« Rabat, a Metropolitan City », Between Displayed Image, Reality of Image and Identity

Hassan Kharmich, Mouna Sedreddine

Embodying for a long time the image of an administrative capital where the functionary dominate, where the urban setting is aging and where quality of life is declining, the city of Rabat has recently embarked on a frantic race to reinvent a new image: a modern, innovative and qualitative image.

In order to achieve this, several projects and programs of development, embellishment and construction, has been initiated with a common feature which is greatness (large theater, high towers, large stations, large arteries, new centralities, etc.). This greatness aspect is visible through the importance of the areas involved, the volumes and the shapes designed, the modes of transport developed, the means and resources deployed in add to the promotion of architectural signatures of the renowned architects, and the modes of governance and project management. Henceforth, Rabat shows its ambition as a city of culture, as a green city and as a “city of light”.  The time of Rabat, as administrative city, is over.

However, the image displayed and publicized seems controversial compared to the reality of certain urban spaces, often with high heritage value, that develop on the margins of programs and projects initiated. Real deficits are observed in terms of basic equipment and services, in terms of transport network and in terms of urban coherence and social cohesion. Everything contributes to an urban image with two facets: one more qualitative, more modern and more elitist, while the other is more spontaneous, more vulnerable and more devalued.

Faced with this identity transition and this double temporality, what image and identity do we want for Rabat? What vocations do we claim for this city which aspires to become a national and international metropolis? What developments should be advocated for a capital with such a rich and diversified history? What relationship can be established between the local identity and the global identity of the city? How does the citizen apprehend his living spaces in the face of such universal urban model, where social connections as well as the spatial relationship mutate towards new practices?

These questions will be enlightened through the confrontation of major projects underway and urban realities, through the analysis of the new urban model which is universal, modern and generating a new image and a new urban identity, as well as through the impact of these major projects both on the urban landscape and quality of life. It’s with these considerations in mind that this paper is drawn up: « Rabat, a metropolitan city », between displayed image and reality of image and identity.

Keywords

Metropolisation; Urban Image; Local and Global Identity; Innovation; Urban Deficit; Urban Experience; Perception; Media Coverage; Social Connections

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