Architectural Travel Notes, Morocco

Wind over water at the unornamented mirror lake of Menara Gardens. Built afar, adjacent the olive grove, by an imagined beduin cult of brutalist worshippers.

There is no photographic image, no advertisement, no glowing condensed corporate typography. Buildings seem to emerge directly from the reddish-brown ground, molding into soft cubes and boxes. The cityscape does not pry for attention, its decidedly nonmodern psychogeography seamlessly merges into a pastoral sprawl inflated to vast dimension and density.

I have a great affection for cats, as all tasteful and self-respecting humans do. Particularly, I cherish their arcane capability to offer a particular kind of intense, but silent companionship. Observing a city beneath a full moon, low and heavy, in quiet unison with a cat is a privilege quite uncomparable to anything else.

Palais el Badi: Afroeuropean Mythologies

A gleaming S-Class in black and chrome is parked next to a reddish clay wall, passed by a kid on a creaking bicycle and a handsome old man in a grey kaftan (I take special note of his accurately groomed, short grey beard). The limousine’s presence marks the place as psychogeographic science fiction. It is an intruder, an object from another time and universe, one I seem to be strangely familiar with: NFC readers, softly organic trainers, caftans, dust, cooked wool, satellite dishes, Buckydomes, walled gardens, fliphones, iPhones, hairstyles, all somehow materializing in an unexpected kind of 2020.

Urban Moroccan housing defaults to a subtle ledge starting on the first floor. It offers shade to the life in the street, increases the size of the living quarters (ground floors are mostly used for storage or workshops) and lends an element of decided, simple ornamentation to the otherwise plain cube. This is usually mirrored by the roof construction: the top floor is reduced to about a third of the ground floor area, creating a large terrace. From this, the shape of the residential unit emerges: a soft-edged rectangular box, defined by two interrelating incisions.

A bed in the desert, nature in perfect silence. There is the soft sound of flocks of small puffy birds passing overhead, and a warm breeze. Sun sets over the ranges, the desaturated Atlas mountains loom in the background. Life is forced into equilibrium. Many ways to go from here. (02/10/20)

In Casablanca, architecture appears to be more substance than artefact. It seems to bee perpetually melting, flaking, merging with nature and civilisation. Many buildings echo a faint Art Deco heritage, misunderstood even by the foreigners that brought it to these parts. Since, the idea of the graceful line seems to have evolved into something more organic, matching northern African sensibilities and energies. Here, the new and modern appears as just another iteration, reintegrated into the profoundly social mechanics of the medinas and markets, all refinement reserved for two-storey courtyards, areas of consultation and quietness.

What would you go to Casablanca for? For two days? — Ingrid

Präziser Schatten

Ich fragte Kachelbad, ob er das Gefühl kenne, wenn man sich bewusst macht, dass man gerade in diesem einen Augenblick existiere, und Kachelbad wusste, wovon ich sprach: Es dauert nur wenige Sekunden, wenn man darüber nachdenkt und schon wird einem mulmig und bekommt das Gefühl, zu verschwinden. Als sei man immer weniger Körper und immer mehr Gedanke. Fast meint man, sich von hinten zu sehen, sich in Auflösung zu begreifen und nur noch zu denken. So ein Himmel und so eine Situation provozieren jenes Gefühl vielleicht auch. Doch seit meiner Kindheit überfallen mich derlei Gedanken. Ich mache mir bewusst, dass ich gerade nun in diesem Augenblick existiere, dass es all das gibt, was ich sehe und spüre und fühle, dass es die Physik gibt, dass Handlungen Konsequenzen haben, ich sehe meine Hände, begreife meine Augen und verstehe, dass niemand frei ist, weil alles Konsequenzen hat, auf die man reagieren muss. Doch das Denken bleibt abstrakt, so lange, bis ich fast mantrisch immer wieder um den Gedanken kreise, dass ich jetzt gerade hier in diesem einen Moment existiere und dass das nicht anzweifelbar ist, eben weil dieser Gedanke sich durch die Zeit bewegt und eine Geschichte und eine Zukunft hat, er steht vor der Geschichte und macht deutlich, dass Entscheidungen erforderlich sind (Atmung, Nahrung, Bewegung, Leben oder das Gegenteil), und mir wird mulmig zumute, noch mulmiger. Gleichzeitig aber gibt es keinen anderen Modus, in dem ich so deutlich meine Existenz spüre. Die Vorstellung, was wäre, wenn das nicht wirklich sei, was also die Alternative zum Dasein wäre, ist undenkbar, sie bleibt abstrakt.

