Monday, September 13, 2010

Postcard from Casablanca #2: Mauresque Architecture

The style of colonial architecture found in abundance in Casablanca is known as Mauresque and came into being during General Lyautey's term of office as Resident Governor of Morocco between 1912 and 1924.

The style blended traditional Moroccan designs with the more liberal influences of early 20th-century Europe. By the 1930s, Mauresque architecture began to reflect the Parisian Art Deco style, characterized by ornate wrought-iron balconies, staircases, and windows; carved facades and friezes; and rounded exterior corners. Some of these buildings have been restored or kept in good condition, and are a visual reminder of Casa's early protectorate history.

Many of the city's best examples are in an area roughly bordered by Boulevard Mohammed V to the north, Avenue Lalla Yacout to the south, Rue du Prince Moulay Abdellah to the west, and Rue Ibn Batouta to the east. Buildings to look out for include the Cinema Rialto, on the corner of Rue Mohammed el Quori and Rue Salah ben Bouchaib and the Hotel Guynemer in Rue Mohamed Belloul.

Walking along Boulevard Mohammed V, the pedestrian-only section of Rue du Prince Moulay Abdellah, and around Place du 16 Novembre more fine examples can be seen. Over on Place Mohammed V are a cluster of classic Mauresque public buildings, including the 1930 former Préfecture, or police headquarters, the 1925 Palais de Justice, and the 1918 General Post Office.

Not all of the buildings have been restored, and no doubt many have been destroyed to make way for new tower blocks. The Hotel Lincoln, opposite the Marché Central, on the corner of Boulevard Mohammed V and Rue Ibn Batouta is derelict. The owner can't afford to renovate it (after a grisly accident some years ago when floors collapsed and people were killed) and the Ministry of Culture won't allow it to be demolished.

Tip: Make sure to look up while you're wandering around. Most of the city's Mauresque and Art Deco buildings now house shops or offices on their ground floors, which have long since been modified.

See all The View from Fez POSTCARDS HERE.

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