Claiming Space in Casablanca: Modernist experiments and user-initiated dwelling transformations in Hay Mohammadi.
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This thesis seeks to provide exploratory insights into the transformation, adaptation and adaptation processes of post-WWII modernist mass-housing projects, using Casablanca's laboratory neighbourhoods as a case-study. A historical contextualisation of Casablanca's development depicts a city shaped by the modernist principles of the Athens Charter. Yet, over the space of half a century, the urban tissue has extensively evolved – both from a social and physical perspective – shaped by its inhabitants and in a fashion that the urban visionaries had not foreseen. Results of a five-week fieldwork focusing on the Hay Mohammadi neighbourhood aim to provide social perspectives into the logics behind these extensive bottom-up, informal dwelling transformations. Using an in-depth, qualitative semi-structured interview process with local inhabitants and other stakeholders, it has been found that the underlying reasons for occupant's appropriation are multiple, and originate from complex and variegated socio-economic, traditional and cultural interplays. Throughout our analysis, we highlight the underexplored relevance of cultural factors in inhabitants' housing practices. We also underline the often overlooked importance of considering ‘immobility' in housing choice: in-situ transformation is as viable a strategy as moving out, especially in contexts where regulatory, political and economic conditions facilitate such practices. These explanations have implications for our appreciation of modernist housing projects and their suitability for 1950s Casablanca, and hold valuable insights for future research on similar neighbourhoods in Europe and the Netherlands, often populated by new migrant communities from the Maghreb.