Trying to understand the origins of Moroccan design makes it is easy to neglect the new developments taking shape around the country. Take for example Hay Riad, the suburb of Rabat. The first time I visited Hay Riad in 1996 it was considered a far-out suburb, a cumbersome bus ride away from the city center. Now traffic flows into Hay Riad. It is complete with shops, businesses, gardens, and religious centers.
On the drive into Hay Riad, governement buildings, such as the Royal Institue for Amazigh Culture, bring life to the architectural landscape. The building looks like a wedge or —better yet– a ramp that is allows the land to take flight and the air to take ground.
New plazas are in place where inhabitants of nearby apartments come at night. Children ride bikes, play with sculptures, or skateboard while adults gossip or grab a coffee at the new Paul’s.
I say these developments are new, but to many they are not. I had a four-year gap between when I visited Rabat and when I saw the new development, most of which wasn’t in place in 2001. To me it is a stunning example of urban planning and design. In the States I’ve been waiting two years for a new shopping center to go up near my house, I live inside the Beltway, which is to say close to Washington, DC’s city center. I make the comparision because, despite the Moroccan reputation for having a work ethic that is rather, …ughum…, let’s say “relaxed,” when the Moroccan government is behind an initative, it puts action into place. Let’s hope similar results can be achieved with the rest of the King’s Vision 2010 plans.