Breaking Ground with the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca
The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP, an internationally recognized architecture and planning firm, recently marked the groundbreaking of the new United States Consulate General in Casablanca, Morocco.
The new U.S. Consulate General will be in Casa Anfa, a redevelopment of the 865-acre former Anfa airport site. Casa Anfa is located 7 kilometers southwest of the historic city center. Centered around a new Casablanca Finance City, the development plan includes office/business uses, upscale housing, shops, hotels, educational facilities and sports and leisure amenities. The new district is planned to accommodate 100,000 workers as well as 100,000 new residents.
The site is a 6.9-acre parcel in the Cite de la Air neighborhood of Casa Anfa, surrounded primarily by mid-rise residential housing developments. A light rail tram line borders the northeast edge of the site with two stations providing convenient access to the site. The new Consulate campus will incorporate a 7,800-square-meter, state-of-the-art Consulate office building, entry pavilions, support facilities and extensive gardens for staff, consular and American Center visitors, meeting current security and safety criteria. This new Consulate serves as the only location within the country to provide Moroccans with Non-Immigrant Visas and Americans Citizen Services to the growing number of Americans traveling for business and tourism.
Inspired by the traditions of the Moroccan urban form of a medina, and its rich history of craft, the design of the new Consulate campus and building focuses on outdoor garden areas that embrace traditional ideas of Moorish and Islamic garden design. Opportunities of solidity and transparency are created by the perforated stainless-steel façade, responding to each program area’s need for solar shading, glare mitigation and privacy. The subtle variety of façade panels draws on the traditions of Moroccan metal handcraft, altering the expression of the building as the sun travels through the day. In the evening, the metal screen becomes illuminated from within, reinforcing the reference to traditional Moroccan lanterns.
Outdoor gardens also dominate the project’s exterior program by providing for outdoor living where people can recreate, socialize and relax. These spaces are a visual amenity to the elevated terraces of the new Consulate building as well as to the taller surrounding buildings in the neighborhood.
A multi-story gallery space at the center of the office building forms the active heart of the building. Open stairs around this heart provide connections at all levels of the building, encouraging occupant interactions. These connections extend to the façade on all levels to outdoor terraces gardens that provide opportunity to meet informally, dine or relax while enjoying Casablanca’s moderate Mediterranean climate.
White stone and stainless-steel metal panels establish the subdued exterior material palette, harmonizing the project to Casablanca’s predominantly white building exteriors. The interior spaces of the project create an experience that contrasts with the exterior by incorporating color-saturated and color-rich spaces inspired by the traditional approaches to color of traditional Moroccan architecture.
Strategies to advance sustainability and resiliency are integrated into the design throughout the project. The design prioritized potable water use reduction by including the use of ultra-low-flow plumbing fixtures and selection of native plants to reduce landscape irrigation. In addition to the use of the perforated stainless-steel façade screen system to reduce solar heat gain, energy reduction will be provided using air handlers with air-to-air energy recovery, a dedicated heat recovery chiller, high efficiency screw chillers, high efficiency lighting fixtures and optimized controls, and the installation of photovoltaic panels. Together, these strategies will reduce the energy usage of the building by nearly 25 per cent.
Miller Hull Partner, Sian Roberts, comments: “We are excited to contribute to what is quickly becoming the most dynamic neighborhood in Casablanca,” “And to represent the best of U.S. design for this vibrant community.”
“The building’s façade was inspired by the rich diversity of Moroccan craft including intricate tile work and woven carpet design, translated into a high-performance skin with each panel responding to its function and exposure,” adds Senior Associate, Mathew Albores.
The architectural practice is currently under an IDIQ contact with OBO and has several other Department of State projects in progress in Niger, Guatemala, Mexico and Malawi.