Modern Marrakech: Contemporary Buildings Reinventing the City

The Yves Saint Laurent Museum is just one example of Marrakech's modern architecture
The Yves Saint Laurent Museum is just one example of Marrakech's modern architecture | © Ian Bottle / Alamy Stock Photo
Planning a trip to Marrakech doesn’t mean that you have to stay within the ancient city walls and spend all your time in the souks. Explore a changing city with much modern and innovative architecture.

Marrakech is a city that appears to have barely changed for centuries and has long been known for its old world charm. In the city centre its buildings are chaotically interwoven, with life bustling beneath them in the same way it has done for hundreds of years. But look just beyond the walled city of the medina and you’ll discover a raft of modern architecture that’s just as exciting as the souks of the old town.

Marrakech Menara Airport

You don’t have to go far to experience some of Marrakech’s finest modern architecture; Marrakech Menara Airport itself is a sight to behold, so make sure you stop to appreciate it as you pass through. Its extension, completed in 2008, completely modernises the airport with a facade that paints a contemporary view of Moroccan design while paying homage to its history. Made up of a distinctive geometric pattern with intricate cut outs, it reflects traditional Islamic design. Depending on the time of day, it will cast beautiful shadows across the entrance’s walkway. Look out for the glass-dome atrium too – an impressive finishing touch to a decidedly stress-free airport.

The 2008 extension of Marrakech Menara Airport reflects traditional Islamic design © Perry van Munster / Alamy Stock Photo

Fobe House

A private residence originally built for a Belgian film director by architect Guilhem Eustache, Fobe House lies just outside the main centre of Marrakech. Looking more like a futuristic film set than a home, it has a stark white design that contrasts with the barren desert landscape it is situated within. With a main house, an out-house for the caretaker, a garage and a pool house, the complex is made up of a number of buildings independent of each other, with their own functions. A far cry from the historic buildings located in the centre of Marrakech, together they form what is one of the most unique properties in Morocco.

Yves Saint Laurent Museum

The Yves Saint Laurent Museum is one of the most-visited in Marrakech for good reason, even just the building itself is reason enough to go. Although striking in design, it blends seamlessly into its environment. The terracotta bricks which make up to the top half of the building’s exterior are made from Moroccan soil, fabricated by local artisans, while the terrazzo tiles used for the bottom half are constructed from locally sourced marble – facts that Saint Laurent himself would surely appreciate.

The Yves Saint Laurent Museum was crafted with local means Left: © Valentina Cantera / Alamy Stock Photo | Right: © M.Sobreira / Alamy Stock Photo

Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden

Since its opening in 2018, the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden has celebrated innovative work by artists across all of Africa in its humble yet distinctive building just southeast of the Medina. Similar to the YSL Museum, MACAAL is a clearly modern building, yet it pays tribute to the traditional architecture of Marrakech. The terracotta bricks used for the exterior are an homage to the pinky orange hue which makes up much of the city, while the squared edges and plain front of the facade is reminiscent of the old city walls which envelop the Medina. Visit MACAAL for the building, stay for the art.

Comptoir des Mines Gallery

Located in Gueliz, the Comptoir des Mines Gallery is a window into Marrakech’s French colonial past. Built in 1932 at the height of the Art Deco era, it once housed a mining company but is now a contemporary art gallery, promoting the work of artists from Morocco and beyond. The building’s exterior is fairly modest with clean straight lines and angles, but inside is where it really shines – you’ll find marbled walls, Art Deco light fittings and best of all, a sweeping modernist staircase. Back in the 1930s this building portrayed a new Marrakech, a city evolving from its ancient traditions and this notion rings true today in the contemporary art on its walls, which look to the future while acknowledging the city’s rich history.

The Comptoire des Mines Gallery is home to a contemporary art gallery © Btihal Remli / Culture Trip