Storied Moroccan tradition inspires American design in this energetic new campus that nourishes the continued diplomacy between these two nations.
Client U.S. Department of State Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO)
Size 6.9 acres
The United States and Morocco have had a longstanding diplomatic relationship since 1777 when the Sultan Sidi Muhammad Ben Abdullah made Morocco one of the first nations to acknowledge the independence of the American Republic. Since then, the two countries have maintained a rich and close partnership.
The new U.S. Consulate campus in Casablanca adds illustrious and gracious architectural poetry to a premiere urban redevelopment effort in Casablanca.
Sitting on 6.9 acres of the formerly decommissioned Anfa airport in the Cité de l’Air neighborhood, the site is being redeveloped into an international metropolis just seven kilometers southwest of the historic city center with a light rail tram providing convenient access. The development plan includes both office and business uses, upscale housing, shops, hotels, educational facilities, sports and leisure amenities and is slated to accommodate 100,000 workers as well as 100,000 new residents.
The design of the new consulate general campus and main office building draws on the traditions of the Moroccan urban form of a medina, a historic urban quarter typically enclosed by a fortified wall. Most buildings within medinas are situated closely with one another, creating a dense yet organic manmade landscape. Within many of these buildings, though, is an interior garden that provides a retreat from the bustle of the surrounding streets; a veritable oasis that looks up to the sky and the birds hovering above.
The relatively small site on which the campus will sit necessitates spatial efficiency and led our team to reference the medina as an organizing principle; buildings abut one another, separated by party walls, while several garden spaces associated with different campus functions are situated to allow indoor functions to spill outside.
Embracing the ideals of Moorish and Islamic garden design, these gardens organize the exterior program for the project, responding to the different types of activities happening within the campus, from a formal garden and open lawn accommodating events, to a typical Moroccan garden for the entrance welcoming those seeking consular services. These spaces serve not only as a visual amenity from within the new consulate, but to the taller surrounding buildings in the neighborhood, as well.
Opportunities for solidity and transparency are created by the perforated stainless-steel façade, responding to each program area’s need for shading from the harsh sun, glare mitigation, and privacy. Inspired by the rich diversity of Moroccan tile work and woven carpet design, the subtle variety of façade panels translates into a high-performance skin, altering the expression of the building as the sun travels throughout the day. In the evening, the metal screen becomes illuminated from within, casting a sumptuous glow that evokes references to traditional Moroccan lanterns.
A multi-story gallery space at the center of the office building forms the active heart of the building, encouraging occupant interactions. These connections extend to the façade on each floor to outdoor terrace gardens that provide opportunity to meet informally, dine, or relax while enjoying Casablanca’s moderate Mediterranean climate.
White stone and stainless-steel metal panels establish the subdued exterior material palette, harmonizing the project to Casablanca’s predominantly white building exteriors. The interior spaces of the project create an experience that contrasts with the exterior by incorporating color-saturated and color-rich spaces inspired by the traditional approaches to color in Moroccan architecture.
Strategies to advance sustainability and resiliency are integrated into the project. The design prioritized potable water use reduction by including the use of ultra-low-flow plumbing fixtures and the selection of native plants to reduce landscape irrigation. In addition to the use of the perforated stainless-steel façade screen system to reduce solar heat gain, energy reduction will be provided using air handlers with air-to-air energy recovery, a dedicated heat recovery chiller, high efficiency screw chillers, high efficiency lighting fixtures with optimized controls, and the installation of photovoltaic panels. Together, these strategies will reduce the energy usage of the building by nearly 25%.
The consulate’s design blends Moroccan culture and history with the best of American architecture to celebrate the longstanding U.S.-Moroccan friendship, and contribute to Casablanca’s ascendence as a key international hub.