Hendrik Otremba, Kachelbad’s Erbe, 369-370. Hoffmann und Campe, 2019.

Es ist eine einigermaßen spezifische Empfindung, und sie derart präzise formuliert zu lesen, macht ein bemerkenswert warmes und verstörendes Gefühl, der lebende Schatten des eigenen Inneren auf einem Display eines Ultraschallgeräts.

Gasoline Zen

It’s remarkably silent as we slowly cross Beethoven Street. I ponder the gradually passing shadows and whether they are the most real thing I’ve seen today. Dry-clean smell permeates this black Kia Optima. We keep inching along Culver. Finally, the freeway sprawl, in front of us. I servo down a window in anticipation – only to find the freeway packed with the afternoon jam, and myself in stasis again.

Jon said that Uber has put a layer on top of the city, opened it up. It provides no freedom, replacing one rigged system with another. New economics, but no new access (economics newer create new things). Nothing improved, it’s a stall, sideways momentum. My driver is a quiet, chinese man, entirely clad in beige. He puts a Muji tray of caramel sweets on the handrest. I take one and never eat it.

Under the street lights, a Volkswagen Passat stops to pick me up. Its interior smells of industrial strawberries, the stereo playing progressive sidechain arpeggios. There is a moody iridiscent sliver in me that enjoys how well this music matches the ride, the nighttime tunnel flow. We are traversing the dark city in an almost meditative state. Gasoline Zen, I post to Twitter.

The music selection is an integral part of every ride, in a very different way than during Berlin Taxi rides. American radio stations somehow seem to have access to a deeper archive of 1980s rock classics, inacceptable music that seems strangely adequate in Californian air. Toto, Stones, The Wings, they all seem to complete a cliché that may be more real than the actual city.

Thomas is driving me. He is in a palm tree-patterned daishiki. He is listening to The Wave radio at full volume, some black-eyed R’n’B, and keeps humming along. The ever-present industrial strawberry smell mixes with his vanilla perfume. All of this is highly pleasant.

This one blasts trap beats, the stereo’s volume perfectly tuned. As the sun casts soft shadows onto my ankles, I notice yet another variant of the faint dry clean/dried fruit scent that I am unable to place (this country’s olfactory industry has long since emancipated itself from the limited selection of fruit available on earth, I scrawl into my notebook). The car is en route to Los Feliz, where I’d like to visit Ennis House, and stare at the cityscape in dusk and sun. On Glendower Avenue, the door closes and the Prius hums away. I remain by myself on a steep road, next to a vaguely Aztec structure.

In my life, in moments of clarity, in moments of being close to myself, the world has felt abstracted, foreign and incompatible. In these moments, I have felt akin to the patterns of eroded signage paint on tar, to the shapes of the clouds, to insects resting on a sun-basked leaf. I have felt disconnected, yet at home in the cracks and ends, at home inscribed into the patterns, nowhere to be found but somehow. (010717)


I am not sure on which mental or metaphysical level this kind of disassociation occurs. It may be beyond the biological firmware, in the sense that systems of perception are recording everything with ultimate precision, in a kind of sensory equivalent to raw sensor output. It is not fully processed, as the cognitive system occupies itself elsewhere, with more pressing (and de-pressing) matters. But the data of every moment exists, and we exist in it.

Now, the thing to be learned is to re-associate again, to solely be in the moment. To let the sensory data wash through all of our being, and fill everything with the wonder of the phrase I am Here. To understand and negotiate being there (implying the ontological separation from the world) and being here (implying oneness of perceiving and existing).

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