LOCALISING AVANT-GARDE ARCHITECTURE
MOROCCAN ARCHITECT, DRISS KETTANI, SPEAKS ABOUT THE HISTORIC INFLUENCES SEEN IN HIS CONTEMPORARY WORK, WHICH IS DRIVEN BY A SENSE OF LOCALITY
At the recent design MENA Summit 2018, Moroccan architect and keynote speaker Driss Kettani, introduced his studio’s new project in Casablanca, which followed his brief introduction to the history of Moroccan architecture.
Establishing his office, Driss Kettani Architecte, in Casablanca in 2005, Kettani has delivered a number of projects – often times in collaboration with fellow Moroccan architects, Saad El Kabbaj and Mohamed Amine Siana – in different areas of the North African country, which include Taroudant University, Technology School of Guelmim, Laayoune School of Technology and Villa Agava.
He also presented his concept proposal for Casablanca Grand Stadium, which was awarded second place, as well as his current project B052 Casablanca, a mixed-use project in the city’s Anfa neighbourhood.
“The private residential project is located in a new family area,” he told CID sister publication, Middle East Architect after his presentation. “It includes towers, finance headquarters, as well as residential units. So it was a huge challenge for us, and the idea was to do something new and contemporary that pays tribute to the Casablanca architecture of the 1950s, with its famous high buildings and large outdoor terraces.”
B052 Casablanca is a stark visual difference from his other projects in Morocco’s mountainous regions, which feature low-rise, human scale layouts made of sand-brown coloured concrete. Consisting of glass, steel and concrete, the mixed-use project features sun protection systems with low-energy features, he said.
Kettani noted that Morocco is currently witnessing a rise in residential and infrastructure projects particularly in Casablanca.
“The development in Casablanca is very fast,” he said. “There are a lot of residential programmes, as well as public infrastructure, including new roads and bridges that will ease the problem we have with traffic. But the key issue in Casablanca is the lack of public space. There isn’t enough public space where people can meet and socialise. The price of the land is driving developers to keep building up. People know this is very important and it’s being discussed.”
During his presentation, Kettani noted the history of Casablanca’s built environment. With the protectorate period beginning in the early 20th century and lasting until the 1950s, the city’s architectural language includes Neo-Moorish and Art-Deco styles.
“There was a lot of urban experimentation in Casablanca before the arrival of the Europeans,” he said. “Casablanca’s modernity then came at the crossroads of Le Corbusier’s influence and local specificity in the continuity of critical regionalism, with architects such as Jean-François Zevaco, Elie Azagury, Ben Embarek and others.”
Kettani added that the city’s great urban challenges continue to be its expansion, the rural exodus, social tensions and their urban demonstration.
“I want to highlight this notion of critical regionalism,” he said. “These architects had a key influence on me and I explored the way architecture could be avant-garde, sensitive and rooted to its place.”
Moroccan architect and keynote speaker Driss Kettani at the designMENA Summit 2018.
Taroudant University in Morocco, by Driss Kettani in collaboration with Saad El Kabbaj and Mohamed Amine Siana.
B052 Casablanca, a mixed-use project in the city’s Anfa neighbourhood.