With the help of the designer of Casablancan, a foreign art dealer created a residence that is always undergoing the next update.
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Photo by David Fernandez
In the collective imagination of the West, Morocco is arid and desert-like, and the maze of clay walls in the Marrakech Medina represents the entire country. But Tangier is located 350 miles north of the city, on the edge of the Rif Mountains where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. The climate is humid: heavy rains occur from New Year to Easter, and then occasionally during the rest of the year. The wallpaper bubbles behind the closet, the paint peeling off, and the shoes turned green due to mold. In summer, dense fog covers the city's historic walled fortress Casbah.
Despite the unpredictable climate, Tangier, an hour away by ferry from Spain, has long been home to a group of anachronistic and aesthetic Europeans. From 1923 to 1956, it was managed as an international district different from Morocco (the country controlled by France and Spain at the time), attracting diplomats, movie stars, writers, and spies, and a generation of European residents were impressed by the city’s laid-back atmosphere Attracted. Cosmopolitanism, and architecture that combines the filigree arches of Moorish culture with the simple curves of Art Deco style.
This unique aesthetic has attracted the Hispanic American classical master painting dealer Christopher González-Aller (Christopher González-Aller) to a certain extent. 59-year-old González-Aller grew up mainly in Manhattan near Washington Square Park, but he got to know Tangier through his mother who frequently visits the city. In 2017, he bought an early 20th-century square three-story house near an old weather tower on a small pedestrian street close to the hillside of the Kasbah city wall.
González-Aller’s airy, unpretentious 1,900-square-foot house is painted in a typical Tangier style, with a wide black door, away from the street, almost behind the neighbor’s two-story structure Invisible. The previous owners, an American couple, updated the original room with track lighting and modern Moroccan details. At first, González-Aller tried to redo the place himself, picking up furniture from Charf, a low-lying community where local craftsmen weave cane grass into lampshades, chairs and sideboards. But after the dealer took his friend Marie-Françoise Giacolette from Casablanca to visit the house, he knew he had found the right person to redesign it.
GIACOLETTE draws inspiration from the Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy, who has rekindled his interest in traditional and sustainable Arab architecture since the 1960s. Over the years, she has developed a practice that combines her sensibility with the sensibility of her clients, a collaboration defined by Giacolette's natural intuition.
"Before me, she knew I wanted my Tangier house to be like Greenwich Village in the 1960s," González-Aller said. Today, his residence is full of carpets and Moroccan objects, but it also alludes to the bohemian style of mid-20th century New York City: In the dining room, Noguchi paper lanterns are hung above the bété wooden table designed by Giacolette; nearby; , The salvaged iron grid serves as a room divider. Unlike the old masters sold by González-Aller, the lavender wall is hung with unrestored portraits of oil paintings in simple gilded frames. In order to replace the modern plumbing fixtures that the former owner was considering upgrading, he went to the famous flea market Casabarata, looking for vintage Roca sinks and basins from the 1940s and 50s.
The designer also made structural changes, rebuilt the central staircase and demolished the corridors, leaving the rooms directly open to each other. She hollowed out the interior of the house, leaving two intact load-bearing walls, and then reconfigured the space on each floor into a large central room, flanked by two smaller rooms-this layout allows natural light And air circulation. Giacolette then produced new exposed columns in Ksar el-Kebir, 60 miles away, built with hand-made bricks, called macizo (from Spanish, meaning "solid"). From May to October, artisans there use eucalyptus harvested in the previous season to power their kilns. The use of these local materials and techniques is an integral part of her work: she uses a mixture of limestone, water, and polvo (a type of crushed stone from a nearby quarry), instead of using ubiquitous cement to make Tangier’s The new building becomes rough with stone walls suitable for urban humidity. These walls are covered with lime water and coated with powder paints such as ochre, cadmium and cobalt. Elsewhere, the interplay of tile work and textiles-in the kitchen, wavy zellige tiles produced in Fez using 10th century technology; in the living area, the benches are decorated with embroidered gold and black cut velvet-creating a kind A sense of hierarchy that is both ancient and modern.
Seen from the roof garden, mimosa, rosemary, purple succulents and waxy broad-leaf alfalfa are planted, and the scenery changes with the weather. Sometimes, the Spanish port of Tarifa can be seen across the Strait of Gibraltar; on other days, the mist-shrouded mountains seem to recede into the distance. For most clients and designers, this project is complete, but Giacolette and González-Aller still meet most of the time, adjusting surfaces and resuspending textiles, replacing vases with water bottles or updating fabrics. In the hot summer, the painters will come back, and Giacolette will be there, mixing the paint with lime to make sure the color is correct. Some of her collaborators have become accustomed to calling her mâallema, which is an Arabic term used exclusively by female craftsmen-but more precisely, "someone who knows."