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Casablanca Modernism

An Architectural Heritage

The architecture of Casablanca is diverse. When looking at the cityscape, however, it is immediately noticeable that there is a very high density of modern buildings and visionary architecture from bygone eras.

Casablanca – A name that is particularly associated with the cinema of the 1940s. But the real Casablanca as a place doesn’t have much in common with the iconic movie by Michael Curtiz. The legendary film depicts a city which lies between the sea and the desert – a romanticized idea made in Hollywood. The city didn’t even serve as a filming location for the movie back then. The real Casablanca is rather the opposite and more characterized by the typical bustle of a big city. It’s a port city. Loud and confusing. Hectic and definitely not as calm as you might think. It’s the center of Morocco’s commerce and transport industry and also the third largest city in North Africa after Cairo and Alexandria.

The architecture of Casablanca is diverse. When looking at the cityscape, however, it is immediately noticeable that there is a very high density of modern buildings and visionary architecture from bygone eras. During an intense construction wave in the 1940s and 1950s, the city turned into a model of a Modernist City – at that time it was new, urban and unique. European architects used the city as their canvas to design a large modern metropolis which makes the term ‘Casa Blanca’ (‘White House’) even more appropriate. Today, the city presents a large collection of post-war architecture, modernism-icons and buildings with elements of brutalism. White, concrete and clean shapes are style-defining here. Like a Moroccan Miami Beach or Tel Aviv.

In the 1950s, urban planner Michel Écochard created a master plan for Casablanca which he realized in cooperation with young architects including Marcel Lods, Victor Bodiansky and Jean Hentsch.

Notre Dame de Lourdes, Casablanca
Designed and built by Achille Dangleterre and Gaston Zimmer
1954 – 1956

In the 1950s, urban planner Michel Écochard created a master plan for Casablanca which he realized in cooperation with young architects including Marcel Lods, Victor Bodiansky and Jean Hentsch. Ideas and concepts which also had been published in Paris in 1955 under the title “Casablanca – Roman d’une ville”. The city of Casablanca was Africa’s first place offering an underground car park and large American-scale swimming pools. But the city became also a testbed for modernization strategies after the Second World War, like new housing projects and education of the population to accept new forms of production.

A special example of modern architecture with brutal elements is the Church of Notre-Dame de Lourdes. The Catholic church is notable for its elongated concrete structure. The windows were designed by French artist Gabriel Loire.

Shot on location in Casablanca

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