better-off households by consequence of the requalification of the building following renovation and rehabilitation programs.

Public authorities’ role is to ensure the liveability of urban spaces, both in terms of safety and cleanliness. Trustees are also a crucial player.

The Boulevard Mohamed V was transformed by the passage of the tramline in 2012. The intention was, among other things, to promote the heritage by commissioning this modern public transport on the mythical artery of Casablanca. However, the expected effects are mixed, as it has harmed life and businesses in the neighborhood.

The mythical building in Imm. Assayag. Bd Hassan Sghir and rue Allal ben Abdallah is partly inhabited by enlightened amateurs of heritage (gentrification). But the issue of common areas, the often-difficult operation of condominium managers, and the chaotic urban environment are detrimental to its preservation.

The renovation (2013) and heightening of a building in Imm. Du Général Jouin, rue de Nouakchott, and rue Ichbilia. The apartments and common areas are of good quality, but the price per square meter has been increased, while the surrounding area has not changed, explaining the difficulty in finding buyers—for example, the Villa Papoalardo in bd Moukeouama.

This phenomenon, observed first in the Belgian capital, consists of a promoter wishing to empty its tenants’ building and destroy it, to let it wither by opening the windows. The promoter can even deliberately pierce the ceilings to accelerate the decomposition and then obtain the right to destroy under the pretext of insalubrity. This phenomenon can be applied to entire neighborhoods.

The building in Rue des Oulad Ziane. Ets Gratry was destroyed in 2017. It was to cut all of its elements of ornaments, before commissioning and authorizing its destruction, which was then obtained.

The preservation of heritage also assumes a good understanding of the aesthetic codes used, the modification of which ends up by a denaturation. That is to say, a diversion of the original meaning of the element. Good intentions sometimes work poorly.

Repair of a fountain in rue Mohandis aux Habous in 2013.  The restoration of this fountain, around 2013, resulted in the replacement of the various star-shaped zelliges inspired by traditional Moroccan fountains. With zelliges in three colors, the removal of sculpted plasters framed a medallion bearing the date of the ‘Hegira 1341 (1922).

An elevation in the city of Ain Chock: the ornaments of the facades, ostentatious parts (consoles, cermiques, coatings, air conditioning), distort the white unity of the facades to compare with the view of the city at its origin around 1951.

Whether we are talking about heritage, tradition, or heritage, it is always the question of the relationship to the past that is asked. Beyond questions of identity, questioning the legacy of a city where modernity is essential is a paradox. What do we designate in Casablanca as heritage? The problem is not as evident as for the so-called “old” cities, yet the evolution of the city’s gaze testifies to awareness and even a desire to include the city in its history, as recent as it seems.

Already in the SDAU (Urban Planning Master Plan) of 1984, led by Michel Pinseau, we note the desire to consider the old medina and the city center as elements of heritage value. The reconstruction (alleged restoration, at the time) of the enclosure on several parts, the rebuilding of Bab el Kebir and the Clock Tower (1992), indicates the desire to rehabilitate this area. But, it also testifies to ambiguity concerning heritage. The clock tower was indeed built in 1908 by Captain Dessigny as a secular sign of colonial domination. Therefore, the historical origin is forgotten in favor of the symbolic value of a building considered an integral part of the square. But we will have to wait for the project rehabilitation program launched by His Majesty King Mohammed VI in 2010 so that the old medina was the subject of concrete preservation and enhancement effort underway in 2019.

Due to the Casamémoire association’s activism, awareness was born to consider the architecture of the twentieth century, not only that of Habous, with its codes mixing traditional references and modern design, but also that of the rest of Casablanca. During the Heritage Days, initiated in 2008 by the association, we can see all kinds of neighborhoods, and residents discover a history, a wealth that they never suspected. This awareness even led to Casablanca’s inscription on the indicative list of heritage with UNESCO, the first step for the international recognition of the city in 2013.

This momentum continues today, even within the most ambitious structuring projects. Thus, in the Casa-Anfa project underway on the old Anfa airport site, certain architectural and urban elements are preserved and integrated, as is the case with the old track, which serves as a composition axis for the whole project. Likewise, the ongoing rehabilitation of the Arab League park and the former Church of the Sacred Heart testifies to the public authorities’ desire to preserve and enhance the existing urban and architectural landscape.

ACHIEVABLE PRESERVATION OF THE HERITAGE IN CASABLANCA

THE RAISING/ELEVATION

The heightening consists of adding one or more floors to increase the surface. The work is essential to allow the structure to support it. Some elevations are identical, while others offer different writing. The interest is to preserve the existing one, but the danger is sometimes the denaturation.

REHABILITATION, RESTORATION, RECONVERSION OF BUILDINGS IN CASABLANCA

Rehabilitation consists of reconstruction, preserving the main architectural characteristics of the building. Restoration is rehabilitation obeying historical and heritage objectives, which should maintain the structure and the materials or use the facility. The reconversion consists of modifying the frame to change its function.

