June 1, 2011

Casbah of Commerce: Foster + Partners Brings Elegance To A Moroccan Bank’s Regional Offices

At first glance, one might mistake these two Moroccan buildings for a museum of contemporary art or the office of a savvy technology company. Not so. Both are regional headquarters for the Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur, in Casablanca and Rabat. And both are by Foster + Partners.

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Norman Foster employed the same modular approach for Casablanca, at 2,200 square feet, and Rabat, at 3,000. The kitlike sequence begins on the exterior with concrete-framed colonnades that provide energy-efficient shade from the subtropical sun. They’re followed by window screens that reinterpret tra­ditional Islamic patterns—in stainless-steel strips 8 inches deep for enhanced security.

foster and partners

Topping everything are solar panels and a dome not unlike those found on mosques. Below is what Foster calls an “earth tube,” a system that draws outside air into a PVC pipe buried 6½ feet underground to be cooled naturally and circulated upward. Locally sourced materials, such as limestone and granite, support the green effort.

The banks are the first two projects in Africa by Foster + Partners. A third branch opens in Fez in July.

foster and partners

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