The Moroccan section of CIAM 1953 – called GAMMA (Groupe d’Architectes Modernes Marocains) – consisted of Michel Écochard and a group of young architects, among them Georges Candilis and Shadrach Woods, who worked with him on the housing estates in Casablanca. They presented an image of the modern city of Casablanca that shocked the older modernists of the CIAM and caused heated discussions among the younger generation of architects. Instead of pure modern architecture, they presented an analysis of the shantytowns in the periphery of Casablanca, an area that was hitherto not considered of any relevance to modern planning, and instead treated as misery that was to be eliminated.
The young GAMMA architects presented a detailed study of the daily life in the so-called Bidonvilles – the settlements where many of the newly arriving rural migrants lived in self- built huts. And the notable thing was not only that they considered the self-built environment of the bidonville as worthy of study, they even proposed that modern architects should take the opportunity to learn from it. The GAMMA group tried to get closer to a reality determined by the concrete conditions of daily life, of local specificities and small-scale interventions. This acceptance of the everyday life of the inhabitants and builders of the bidonvilles was a radical challenge to the abstract rational parameters of the earlier CIAM congresses, which would have considered this ad-hoc urbanism as a pre-modern phenomenon.
The intention of architects and urban planners that wanted to revise modern architectural and planning approaches by integrating knowledge on dwelling practices and habits into urban planning and architecture, was ambivalent, because ethnographic knowledge is ultimately based on specific production conditions – on conditions that might even lead to a fundamental epistemological ‘misrecognition’ (Appadurai 1996). This assumption is sound to the extent that colonialism creates an ‘ethnographic state’ (Dirks 2001), in other words: it subjugates the colonized on the basis of ethnographic knowledge. What is epistemologically misrecognized is rather the status of living conditions and the way the colonized live: instead of taking anthropological knowledge about the lifestyles of the colonized at face value, anthropology – including the anthropology of the ‘other’ modern – must itself be interpreted as an arena of colonial struggles. (Mudimbe 1998)
Though housing programs since the 1950s/1960s did take certain specific local, regional, or cultural conditions into account when they were conceived, these conditions turned out to be much more complex after decolonization than previously thought. The many ways of appropriating space and architecture by people can also lead to the assumption that both colonialism and the postcolonial government never managed to assume complete power over the population. Another way of thinking about architecture without architects might begin with reflecting on the trajectories of colonial and global modernity and how people can make use of them today. The colonial contact zone, which, as James Clifford showed, was affected by concepts and practices of modernity, colonialism, and migration, is reformulated and adapted by minor daily practices, small in scale but globally massive in number and impact. (MvO)
Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996
Serhat Karakayali, «Colonialism and the Critique of Modernity», in: Tom Avermaete, Serhat Karakayali u. Marion von Osten (Hg.), Colonial Modern: Aesthetics of the Past, Rebellions for the Future, London 2010, S. 16-32.
Mudimbe, V.Y.. The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.
Paul Rabinow, French Modern. Norms and Forms of the Social Environment, Cambridge.