IMITATIVE ILLUSION: PASTISH AND PLAGIATE

The pastiche consists of imitating an old architecture to reproduce it by taking inspiration from it. This imitation can result from a personal appropriation to the point that the new work has its own identity, as is the case for the Mahakma of the Pasha produced by Auguste Cadet, inspired by Hispano-Moorish architecture to create original work. However, limitations can turn into an inappropriate quote or even plagiarism.

An example is the building that replaced the Piot Templier building, destroyed in 2011.

PROTECTION AND PRESERVATION PLANS FOR CASABLANCA

URBAN PLANS

The SDAU (Urban Development Master Plan) in force dates from 2010, and its management is entrusted to the AUC (Urban Agency of Casablanca). The development plans of each district impose town planning rules, functional zoning, roads, the height of the building – and the heritage dimension is sometimes taken into account, but broadly, at the scale of the district or the block. Therefore, the AUC has launched the constitution or a plan as a safeguard to be incorporated into development plans.

THE SAFEGUARD PLAN FOR CASABLANCA

The plan is carried out at the initiative of the AUC, and this plan is ambitious. First of all, it contains an inventory listing of all the built elements or public spaces of heritage value, with available historical and technical documentation. This inventory is linked to a Geographic Information System, which makes it precise and practical. Then, it proposes the means of safeguarding by establishing an adequate regulation, which takes into account the architectural, urban, economic, social dimensions value before finally suggesting the means of enhancement.

CASABLANCA’S REGISTRATION ON THE LIST OF NATIONAL HERITAGE

The registration is an approach from a citizen or civil society asking the Ministry of Culture, through a descriptive file of the property, and its registration on national monuments. The registration concerns about a hundred properties in Casablanca, a large part of which was initiated by the Casamémoire association and an urban complex, the old medina. This preventive measure makes it possible to identify assets and protect them before their eventual classification.

CLASSIFICATION

This complex process emanates from the Ministry of Culture, which proposes it to the Head of Government. The examination of the file requires an in-depth study of the property in all its aspects and induces protection against any modification, which requires the administration’s authorization. Only areas of prehistoric deposits are classified in Casablanca.

UNESCO

The city of Casablanca has been inscribed on the World Heritage Tentative List since 2013, with the title “Casablanca, city of the twentieth century, crossroads of influences.” This inscription assumes that the Moroccan State intends, sooner or later, to submit a complete registration file for Casablanca. A first file was established in 2016, but it remained a dead letter “.

VALUATION

URBAN PLANNING

At the public authorities’ initiative, the development of public spaces, roads, equipment, etc. are vectors of heritage, economic, and social development. In this case, the Arab League Park’s rehabilitation, which is completed in 2019, or the coastal area’s landscaping, between the Hassan II mosque and the El Hank lighthouse.

PUBLIC INITIATIVE

The restoration of property belonging to the State or public institutions sends a strong signal of development. The restoration-extension of the Bank al-Maghrib branch and the effort that the institution is making to maintain and enhance its heritage are an example. Similarly, the Residence restoration and the Ould el Hamra mosque, neighboring in the old medina, are clear signs of this.

LEGISLATION

Heritage development cannot be done without improving the laws that govern it. It is not only a question of better preserving it through a legal arsenal but also of instilling economic dynamism to attract investment, as heritage cannot live on public subsidies alone.

AWARENESS

Making the city’s heritage known to its inhabitants and foreigners is a crucial objective not only to attract niche cultural tourism but also to make residents better appreciate the living environment. Therefore the now-famous Heritage Days are organized each year by the Casamémoire association.

PRIVATE INITIATIVE

Whether institutional or individual, owners play an essential role in the dynamism of heritage development. The restoration-rehabilitation of the Villa des Arts by Rachid Andaloussi for the O.C.P has made it possible to preserve and enhance this residence.

REVIEW OF NOTABLE THE BUILDINGS IN OLD CASABLANCA

VISIT 1: THE LISCIA BUILDING IN CASABLANCA

A COURTYARD BUILDING ALIGNED WITH ART DECO WRITING STREET

This building belonged to the Liscia brothers. It is built in 1926, planned by the Italian architect Manassi, it is an excellent example of a very ornamental Art Deco building.

Angelo (1887-1948) and Salomone (1884-1963) Liscia are entrepreneurs of Italian origin from Tunisia. They own one of the largest marble and stone companies in North Africa. They built many apartment buildings in Casablanca. The variety of different stones used in this building testifies to their skills.

The architect Aldo Manasi (1888-after 19382) trained in Milan and was very active in Casablanca in the years 1920-1930.

The Liscia building is located in a street where almost all the buildings were built in the years 1920-1930, in a district formerly called Quartier des Aviateurs, connected with the Aéropostale. The road itself bore the name of the famous Georges Guynemer. All the ground floors are commercial in this part of the “European” city.

VISIT 2: BEHDAHAN BUILDING IN CASABLANCA

A MODERN WRITING ISLAND BUILDING, IN THE BUSINESS CENTER

The building is located on the Place du 16 Novembre, on the old municipal market in Casablanca. The plot is trapezoidal and belonged to a Tangier Jew, Salvador Hassan, represented by the Casablanca investor of the same faith Haim Bendahan.

