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Project leader: Mouna Abdelkadous (2019-)

Casbah: Orientalism as an architectural practice

’The Casbah is by definition a citadel, a fortress. Historically it was a place of retreat for the Mujahideen during the resistance in the fifties, it was a space where people can be invisible. It is also the historical center of the city where you can feel the revolutionary heart beating. During the colonization, the Casbah was amputated of 2000 houses to allow the extension of the colonial city in the harbor. However, in spite of the partial destruction of the Arabic Medina, this place stayed impenetrable, only the natives could live there because of its urban and architectural complex composition. Obviously, the urbanism of this district was transmitted orally, for many years. There were no streets’ names, it was not determined by a succession of signs indications. During the Ottoman era, every sector, alleyways were bored by the name of Algerian notables’ families. Indeed the urban design as an academic discipline is a Western invention, it gives visibility and control to the colonial city. The Casbah is at the opposite, it gives no transparency, it protects itself and protects the inhabitants who are living there. It shows its secrets if only someone from their host you, the respect of the inside codes are a necessity to survive in it. 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, it takes into account the climate, the topography and the habits of its inhabitants. All these elements are its strength and that is what allows it to emancipate today from the colonial and modern architecture that is around it. It is in itself the «manifesto» of the vernacular architecture of resistance.’

Casbah of Algiers – March 2019, Mouna Abdelkadous