Jean-François Zevaco

Architect (1916 - 2003)

An accomplished assimilator of forms, Jean-François Zevaco, was a French architect who practiced in Morocco. He opened his office in Casablanca in 1947, in the context of the reconstruction of post-war France, the rise of a new generation of architects in Morocco and the presence of Michel Ecochard as head of the Morocco Department of Urbanism. A “Mushroom City” in search of modernity, a place largely under the influence of California’s architectural fantasies, Casablanca offered a fabulous terrain for experimentation and Zevaco seized on the opportunity to create his modern and eclectic style. His white villas with immense cantilevers and incisive sunbreaks were widely published in the architectural press, and notably by André Bloc in L'Architecture d’Aujourd’hui. Very involved in the research on urban planning that was at the time the focus of the GAMMA (Groupe des Architectes Modernes Marocains), Zevaco advocated a genuinely modern Moroccan language, notably for the reconstruction of Agadir after the devastating earthquake of 1960. In a similar vein to the post-war architectural experimentation underway in Brazil and Mexico, Zevaco worked to adapt the principles of international modernism to the local context. His immense concrete blocks dialog with the sun through their multiple protrusions, slender openings and recesses. Screen walls, monoliths and concrete veils come together in a Moroccan expression of modern architecture in which Zevaco’s work transcends the simplistic opposition between the traditional and the modern.

A French architect born in Casablanca (Morocco) in 1916, Jean-François Zevaco graduated from the École nationale des Beaux-arts de Paris in 1945, where he studied under Emmanuel Pontrémoli and later Eugène Beaudoin in Marseille, during the occupation. Member of the UAM (Union des Architectes Modernes) and founding member of the Moroccan branch of the CIAM – the GAMMA (Groupe des Architectes Modernes Marocains) – in 1980 he was awarded the Aga Khan Prize for his public housing in Agadir. The critic Michel Ragon cites him in his Histoire mondiale de l’architecture and wrote the preface for his monograph in 1999. Deceased in 2003, Jean-François Zevaco mainly built in Morocco, but also designed works in Chad and the Sudan, leaving a legacy of some 165 buildings.

Lucy Hofbauer

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