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Moroccan architecture refers to the architecture characteristic of Morocco throughout its history and up to modern times. The country's diverse geography and long history, marked by successive waves of settlers through both migration and military conquest, are all reflected in its architecture.

This architectural heritage ranges from ancient Roman and Berber Amazigh sites to 20th-century colonial and modern architecture. The most recognizably "Moroccan" architecture, however, is the traditional architecture that developed in the Islamic period 7th century and after which dominates much of Morocco's documented history and its existing heritage.

Although Moroccan Berber architecture is not strictly separate from the rest of Moroccan architecture, many structures and architectural styles are distinctively associated with traditionally Berber or Berber-dominated regions of Morocco such as the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara and pre-Sahara regions.

Far from being isolated from other historical artistic currents around them, the Berbers of Morocco and across North Africa adapted the forms and ideas of Islamic architecture to their own conditions and in turn contributed to the formation of Western Islamic art, particularly during their political domination of the region over the centuries of Almoravid , Almohad , and Marinid rule. Modern architecture in Morocco includes many examples of early 20th-century Art Deco and local neo-Moorish or Mauresque architecture constructed during the French and Spanish colonial occupation of the country between and or until for Spain.

Although less well-documented, Morocco's earliest historical periods were dominated by the indigenous Berber populations still present today , up to the Berber kingdoms of Mauretania.

In the early 8th century the region became steadily integrated into the emerging Muslim world , beginning with the military incursions of Musa ibn Nusayr and becoming more definitive with the advent of the Idrisid dynasty at the end of that century. The Idrisids founded the city of Fes , which became their capital and the major political and cultural center of early Islamic Morocco. The collapse of the Cordoban caliphate in the early 11th century was followed by the significant advance of Christian kingdoms into Muslim al-Andalus and the rise of major Berber empires in Morocco.

The latter included first the Almoravids 11thth centuries and then the Almohads 12thth centuries , both of whom also took control of remaining Muslim territory in al-Andalus, creating empires that stretched across large parts of western and northern Africa and into Europe.

The Almoravids adopted the architectural developments of al-Andalus, such as the complex interlacing arches of the Great Mosque in Cordoba and of the Aljaferia palace in Zaragoza , while also introducing new ornamental techniques from the east such as muqarnas "stalactite" or "honeycomb" carvings. Bab Agnaou in Marrakesh, and Bab Oudaia and Bab er-Rouah in Rabat of the Almohad period also established the overall decorative schemes that became recurrent in these architectural elements thenceforth.

The minaret of the Kasbah Mosque of Marrakech was particularly influential and set a style that was repeated, with minor elaborations, in the following Marinid period. In the late 12th century the Almohads created a new fortified palace district, the Kasbah of Marrakesh , to serve as their royal residence and administrative center. These traditions and policies had earlier precedents in Al-Andalus � such as the creation of Madinat al-Zahra near Cordoba � and were subsequently repeated by future rulers of Morocco.

The Berber Marinid dynasty that followed was also important in further refining the artistic legacy established by their predecessors. Based in Fes, they built monuments with increasingly intricate and extensive decoration, particularly in wood and stucco. Later known as Fes Jdid , this new fortified citadel had a set of double walls for defense, a new Grand Mosque , a vast royal garden to the north known as el-Mosara , residences for government officials, and barracks for military garrisons.

The architectural style under the Marinids was very closely related to that found in the Emirate of Granada , in Spain, under the contemporary Nasrid dynasty. When Granada was conquered in by Catholic Spain and the last Muslim realm of al-Andalus came to an end, many of the remaining Spanish Muslims and Jews fled to Morocco and North Africa , further increasing the Andalusian influence in these regions in subsequent generations.

After the Marinids came the Saadian dynasty , which marked a political shift from Berber-led empires to sultanates led by Arab sharifian dynasties. Artistically and architecturally, however, there was broad continuity and the Saadians are seen by modern scholars as continuing to refine the existing Moroccan-Moorish style, with some considering the Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh as one of the apogees of this style.

Starting with the Saadians, and continuing with the Alaouites their successors and the reigning monarchy today , Moroccan art and architecture is portrayed by modern Western scholars as having remained essentially "conservative"; meaning that it continued to reproduce the existing style with high fidelity but did not introduce major new innovations. These two mosques are notable for being part of larger multi-purpose charitable complexes including several other structures like public fountains, hammams , madrasas, and libraries.

The Alaouites, starting with Moulay Rashid in the midth century, succeeded the Saadians as rulers of Morocco and continue to be the reigning monarchy of the country to this day. As a result, many of the mosques and palaces standing in Morocco today have been built or restored by the Alaouites at some point or another. In Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah one of Moulay Isma'il's sons started the construction of a new port city called Essaouira formerly Mogador , located along the Atlantic coast as close as possible to his capital at Marrakesh, to which he tried to move and restrict European trade.

