{ casbah }


The Casbah is by definition a citadel or fortress. Historically it was a place of retreat for the Mujahideen during the resistance of the fifties, as it was a space where people can be invisible. It’s also the historical centre of the city, where you can feel the revolutionary heart beating.

During the colonization of Algiers, 2000 houses were amputated from the Casbah to allow the extension of the colonial city around the harbour, however, in spite of the partial destruction of the Arabic medina, this place stayed impenetrable; only the natives could live there because of its complex urban and architectural composition. The urbanism of this district was transmitted orally for many years. There were no street names and wayfinding was not determined by a succession of signs and indications. During the Ottoman era, every sector and alleyway bore the name of notable Algerian families. Indeed, urban design as an academic discipline is a Western invention, which gives visibility and control to the colonial city. The Casbah is the opposite; it gives no transparency, it protects itself and protects the inhabitants who are living there. Its secrets are only transmittedto outsiders through local hosts and the respect of inside codes are a necessity to survive inside. To be guided by an inhabitant of the Casbah is a privilege and at the same time a protection during the walk within it. In addition, what the Casbah teaches us is the right measurement of the individuals towards an architecture of the context, taking into account the climate, the topography and the habits of its inhabitants. All these elements are its strength and that’s what allows it to emancipate itself today from the colonial and modern architecture that is surrounds it. It is in itself the «manifesto» of the vernacular architecture of resistance.


Mouna Abdelkadous