Abattoirs: From Meat To Culture

Morocco’s first contemporary cultural biennial, and the first of its kind in North Africa, Les Transculturelles des Abattoirs was held in the former slaughterhouses of Casablanca, known as the Abattoirs de Casablanca. For the event, the slaughterhouses were transformed into a vast exhibition space, hosting a wide range of art, architecture, video installations, dance performances, and concerts. Curated by Bureau E.A.S.T., the architecture component of Les Transculturelles introduced a series of micropublic spaces into the abattoirs. Nestled inside the larger space of the slaughterhouses, these autonomous, small-scale mobile structures were designed to encourage interaction and occupation. An international roster of architects contributed installations for the event, including Atelier Bow-Wow (Tokyo), Office dA (Boston), Khoury Levit Fong/Emergent Software (Toronto), Interboro Partners (New York), Eric Ellingsen (Chicago), and Kilo Architectures (Casablanca).

Bureau E.A.S.T. also proposed an installation, yet unlike others, our goal was to propose one piece that will continue to be used after the end of the Biennale event. After closely looking at the beautiful space and its industrial apparatus and infrastructure, as well as chatting with locals living around the abattoirs: two elements struck our minds: 1) existing meat hooks set on tracks which still function, and 2) the need for play space for local children who live crammed in one or two bedrooms with their families, that average 5 people per household. Our solution was to propose a set of swings built with cheap nylon ropes and sheepskins, which are readily available in shops all around the slaughterhouse and are a reminder of the building’s bloody past.  The swings were spread all over a central alleyway of the main slaughterhouse hall. The Hooks were locked into place onto their tracks and the ropes were simply tied to the base of the hooks. Before placing the swings we created a continuous visual tunnel in the alleyway, which was meant to delineate the playground’s territory but also create a visual attraction and channel people towards the back courtyard of the Abattoirs.

Despite many doubts expressed by the press and the municipality that a large art event open to the public, the first of its kind in Morocco, will not attract the general public but rather the educated elite, the event was a total success, more than 100,000 people attended in two days, mainly from working class neighboring areas! After this event, the Abattoirs have been managed by artist volunteers and the NGO casa memoir, and has become the venue for a set of events ranging from musical performances, dance shows, plays, workshops etc.


 Team: Takako Tajima, Aziza Chaouni, Vesna Khan, Sacha Leong (Bureau E.A.S.T.)