Similar coastal fortifications or bastions , usually known as a sqala , were built at the same time in other port cities like Anfa present-day Casablanca , Rabat, Larache , and Tangier. In the 20th century, Moroccan architecture and cities were also shaped by the period of French colonial control as well as Spanish colonial rule in the north of the country This era introduced new architectural styles such as Art Nouveau , Art Deco , and other modernist styles, in addition to European ideas about urban planning imposed by colonial authorities.

In particular, Casablanca was developed into a major port and quickly became the country's most populous urban centre. In the later 20th century, after Morocco regained its independence, and into the 21st century, contemporary Moroccan architecture also continued to pay tribute to the country's traditional architecture. In some cases, international architects were recruited to design Moroccan-style buildings for major royal projects such as the Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat and the massive Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.

More recently, some 21st-century examples of major or prestigious architecture projects include the extension of Marrakesh's Menara Airport completed in , [46] the award-winning High-Speed Train Station in Kenitra opened in , [47] [48] the Finance City Tower in Casablanca completed in and one of the tallest buildings in Morocco , [49] and the new Grand Theatre of Rabat by Zaha Hadid due to be completed in late As with the rest of the Mediterranean world, the culture and monuments of Classical Antiquity and of Late Antiquity had an important influence on the architecture of the Islamic world that came after them.

In Morocco, the former Roman city of Volubilis acted as the first Idrisid capital before the foundation of Fes. The arrival of Islam with Arab conquerors from the east in the early 8th century brought about social changes which also required the introduction of new building types such as mosques. The latter followed more or less the model of other hypostyle mosques which were common across much of the Islamic world at the time. Aside from the initial changes brought about by the arrival of Islam, Moroccan culture and architecture continued afterwards to adopt certain ideas and imports from the eastern parts of the Islamic world.

These include some of the institutions and building types that became characteristic of the historic Muslim world. For example, maristans , a historical equivalent of hospitals, first originated further east in Iraq , with the first one being built by Harun al-Rashid between and The culture of Muslim-controlled Al-Andalus, which existed across much of the Iberian Peninsula to the north between and , also had close influence on Moroccan history and architecture in a number of ways � and was in turn influenced by Moroccan cultural and political movements.

Jonathan Bloom , in his overview of western Islamic architecture, remarks that he "treats the architecture of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula together because the Straits of Gibraltar were less of a barrier and more of a bridge.

In addition to the geographic proximity of the two regions, there were many waves of immigration from Al-Andalus to Morocco of both Muslims and Jews. One of the earliest waves were the Arab exiles from Cordoba who came to Fez after a failed rebellion in the early 9th century.

The period of the Umayyad Emirate and Caliphate in Cordoba , which marked the peak of Muslim power in Al-Andalus, was an especially crucial era which saw the construction of some of the region's Ideas For Small Gardens 2016 most important early Islamic monuments. The Great Mosque of Cordoba is frequently cited by scholars as a major influence on the subsequent architecture of the western regions of the Islamic world due to both its architectural innovations and its symbolic importance as the religious heart of the powerful Cordoban Caliphate.

Starting in the 11th century, the Berber-led Almoravid and Almohad empires, which were based in Morocco but also controlled Al-Andalus, were instrumental in combining the artistic trends of both North Africa and Al-Andalus, leading to what eventually became the definitive "Hispano-Moorish" or Andalusi-Maghribi style of the region. The Amazigh peoples commonly called "Berbers" in English are a linguistically and ethnically diverse group of peoples who constitute the indigenous pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa.

They continue to represent a large part of the population in Morocco. Given the intermixing of peoples and settlements in the region over the centuries, it is not always easy to separate Amazigh and non-Amazigh architectural features; however, there are architectural types and features associated with predominantly Amazigh areas of Morocco particularly the rural Atlas mountains and Saharan regions which are sufficiently distinctive to constitute their own characteristic styles.

The Treaty of Fes established the French Protectorate in The French resident general Hubert Lyautey appointed Henri Prost to oversee the urban development of cities under his control. Instead, the French administration built new modern cities the Villes Nouvelles just outside the old cities, where European settlers largely resided with modern Western-style amenities.

This was part of a larger "policy of association" adopted by Lyautey which favoured various forms of indirect colonial rule by preserving local institutions and elites, in contrast with other French colonial policies that favoured "assimilation". The building regulations maintained the country's pre-existing architectural features and balanced the rapid urbanization. Nonetheless, while this policy preserved historic monuments, it also had other consequences in the long-term by stalling urban development in these heritage areas and causing housing shortages in some areas.

In some cases French officials removed or remodelled more recent pre-colonial Moroccan structures which had been visibly influenced by European styles in order to erase what they deemed as foreign or non-indigenous interference in Moroccan architecture.

