The Casbah

The Casbah – Algiers


Mouna Abdelkadous

This research focuses on the Casbah of Algiers and its Orientalism. Located on the edge of the Mediterranean sea, Algiers has two vast architectural heritages; the first conducted by the French and the second is Arab-Berber.

During its contemporary history, Algiers has carried the burden of its colonization. An authoritarian time during which the French leaders carried out a repressive urban policy.
Colonial domination has been exercised for nearly 150 years. The Algerian people have experienced the cruelty of colonial dictates. This colonization was also exercised within culture and architecture. It was characterized by spatial orientalism that has operated with Modernism led by the CIAM team.

With the Athens’ Charter, Le Corbusier proposed a sanitized vision of Paris. At that time he brought with him a hygienist and orientalist perception of a globalized architecture to Algiers with some students such as Roland Simounet. It is within several archives, sketches, and writings that modernist philosophy stands authoritatively, considering Algerian cities as laboratories for large scale experimentations. Fifty seven years after its independence, the traces of this colonial mutilation still exists, materialized by large avenues along the coast or with modernist standards such as the building bars of “Bab el Oued” in which several families are still packed nowadays.

This critique of modernism in Algiers intends to deconstruct the orientalist contrast that came with the French colonialism during the first part of the 20th century. It is through photographic architectural archives and artistic productions that I will deconstruct the colonial modernist theory in order to clarify the context.

Today the Casbah is a museum in ruins, mutilated self talk. This district of Algiers resides unknown to the architectural historians, despite its great contribution to contemporary Western architecture. My goal is simple; it aims to connect a city with its various heritages (Roman, Ottoman, and French), to rebuild a collective and resilient history that resonates the native’s voices: A collective and emancipated heritage.