Interview Mr Jamal El Karkouri// Owner Agence EJ Architecture
Thank Mr Jamal for accepting our invitation to help our readers learn more from an African architect based in Morocco.
With pleasure, you are welcome
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you found architecture? Or should we say how architecture found you?
I am Jamal El Karkouri, a German-Moroccan Architect and Engineer established in Kenitra, Morocco. Architecture found me before I even knew the career I wished to pursue. Creativity was my main pillar, considering my penchant for Arts, Design, and Music. I spent my childhood in Morocco and was exposed to signs and fundamental abilities that showed me the right path to follow: an Architect’s career.
I had a natural love of the building process. From a young age, I was creating physical architectural models for fun. My dream to be an African architect was fulfilled when I attended the RWTH-Aachen University in Germany. This University has trained some of the best architects, including the legendary Mies Van Der Rohe.
What impact has architecture had in your life?
African architecture has had a significant impact on my vision in life. My artistic background has inspired and led me to model musical fusion on Morocco architecture: a Euro-African and German-Moroccan fusion.
Rather than being seen as simple rocky shelters, urban African architecture creations are more rhythmic and alive than ever before.
African architects appreciate that everything in architectural designs are connected. The perception of space, the interaction between streets, the synergy between private and public spaces, the diversity of styles, and ergonomics matter in African architecture.
I have learned to look at each project independently and to create a design that is unique and practical.
I am also keen on Morocco’s architecture and the changes modernity brings. Architecture has taught me to be more adaptable to change because African architecture is not static.
How would you describe your professional evolution, particularly the challenges encountered in your transition from Germany to Morocco?
I have an inter-diverse cultural identity. My professional career’s evolution takes its strength from my Moroccan and African roots. However, it flourished through the quality academic education I received at the RWTH-Aachen University.
I also gained considerable experience from different Architecture and Urbanism firms in Germany, leading me to adopt a customized bi-process as an architectural method and vision.
However, the main reason behind coming back to Morocco was my sincere desire to develop African Architecture in my native continent. I strongly believe that the future of the world is in Africa.
Professionally, coming back to Morocco, my native country, wasn’t a challenge, especially after discovering the immense opportunities and infrastructure visions in Morocco. This allowed me to contribute to the economy by enhancing Morocco’s architecture.
How do you believe Architecture can impact the quality of life of African citizens and Moroccans in particular?
For sure, the field of architecture is meant to improve the lifestyle of people.
As an African Architect, specifically a Moroccan, I believe that practicing African architecture will enhance the community’s health, social development, and economic empowerment.
Africa has a lot going for it. There is no limit to what African architecture can do. The geometry and diversity of patterns and colours give African architects the freedom to revolutionize architecture.
African architects are providing functional and high-quality infrastructure for African citizens. This transformation will be crucial if Africa is to compete successfully with other developed nations.
You have been honoured for your work. What has that meant for your professional image as an African architect?
It is a sincere honor to be recognized and awarded multiple times for our works.
We were recently announced the winners of the 2020-2021 African Property Award in the “Leisure Architecture” category. We received a similar award in Berlin in 2017.
We are glad to represent our dear continent, African architects, and Morocco architecture globally. This recognition gives us the energy to give the best of our African identity through Architecture, Urbanism, and Interior Design.
What message would you like to share with your African and International colleagues?
I want to tell my fellow African architects that our continent is rich with human, cultural, and physical resources that can take Africa to the next level. African architecture can use these resources to fulfill Africa’s dream to be recognized by the rest of the world.
As an architect and artist, I consider myself an authentic fan of Africa’s culture, including culinary art, music, sculpture, and much more. A ground-breaking development towards a successful Africa is possible with all the resources in our possession.
This is what pushes us to continue participating in major African projects and competitions. We have successfully competed in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea- Conakry, and Gabon. We are always seeking opportunities to showcase Morocco’s architecture to the rest of Africa and believe that other African architects can adopt some of our concepts.
Finally, I call on all the African countries to exchange their complementary experiences and share their expertise. Africa can achieve global success if we do it together.
By Khalil Soodi
Consultant in Sustainable Engineering & Architectural Systems