Morocco has long been one of my “bucket list” destinations. Of course, I was delighted when I learned the Design Leadership Summit was going to be in Marrakech. I couldn’t wait to pack my bags (note the plural for one who swears by the one bag only rule). And it did not disappoint!! As expected, it is exotic, historic and romantic. Women in headscarves, donkey’s a primary mode of transportation, camels on street corners, snakes in the main square and an abundance of opportunities to bargain for anything from beads to boxes, scarves to slippers, and rugs to lights.
The traffic is frightening, the drivers terrifying and the taxis ready to fall apart. But, once at your destination the sensory inspiration is overwhelming. You simply do not know what to look at first. I tried to stay focused on three things; saturated colors, architectural shapes (a result of its complex past) and patterns with their Persian influence. The most compelling idea is that there is a visual freshness to the ancient aesthetic.
There are many design influences in Morocco. Most obvious are Islamic, particularly the patterns used in the tiling. Spanish, for decorative and exuberant detail and French for their organization of the cities; buildings that are only 4 stories tall and flat roofs. Under the French, balconies were constructed not to look over neighboring courtyards and at least 20 percent of the building area was dedicated to a courtyard (an open area with access to God) or green area. They encouraged public parks and wide boulevards. The architecture today remains a combination of old and new and includes emblematic features such as domes and arches and architectural lines reminiscent of Casbahs. In visiting 2 riads, I noticed very high ceilings, long and narrow rooms, very few windows on the outer walls with the majority of light coming through the open courtyard and open doors. I have been told that the plumbing is antiquated particularly in the medina.
I was completely intrigued by the finishes and tile surfaces used on floors and walls. The cement floor tiles, in countless colors as well as graphic patterns both traditional and modern, are usually 8″ squares though other shares are available. The cement is hand finished and has a slightly irregular appearance. They are cool to the touch and help keep the buildings cool.
The ceramic tiles are patterned as well. The patterns are geometric, floral or calligraphic. I must have taken hundreds of photos of the beautiful zellij tiles in bright colors with some softer neutrals (favorites of Moroccan Berbers). They become one texture amongst many in a Moroccan interior.
In another post I will return to Morocco to write about the tiles and colors. However, if you happen to be in LA this week to participate in LCDQ, please visit the Waterworks Showroom on Thursday, 5/10 from 10-11am for the “Visions of the World: Morocco” panel discussion. Also, be sure to check out the delightful windows created for LCDQ in the Moroccan theme by designer Philip Gorrivan. They are festive, colorful and authentic.