moroccan architecture – light, texture, color, and detail
In Marrakech, after a short flight and descent of looping figure 8′s from Casablanca, there is a small hint of what is to come – the wrapping envelope of light and shadow, layered textures on every plane – though the saturation of color has been stripped away, in a modernist move, to pure white. The effect is a striking geometry, softened by the intricate cast of shadow and light on a heavy structural diamond web.
Within the old city’s original walls, the medina, it feels like travelling back in time – in some places just a century or two, in others, thousands of years. This was a crossroads of trade routes – from the original Berber tribes in the nearby Atlas mountains, the blue-robed south Saharan Tuaregs, to the Atlantic. Other than the city walls, only one small fragment of the original city remains – the mosque dome of Koubba El-Badiyin – the origins of Moorish building and the basis of North African architecture.
A series of dynasties have since left traditions of incredible richness in the skill and craft of architecture – in palaces, tombs, schools, and mosques. Even today, the highly detailed cut tile mosaics, carved and painted wood panels and cut plaster are all created by hand. There are an endless number of details and textures wrapping every surface, a complete enveloping of beauty in color and pattern. The French also left a tradition that continues – all buildings are pink – and the variations of hue are infinite, and especially beautiful in the late afternoon sun, as the city and people glow in the reflected shades of cinnamon, rose and sienna.
Diving in today – it’s vibrant, overwhelming in the riot and chaos of the souks and labyrinth of streets filled with hand carts, motorcycles, bicycles, donkey and horse-drawn carts, speeding Mercedes taxis, and people weaving through it all. Spice, smoke, incense.
Behind the doors are the hidden calm – the riyads – traditional courtyard homes filled with hand cut mosaics, carved and painted wood paneling, lace-cut metal lamps, hand cut plaster ceilings – all with a level of intricacy that continually captivates and changes with the time of day.
Grateful, in Marrakech.