“Casbahism” in Europe: the Journey of an Architectural Idea

  • Amin Alsaden Harvard University
Keywords: casbah, typology, mat building, Berlin


The paper examines how a new architectural idea gained visibility within post-WWII European architectural culture. By tracing its trajectory from Casablanca to Berlin, attempting to reconstruct the relationship between the Free University, often considered the prime representative of what later became known as the “mat-building” typology, and the North African “casbah”, the paper explores how the visual or perceptual, emphasized during interactions between the narrative’s protagonists or disseminated through architectural publications, played a salient role in popularizing the idea in European circles. The main argument the inquiry puts forward, by situating the original spark that launched the mat-building idea in research that its chief promoters conducted while in North Africa prior to instrumentalizing this research in later design projects, is that research can stretch the discipline's boundaries by introducing new ideas from plural sources, which can only enrich architectural culture and critique its prevalent, increasingly autonomous, practices. The paper thus elucidates a way in which foreign influences entered Western architectural discourse, constituting a palpable example of how modernist dogmas were challenged by its very agents, through a historicist as well as a cultural 'other', on the eve of postmodernism.
How to Cite
Alsaden, A. (2013). “Casbahism” in Europe: the Journey of an Architectural Idea. ARCC Conference Repository. https://doi.org/10.17831/rep:arcc%y115
Peer-reviewed Papers