New life in a Casablanca abattoir

In Casablanca, a number of associations have taken up a fight to preserve the city’s previously closed down slaughterhouses. Thanks to them, the unique architecture of these buildings has come to life again. The building has a surprising architectural look with its mix between neo-Moorish trends and art deco tendencies. This style is characteristic of the 30s and quintessential to the Moroccan capital.

After having closed in 2002, the slaughterhouses become a matter of concern for Moroccan artists such as architects Rachid Andaloussi and Selma Zerhouni, painter Mohamed Kacimi and poet Mustapha Nissabouri. At that time, they were supported in their project by the king of Morocco Mohammed VI and thus created the association Majazir Addar Al Baidâa (The slaughterhouses of Casablanca). From then, the slaughterhouse was at the centre of creating a multidisciplinary cultural factory. They benefited, in the same time, being added in 2003 to the list of historic monuments. Then, changes of municipal policies weakened the original project. The slaughterhouses were considered important, as they were situated in a sought-after location. The idea was formed to make this huge space into an economically profitable one, something that was contrary to what the founders of Majazir Addar Al Baidaa had in mind. Therefore, the artists slowly withdrew from the project.

Since that time, the slaughterhouses — which belong to the city of Casablanca and are managed by the urban community — have been suffering from a lack of official status. Nevertheless, they play host to many cultural events such as exhibitions, art festivals, concerts and plays. The venues have also caught the interest of urban actors and, in 2009, a number of workshops were organised in order to boost the recreation project.

Since that time, Casablanca’s public has step by step reclaimed this space and the slaughterhouses have become a multidisciplinary and cutting edge cultural factory. Open to new talents, it has been remade by a group of architects united around Jacqueline Aluchon and is run by, among others, the association Casamémoire. Casamémoire was born in 1995, pushed by the demolition of numerous of Casablanca’s historic buildings, such as Marius Boyer’s works.

Up until now, the slaughterhouses have managed to withstand the greed of potential investors and continue hosting cultural events such as the festival of the Cross-cultural of slaughterhouses and the musical Springboard. An agreement to safeguard the continuation of these activities was signed in 2009, when Casamémoire and the municipality of Casablanca designated the slaughterhouses a cultural site. And recently, the governor of the Casablanca district ordered the destruction of historic buildings without prior authorization forbidden.

The future of the Casablanca slaughterhouses is linked to the larger issue of the place of culture in the city. There is a growing awareness of the importance of culture, which has a positive impact on places like the slaughterhouses. In many ways, they are a key space in this development. Fortunately, this is allowing for the protection of this unique Moroccan heritage.

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