THE ARCHITECTURE OF COLONIALISM, MOROCCO, 1912-1932: AN INQUIRY INTO THE DETERMINANTS OF FRENCH COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
The main argument in this dissertation is that the history of architecture in Morocco, particularly that of French colonial architecture, has been written on the basis of the same two paradigms according to which most twentieth century architectural historians have interpreted architectural form and the relationship between architecture and society. These are the idealist paradigm, which gives a metaphysical value to architecture and leads to teleologic history and the empiricist paradigm, which sees the essence of architecture in the architectural form itself and engenders descriptive history.
This dissertation proposes a different way of looking at the architecture of colonialism in Morocco. It argues that this architecture is the product of social, economic, political and ideological relationships. Colonial architecture was part of a complex totality encompassing the conditions of its production, entertaining particular relationships with economy, politics and ideology, and taking part fully in the contradictions and antinomies of the colonial context.
To support these arguments, a fourfold theoretical and conceptual framework is suggested. Its constituents are the concepts of overdetermination, problematic, symptomatic reading, and social formation, and these are used to define the complex totality of French colonial architecture in Morocco between 1912 and 1932.
The theoretical and conceptual framework provides the basis for understanding that the architecture of colonialism in Morocco was fundamentally motivated by ideology and politics. It is indeed one of the most spectacular manifestations of state manipulation of a visual culture in the twentieth century. Together with painting and literature, it was part of the means of imposing French hegemony upon a non-industrialized society. On an ideological level, it was supported by the discourse of Orientalism and by the nineteenth century humanism. On a political level, it was supported by the new objectives of French colonial policy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
This dissertation discusses four major issues in order to illustrate French architecture and town planning in Morocco: their apartheid character; their expression of the power of France; their use as media for the reproduction of the French colonial image both in France and abroad; and finally, the role played by French architects in the conception and implementation of France's politics of architecture and town planning in Morocco.
The conceptual and theoretical framework suggested in this study is not particular to the analysis of the architecture of French colonialism in Morocco. It is suitable for any field of architectural knowledge.