The Legation is becoming the venue of choice for book presentations, especially books in English or with a connection to the United States. We have done several over the past couple of years, and have two scheduled this week. In partnership with Tangier's premier bookstore Librairie des Colonnes, we feature a book by an American about an American.
Marian McEvoy's Bill Willis is a work of beauty, to match the sumptuous design work of her subject, an American who lived in Morocco for some four decades. Published by Editions Jardin Majorelle and the Pierre Berger – Yves St. Laurent Foundation, McEvoy's book features some of Willis' finest designs, including his evocation of the spirit of the fictional Casablanca of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman fame in the "legendary" Casablanca restaurant Rick's Cafe (link to gallery).
Marian McEvoy – very much the designer herself – shared her insights on Willis with the audience, noting that Bill Willis really had no formal training in architecture. A glance through her book shows how astounding that fact is: Willis had an innate sense of proportion and lighting. His stunning decoration of Rick's Cafe was the result of one site visit.
His idiosyncratic approach to his work must have required a certain flexibility on the part of his clients. Willis – "pharmacologically fueled," as Mitchell Owens describes him in AD – lived a nocturnal life, which sometimes meant that he'd only interact with the construction team at the end of their working day.
But so what? The results are sublime, and make those of us who live within constrained budgets drool with envy. Willis was in large part responsible for the revival of interest in Morocco's handicrafts and artisanship.
Thanks to Madison Cox, the landscape designer who splits his time between New York and Morocco, this hommage to another American in Morocco took place at the Legation, where links between the two countries started in the 18th century. Cox has already shared his talent with the Legation, providing a lovely crushed seashell treatment to our courtyard (photo, right).
Between Madison Cox and Marian McEvoy, we are confident that the Legation will benefit from some of the best American design advice – tempered by years of exposure to Morocco's rich architectural heritage – to help give this place new lustre.