The vast Place Mohammed V in Casablanca, with its classic rectangular 1920’s composition inherited from Maréchal Hubert Lyautey and urban planner Henri Prost, is lined by Charles Boyer’s wilaya, the Courts of Justice and long administrative buildings. It is popular with the residents of Casablanca, who gather every day around its central fountain. On the square’s last free side the city decided to build “CasArts” which will be the biggest theatre in Africa.
The international competition which took place in July, 2009 saw projects from Zaha Hadid, Franck Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and Aziz Lazrak. The site was a brainteaser. Portzamparc’s project was to breathe life into this vast institutional square and give a contemporary twist to its classical composition. This winning project gives the impression of being composed of several detached houses, like a medina in the city.
Instead of an autonomous architectural object, unambiguous, this fluid ensemble defies symmetry without opposing it, inviting visitors to enter the shadow of another interior universe through several slim, appealing gaps and entrances leading to a vast and lofty cross-cutting public gallery composed of curved red staffs.
In the external simplicity of the white architecture, the gaps draw passers-by towards the shade – the half-light of this pathway and its entry point, where one comes to sit in cafés refreshed by natural ventilation.
A moucharaby terracotta and resin shear wall floats along the square’s buildings. At the center, one of the houses forms a large entrance, an exceptional entry point and a shelter from the sun. It is also an outdoor theatre: when the doors open, the stage appears and the public in the square becomes the audience. CasArts is a transformable urban scenographic device. The facade is already a stage.
The 1,800-seat main hall is designed to host musical concerts, classical theatre plays and various other large-scale performances. It has the same curved piles as those bordering the grand entrance gallery, which here support fan-shaped balconies. It reinterprets the horse shoe “opera” shape, while respecting the qualities of frontal vision, and seats a larger number of spectators.
Africa’s largest Theatre New Art: multi-purpose hall with 1,800 seats, flexible theater with 600 seats, amplified music room, public rehearsal rooms opened, special events rooms and “cultural intensity” place, shops, restaurant, café, cyberspace, space for reading, library, showroom and art gallery.
Architect partner in morocco
Casablanca Aménagement S.A. / Egis Bâtiments International
Office of technical studies
Scenography: Theatre Projects Consultants / Acoustics correction: Xu Acoustique / Sound insulation: Acoustique & Architecture / Landscape: Méristème / Light: Light it be / Fluid engineering and structure: Ingerop / Façades engineering: Arcora / Fire safety and coordination: SPS Vulcanéo