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 Gerhy, 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.