Michele Tenzon (Université libre de Bruxelles)

Planning in the Countryside: Models and Ideas for the Rabat Region. (1920-1956)

The contribution explores the overlapping of planning ideas, architectural models and (partially achieved) plans that French technicians elaborated for the Rabat region, in the Moroccan Protectorate, to modernise rural landscape.

Focusing on the inter- and post-war debates, the paper traces the genealogy of these ideas and it describes how original models were adapted to the Moroccan context. Models are presented at different scales:

  • the building: in the 1920s, a programme for the construction of model farms was launched, (Secteurs de Modernisation du Paysannat: SMP). The plan was to scatter SMPs along the countryside to teach to the rural population modern cultural techniques. The idea of model farms was inspired by the works of the Tennessee Valley Authority. However, their functioning derived from models employed by the French army during the country’s pacification.
    Since the late 1930s, experimental houses for Moroccan peasants were built and after World War II, a programme of mass housing for rural population was launched. Dwellings were (vaguely) inspired by traditional typologies.
  • the settlement: the new villages in rural areas built by French in the early years of the Protectorate were mostly military posts then evolved into small commercial poles. In 1947, the urban planner Michel Écochard and his team of collaborators developed a model for a rural centre to serve a community settled in a 10km diameter area.
  • the region: on the base of a national programme that aimed at preventing massive rural exodus, a model for the demographic and economic expansion of rural areas at the regional scale was elaborated. A Chrystallerian, hierarchical network was conceived entailing industrial decentralisation and the reinforcement of mobility infrastructures.

Models are presented in graphic form, using diagrams and schemes and accompanied by quantitative data to facilitate the comparison with agrarian reform programmes in other geographic contexts.

J. Dethier, “Soixante ans d’urbanisme au Maroc”, Bulletin Economique et social du Maroc, 118-119, 1970: p. 5-56
W. Swearingen, Moroccan mirages: agrarian dreams and deceptions 1912-1986, 1987
E. Mauret, “Mise en valeur et équipment rural dans la region de Rabat”, Bulletin économique et social du Maroc, 69, 1956: p. 15-70
J. Fernand, “La modernisation rurale au Maroc”, Annales de Géographie, 55:299, 1946. p. 210-213
Full-text available here: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.1051/SHSCONF/20196306001