This was especially evident in some cities like the capital of Rabat, where grand new administrative buildings were designed in this style alongside European-style boulevards. This heritage is especially notable in Casablanca, [87] which became the main port city and the country's largest city during this period. One of the most common types of construction in Morocco was rammed earth , an ancient building technique found across the Near East, Africa, and beyond. It generally made use of local materials and was widely used thanks to its low cost and relative efficiency.

The addition of lime also made the walls harder and more resistant overall, although this varied locally as some areas had soil which hardened well on its own while others did not. The walls were built from bottom to top one level at a time. Workers pressed and packed in the materials into sections ranging from 50 and 70 cm in length that were each held together temporarily by wooden boards.

Once the material was settled, the wooden restraints could be removed and the process was repeated on top of the previously completed level. This type of construction required consistent maintenance and upkeep, as the materials are relatively permeable and are more easily eroded by rain over time; in parts of Morocco, especially near the Sahara kasbahs and other structures made with a less durable composition typically lacking lime can begin to crumble apart in less than a couple of decades after they've been abandoned.

In addition to rammed earth, brick and especially in desert regions mudbrick were also common types of materials for the construction of houses, civic architecture, and mosques. Wood was also extensively used, but mostly for ceilings and other elements above eye level such as canopies and upper galleries. Many buildings such as mosques and mausoleums have sloped wood-frame or artesonado -like ceilings, known locally as berchla or bershla, [30] [95] often visually enhanced by the use of geometric patterns in their arrangement, sculpting, and painted decoration.

An ornate berchla ceiling in the 16th-century Saadian Tombs. Wooden canopy over the entrance of the 14th-century Mosque of Abu al-Hasan. Wood generally came from Moroccan cedar trees, [30] [2] [23] still highly valued today, which once grew abundantly on mountain slopes across the country but are now partly endangered and limited to forests of the Middle Atlas. The sculpted wood canopy of the Shrob ou Shouf Fountain in Marrakesh was made of palm wood, for example.

A very prominent and distinctive element of Moroccan and Moorish architecture is its heavy use of stucco for carved and sculpted decoration across walls and ceilings. Tilework , particularly in the form of mosaic tilework called zellij , was a standard decorative element along lower walls and for the paving of floors.

It consisted of hand-cut pieces of faience in different colours fitted together to form elaborate geometric motifs, often based on radiating star patterns.

Metal, particularly bronze and copper , was also used to decorate or protect certain elements. Notably, the doors of many medieval mosques and madrasas were covered with bronze or copper plating which was carved and chiseled with geometric, arabesque, and calligraphic motifs.

Perhaps the most characteristic arch type of Moroccan and western Islamic architecture generally is the so-called "Moorish" or "horseshoe" arch. This is an arch where the curves of the arch continue downward past the horizontal middle axis of the circle and begin to curve towards each other, rather than just being semi-circular forming half a circle only.

They also appear frequently in Visigothic churches in the Iberian peninsula 5th-7th centuries. Perhaps due to this Visigothic influence, horseshoe arches were particularly predominant afterwards in al-Andalus under the Umayyads of Cordoba , although the Andalusi arch was of slightly different profile than the Visigothic arch.

Blind arches and arched niches were also used as decorative elements. The mihrab niche symbolizing the qibla of a mosque was almost invariably in the shape of horseshoe arch. This arch is likely of North African origin, since pointed arches were already present in earlier Fatimid architecture further east.

Polylobed or multifoil arches , have their earliest precedents in Fatimid architecture in Ifriqiya and Egypt and had also appeared in Andalusi architecture such as the Aljaferia palace. In the Almoravid and Almohad periods, this type of arch was further refined for decorative functions while horseshoe arches continued to be standard elsewhere. Polylobed arches at the Almoravid Qubba in Marrakesh.

A polylobed arch in the Mosque of Tinmal. The so-called "lambrequin" arch , [3] [2] with a more intricate profile of lobes and points, was also introduced in the Almoravid period, with an early appearance in the funerary section of the Qarawiyyin Mosque dating from the early 12th century.

Lambrequin arches in the Mosque of Tinmal. A lambrequin arch with muqarnas in the Madrasa al-Attarine , Fes. Arabesques , or floral and vegetal motifs, derive from a long tradition of similar motifs in Syrian, Hellenistic , and Roman architectural ornamentation.

Almoravid and Almohad architecture made more use of a general striated leaf motif, often curling and splitting into unequal parts along an axis of symmetry. Arabesque motifs and a palmette image carved into the spandrel of the Marinid gate at Chellah , Rabat. Arabesque and pine cone motifs along with Kufic inscriptions around the Ben Youssef Madrasa 's mihrab , in Marrakesh.


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