Following transactions in the 1910s, Haïm Bendahan became the owner of the building’s plot in 1935. The two main buildings are separated because of a street created by Edmond Brion, to avoid too much interior courtyard and allow a maximum of commercial frontage on the ground floor in this bustling zone. In the place, there were two open commercial passages (Tazi and Sumica).

The architect Edmond Brion (1885-1973), trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and he was brought to Morocco by Auguste Cadet (1881-1956) in 1918. Their fruitful collaboration (the district of Habous, Bousbir I, among others) comes to an end, and Brion pursues a personal career, which makes him one of the most significant architects in Casablanca.

VISIT 3: LA WILAYA/TOWN HALL IN CASABLANCA

PUBLIC PLACE AT THE HEART OF CASABLANCA

Intended to replace the old municipal services building on the Boulevard de Paris (current Conservatory of Music)and constructed in 1915, the old Town Hall aimed to provide a building and public services adapted to a growing accumulation.

Marius Boyer (1885-1947), trained at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris, arrived in Morocco in 1919 and became one of the emblematic architects of Casablanca in the years 1920-40. After working for the French army, he multiplied the sites of villas, investment properties, and buildings intended for institutional sponsors such as banks or municipal services.

Concerning the scale of the site, the work took around ten years. The structure of the building is made of reinforced concrete slabs. Cut stone is used for the facing. The building is a brilliant mix of various influences. As early as 1914, the architects Prost and Marrast, designers of the square, chose an Italian theme directly inspired by the communal palaces of northern Italy, notably with the idea of a bell tower which would strongly mark the urban space, as for the Tuscan courts of the thirteenth century.

The slightly offset campanile, which can be seen from the first studies, is therefore clearly reminiscent of Florence or Siena’s palaces. Simultaneously, the series of arcades on the ground floor seems to be a direct evocation of the Podestate Palace in Bologna.

In general, the Town Hall is considered one of the jewels of neo-Moroccan architecture, characteristic of the protectorate’s administrative buildings. Thus, the facade responds to the Residence (zelliges frieze, green tiles, sobriety provided by the white plaster) while reinterpreting components of Italian art (loggia, tower).

VISIT 4: VILLA Benkirane IN CASABLANCA

A VILLA FOR HOLIDAYS IN A CALIFORNIAN INSCRIPTION

The villa Benkirane is part of the holiday spirit, in a villas district where the plots are decorated with plantations, and especially on a promontory, which allows it to see the ocean. Its entirely circular shape is a sign of American and hedonistic modernity.

After having lived in Japan, the client, Mr. Benkirane (1904-1987), was the honorary consul of this country in Morocco. His family then sold the villa.

The master builder, Wolfgang Ewerth, born in 1905, is a German architect active in Casablanca from 1955 to 1976. He is responsible for numerous villas with a modernist style. The villa occupies the highest part of the sloping corner plot, both to promote the panoramic view and to get away from the traffic of Boulevard du Lido. It applies the five points of architecture proposed by Le Corbusier from 1927. The stilts for the part overlooking the garden, the roof terrace, however not serviced, form the freestanding plan since there are no load-bearing walls in the portion of the habitable circle. The windows are not in bands but vertical on the entire façade.

A comparison with the Villa Savoye (1928-1931) shows the influence of this modernist movement.

CONCLUSIONS

Casablanca is a city with numerous architecture, which combines elements from multiple traditions. Morocco is indeed a country of confluences whose geographical position has made it possible to forge links by land routes with the whole of the African continent and with the East and its maritime frontages with the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. However, since Casablanca is a city-port, these links are further accentuated to the point of making it a melting pot of multiculturalism.

This crossing of references then raises the question of identity: is the architecture in Casablanca Moroccan?

Admittedly, a significant part of the city, built during the protectorate era, obeys Western principles. The architecture and town planning was marked by the social and spatial segregation characteristic of the colonial context.

Casablanca, this gateway city, has been a link between Morocco and the rest of the world since the 19th century. Its identity testifies its openness because Casablanca has its own architectural identity, different from that of its neighbor Rabat.

This particularity is a mixture of ostentation characteristics of cities built for a nascent bourgeoisie being proud of its prosperity. This modern hedonism where the trend in the form is manifested in sports facilities and beaches. This frenzy of business that makes skyscrapers grow as profits increase, that all-consuming speculation that makes it dynamic and alive.

The architectural and urban identity of Casablanca is, therefore, very unique and Moroccan. It is all the more so since what constitutes its universal value is the fruit of ancient history. The essence of so-called “traditional” Moroccan architecture is precisely its capacity to integrate, through a fruitful relationship, encounters with foreign influences, gathering African, Roman, or Oriental traditions, to merge them with indigenous customs, and welcoming European scriptures while opening up to the Atlantic horizons. Thus, even the Moroccan way of life bears witness to these confluences, such as the mint tea, which is a constituent element of Moroccan identity and its hospitality. It is not the result of a trade agreement established between Morocco and the Great -Brittany in 1856.

Therefore, Casablanca’s modernity can be read in its relationship to the world and the context of globalization.

 

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