During their official occupation of Morocco from 1912 to 1956, the French colonial government conducted a program of urban design and architecture that not only transformed every major city in the territory, but also anticipated and influenced many practices that had not yet arrived in Europe or America. (The first modern zoning laws in Morocco were passed in 1914, before New York or Paris.) Morocco is also a special example because of the explicit political relationship between urban design and French imperialism. And although the goal here is not to make moral judgments on the history of French colonial urbanism, the explicitly political character of urban design in this context must be understood as integral to the story. Rather than focus on the subjugation of the so-called indigenous people at the hands of the colonial regime, this research is more concerned with the emergence of techniques and hybrid typologies that developed from the merging of two cultures.

By creating vignettes of three different cities during three different periods (Rabat, Casablanca, and Agadir) we can view the shifting role of urban design in a context where it was employed to develop new schemes of inhabitation for a rapidly evolving population and ask ourselves the following question: “Is it possible again for our discipline to take a leading position by aggressively stating not only what cities are, but also what they can possibly become?"