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Morocco : Casablanca’s art deco architecture in jeopardy

Many emblematic art deco buildings in Casablanca need to be safeguarded. Several associations and institutions are working to preserve the 20th-century heritage.

Art deco buildings in Casablanca./Ph. DR
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20-century architecture distinguishes Casablanca, where streets, avenues and boulevards host a series of art-deco buildings, a trend that appeared in France just before World War I.

These buildings, however, need urgent protection, suggestes The Independent in one of its recent articles. «Casablanca serves as an open-air architectural museum», says the British newspaper, warning that these building are «at risk of disappearing as developers encroach to make room for larger, multistory towers».

«After losing the Vox – the largest cinema in Africa – as well as the city’s municipal theatre and modern villas, one association is trying to save downtown before its too late».

Casamemoire is in charge of preserving the authenticity of the white city. Starting from today till the 13th of May, the association created in 1995 will be hosting the Casablanca Heritage Days guided tours to put these monumental buildings under the spotlight.

President of Casamemoire Rachid Andaloussi, who is also an architect, sees this initiative as an opportunity to raise awareness among the city’s inhabitants about the endangered heritage.

An art deco building in Casablanca./Ph. DRAn art deco building in Casablanca./Ph. DR

«We have to start by looking differently at these buildings and the history they represent. It is true that they have been associated with the French protectorate in Morocco. We want to save these buildings from demolition and we have reacted to that through raising awareness».

Casamemoire’s initiative aims at explaining the history of architecture. The association organizes movie screenings, conferences and responds to student’s curious questions about Casablanca’s colonial history and heritage.

Rachid Andaloussi hopes that one day, the city will be included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Meanwhile, he argued that «as long as there is no legal framework that protects these buildings, they will remain threatened».

Creating a list

For Oualid Ismail Saad, the regional heritage conservator in the Casablanca-Settat region, only 80 of the art deco buildings in the city are preserved by his department.

Speaking to Yabiladi he insisted that the Ministry of Culture cannot act alone. «These buildings must be part of the list so, they can be preserved and safeguarded», he argued.

The department responsible of preserving cultural heritage inside the Culture Ministry organized a series of campaigns for children and made a list of 2000 buildings in the Casablanca-Settat region.

Art deco buildings in Casablanca./Ph. DRArt deco buildings in Casablanca./Ph. DR

«Our goal is to create a database and develop an application that introduces these buildings and which must be accessible through the internet», explained Saad.

«All stakeholders must contribute to this project, including the urban agency, the territorial community, the commune, the prefecture and the ministry», he concluded.

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