This project was developed by a private developer to offer a maritime promenade open to the public and some sports fields and recreational opportunities for the residents of the residential project that it is currently building. It is situated on a small peninsula in greater Casablanca, offering 270° views over the ocean.
The site itself is a disused quarry with a grade change of up to 11m between the road and sea level. At this point on the coast, there is no beach, but only a very rocky shore which was totally inaccessible to the public. The maritime engineer confirmed a level of 4.5m as a safe level to be able to install recreational equipment, but the site required protection with rock rip-rap to prevent erosion.
The grade change was at the same time an opportunity and a constraint. We wanted to keep the park area accessible for people with different abilities, while trying to respect the existing configuration of the site so that it seamlessly blended into the surroundings. The harsh sea air also made the choice of a plant palette tricky – the wind and the salt laden air make for hostile growing conditions. The use of the local stone on the site was first seen as an opportunity, but on exploring the options, the small size of the left-over pieces of stone was not enough to create stable walls or to be used in paving, so we opted for the simple and sinuous forms of concrete and larger rocks for the sake of stability. The project has an uncommon status – built on private land but for public use.
The eastern part of the site is a public park, the western part comprises semi-public recreation facilities reserved for the local residents, and a central area, as yet undeveloped, is reserved with the idea of adding a clubhouse with a swimming pool in the future. The client wished to fence the site to protect it from vandalism and unsocial behaviour. One of the challenges was to provide a fence that was not overly present in the eye of the beholder.
The site is very visible from the street at the upper level, varying from 6m to 11m above sea level, yet the abrupt grade change prevented people from getting close to the waterfront. A very graphic approach was taken using generous curves to create shapes inspired from the sea and to create the desired linkages. An important goal was to allow visitors to get closer to the waterfront and to connect to a wider bicycle and pedestrian path to be constructed along 14km of the coast on both sides of the Promenade Park. The main bleachers sculpt and stabilise the natural curve left when the rock was extracted for building purposes many years previously. The crisp outline in cast concrete is enhanced by the play of shadow around the intermediate steps that are offset alternately from the central radius. These bleachers provide a grandstand from which to watch the sun set over the sea, to watch any type of performance that can be organized on the circular space below, or simply to sit and enjoy the company of another. Universal accessibility is ensured through long sloping paths on either side of the project.
The planting took the form of a paisley tapestry, inspired by the curves of waves, water droplets in the sea spray, and the free style movement of seabirds in the air to be repeated by users as they “glide” through the space along the serpentine curves. Colours and textures of the plant foliage add to the paisley motif, enriching the space with layers of interest.
Bench-height low walls serve as seating areas and reinforce the graphic layout under the shade of the Tamarisk trees, one of the few species that managed to adapt to the difficult conditions along the coast.
Playful concrete blocks created seating or play elements at the change of grade between the intermediate platform and the lowest one, thus providing grandstand seats for spectators of the basketball games that are to be played on the court.
A mini football field with synthetic grass and a tennis court complete the spaces available for active team sports. Children’s play equipment in Robina wood is sturdy and naturally resists the vagaries of coastal conditions. Sporting equipment for health training are also included in the programme.
The project using decorative concrete and stabilised sand for most of the paving treatments. The railing along the waterfront looks like a wooden barrier, but it is in fact recycled plastic. The symbolism of this durable use of plastic is not lost as we call to mind the problem of plastics that end up in our oceans.
Client: Espace Développement
Landscape Contractors: STAM / ATELIER VERT
Photography: Jean-Claude Lafitte, Carey Dunan Design
Engineer : Univeering
Project Location: Peninsula, Dar Bouazza, Morocco
Design year: 2019
Year Built: 2020-2021