On behalf of Play the City I visited in the week from 14 to 18 April the biggest city of Morocco, Casablanca. Play the City was invited by Cor Geluk en Jaakko van 't Spijker from CULD for an expertmeeting between 6 Dutch and 6 Moroccan experts on the subject of city development in Morocco.
The Dutch experts were Jaakko van 't Spijker and Cor Geluk (CULD), Bianca Seekles (director Era Contour), Patrick van het Klooster (director AIR), Enrico Moens (Grontmij) and Jacob Buitenkant (Play the City). This turned out to be a very nice group of different player in the field of urban development and we had some interesting conversations about our common interests. We all hope to work together in the future.
The Moroccan experts were Boushifa Abdelhay (architect), Fouad Akalay (director Archimedia), Yassine Moustanjidi (researcher TU Berlin), Fouad Amraoui (professor TU Casablanca), Hafif Azzedine (Urban Planning Department Casablanca) and Francesca Ricciulli (partner Chez Cap Terre Maroc). A diverse group of professionals on the subject of urban development. They explained the state and questions of contemporary Morocco.
It became apparent that Morocco is an urbanizing country although the economy is only slightly improving. In the next years they expect another 5 million people to move to the urban areas and over a million houses have to be built in the next 10 years. For Casablanca this means that they have made a spatial urban plan for growth in which a green belt around the existing city is the main principle. Outside this green belt 7 new urban cores will be created. The urban planners of Casablanca even expect that the population in the inner center of the city will decline in the next years to this new areas. The biggest challenge they face is water management. They lose so much water during the year that they expect to run out of it very soon. They are looking hard for new solutions which can help them. Other problematic areas are deslumification of the cities, public space, waste management and corruption. They hope to continue the conversation on Casablanca with us in the future.
Furthermore my experience of Casablanca was mixed. It was nice to see that contemporary international bling skyscrapers had not (yet) took over the Business district as happened in so many cities around the world. Casablanca is still a beautiful orchestrated city of a old arabic medina surounded by a French based streetplan. The urban fabric of different planning principles work fluently into eachother. Also the vast amount of palmtrees in the streets make the city look softer then it is.
Contrary to these observations are the population on the streets, which are mostly unemployed and underfed. If you pay attention to it, the in first instance vibrant and dynamic citylife is much more grim. Furthermore the maintenance of the streets and buildings is very poor and makes it sometimes that you are walking around in a decaying city. Also the waste on the streets makes the city uninviting and smelly. There is a big difference between rich and poor, which is highly contrasted by some slums next to the villa areas of the city.
The future of Casablanca will hopefully be directed by the needs of the city and not by the amount of money. If that happens Casablanca can really grow to be the Western gate to the African continent.