Casablanca 2008

Bas Princen, 2006

Professors: Prof. Roger Diener, Prof. Marcel Meili, Dozent Christian Schmid
Matthias Gunz, Rolf Jenni, Christian Mueller Inderbitzin, Milica Topalovic
Exercise types: “P” (for diploma students) or “e” / “e+i” (for bachelor and master students)
Locations: Group work in Basel and Casablanca
Start: Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 10am at ETH Studio Basel, Spitalstrasse 8, 4056 Basel

Similar to Hong Kong, because of its strategic situation on the coast of the Atlantic, Casablanca is one of the oldest Global Cities. From the beginning of the last century, first under the French protectorate and then, from 1956 onward, as the economic center of Morocco, the city experienced an explosive growth, from 25.000 inhabitants in 1907 to a current population of 3.7 million (official) or even 5 million (unofficial). Even today, Casablanca continues to attract about 300.000 new residents from rural hinterlands every year.
The name Casablanca is associated with myths that are not necessarily grounded in reality. Today, it is a cosmopolitan metropolis, with only a small historic medina (old city). While other Moroccan cities, such as Fes and Marrakesh, are undergoing rapid renewal as tourist destinations, and Rabat remains the center of the monarchy and government, Casablanca remains Morocco’s economic capital, hosting most of the country’s industries, services, and Africa’s largest port for goods. The liberal influence of economic trade on the city hangs in a visibly sensitive balance with traditional values: Casablanca is also home to one of the world’s largest mosques, the Mosque of Hassan II, completed in 1993. The history of French colonial architecture and urbanism (studied by Jean-Louis Cohen and Monique Eleb) is fascinating and influenced the schools of international modernism in the 1950s and 1960s. The image of the city of Casablanca today is made up equally of modern architecture, contemporary developments, and the informal bidonvilles (shanty towns) dispersed throughout the city and along its shifting perimeter.
During the first part of its research on Casablanca in 2005, ETH Studio Basel investigated and described some of the city’s most characteristic urban conditions: for example, the Old Medina, where ancient structures are permeated with contemporary life; the mass-housing projects of Nouvelles Médinas as exports of French modernism experimenting with Arabic influences and their spontaneous adaptation to everyday needs; and the bidonvilles, tolerated settlements on public land that serve to soak up the influx of migrants. The summer semester of 2008 will continue to focus on these and other examples and themes, looking at the functioning of the city and architectural and urban forms created by varying degrees of official influence and intricate informal networks spanning all social classes.

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