Towards a Stylistic Characterization of the French Colonial Architecture Produced in Southern Algeria. Case Study of Public Buildings

Nassiba Benghida, Leila Sriti
Algeria, like the other Maghreb countries, had a long period of colonization. At independence, most Algerian cities inherited an important architectural legacy, which appears mainly at the level of public buildings and more clearly in institutional buildings to symbolize the presence, power and domination of France on the colonized Algerian territory. This architecture was expressed in a particular stylistic register based on the re-employment of architectural elements used in the local architecture and on the import of western exogenous models, whether historical or modern.
Most studies which were interested in colonial architecture in Algeria have focused on northern cities. According to these studies, the colonial architectural legacy has been identified with a set of formal characteristics concerned with the so-called neo-Moorish style (or arabisance). However, the question of the stylistic identification of the colonial architecture produced in the south of the country remains posed. Have a unique style been adopted for all Algerian territory, in this fact a Moorish one? Or was each region characterized by its own style (a local style)? Does the institutional colonial architecture produced in the south of the country admit a specific style compared to the north of the country? Can we speak about a Saharan colonial architecture?
To answer these questions, a comparative study was carried out on a corpus of some public buildings facades dating from the colonial era. The facades were selected in various regions of Algeria. The objective of the study is to identify the formal characteristics of the colonial public Saharan buildings readable in the facades and, then, comparing them with the dominant styles adopted in the institutional architecture of northern cities.
The preliminary results obtained from the morpho-stylistic analysis of the facades indicate that the neo-Moorish style that predominated in the treatment of public buildings in the north of the country differs from the style adopted in the south of the country. The analysis also identified architectural constants and variations among the major Saharan regions.


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National Archives of Overseas Aix en Provence Marseille

The archive of the popular municipal assemblies (APC) of some Saharan cities.