Architect Omar Benmoussa transforms Rabi’s studio and office space with an abundance of natural light the artist craved to create his abstract paintings
Thick black lines unfurling against a white canvas define Abdelkébir Rabi’s abstract paintings. These pieces are imbued with a poetic quality, a dance between luminescence and darkness that has propelled the revered Moroccan artist for decades, and although Rabi craves an abundance of natural light to create them, his atelier in central Casablanca was deprived of it until Omar Benmoussa was invited inside to transform it.
“The initial space was dimly lit due to small windows overlooking the outside,” recalls Benmoussa, founder of the local architecture practice Studio BO, and to brighten it, he deemed an expansion necessary. Benmoussa removed a wall, folded in a previously unused interior courtyard, and “suddenly, although our intervention was minimal,” he points out, the 70m² studio “gained an immeasurable contribution of light.”
To amplify this newfound radiance, Benmoussa essentially reimagined the space as a solarium by introducing a strikingly curved glazed ceiling, a skylight that spans the room and “follows the artist wherever he goes,” as Benmoussa puts it. The rounded canopy is fashioned out of durable powder-coated metal and sandblasted, heat-tempered glass that diffuses the light and eliminates the appearance of any distracting shadows.
“Being a painter’s studio, shadows were a very important element, because they can disturb the artist during his production,” explains Benmoussa. “The result was more satisfying than expected, since you feel enveloped, dressed in this soft light.”
Beyond instilling an organic layer of warmth, Rabi desired comfort, and Benmoussa responded with a neutral palette and pared-back materials, contrasting oak parquet flooring with swathes of local travertine, most notably in the form of a vast low-rise shelving unit crowned with an array of Rabi’s works. In the living area, the pairing of Marcel Breuer and Harry Bertoia’s Wassily and Diamond chairs, for example, adds a sleek but graceful industrial air.
It’s a place for painting and unwinding, but the studio also serves as Rabi’s office, for which Benmoussa cleverly built a desk and bookcase situated on rails and wheels. Rabi simply slides away the portable library to access an unsightly space-maximizing storage nook that he prefers to keep concealed within his uncluttered sanctuary.
Filling all of Rabi’s motley artistic needs was Benmoussa’s main objective for the studio, and so functionality is at the heart of his design. But the outcome is also “inspiring,” says Benmoussa, “thanks to its almost divine overhead light.”
Images by Alessio Mei
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