Translation of name: The Kasbah of Algiers, and the site created the city by André Ravéreau
First published in 1989, “La Casbah D’alger et le site Créa la Ville”, is more than just a usual book that pays tribute to an old city with a specific conceptual character that has stood for a very long time. It is an illustrated narrative of an old quarter that has been, for more than four centuries, home for so many generations of locals, settlers, pirates, and fighters… The architect André Ravéreau has devoted a quarter of a century to give us a new lesson of architecture, inspired by one of the least known Mediterranean Architectures, and the romance of cultural and ethical heritage of a non-regionalist constructed and written masterpiece.
A Glimpse about the City
The Kasbah of Algiers is a unique Medina, or an old Maghrebian city made of a series of white-washed traditional houses and narrow streets, standing on a slope, suspended between the blue sky of a coastal atmosphere and the Mediterranean port, all cascading down to meet the sea. It is also known as “la Blanche”, the white one, a city that has inspired, by its multifaceted heritage, the integrity and authenticity of its outstanding location and architectural potential too many artists, travelers, and architects like Le Corbusier, Jean-Jacques Deluz, Fernand Pouillon, and André Ravéreau.
The French architect André Ravéreau, the author of this book, has devoted his career to studying the historicity and the reinterpretations of the vernacular Algerian architecture.
A Site For a Unique City With No Parallel
Not only the Kasbah is considered a model of human settlement, but also the site is one of the main elements of the framework to study this exceptional architectural composition. Hence, the author starts the portrayal of “La Casbah d’Alger”, the Kasbah of Algiers, describing the profound historicity, the important geopolitical position, and the unique landscape and aesthetic of the site. Before ever describing the built residences, he seeks between the lines of the preface and the first chapter to understand the origin and integrity of the site in the thickness of the multifaceted and mixed cultures that have passed by this place, telling us how to save the city from a folkloric intrigue inherited from the colonialist vision of a historical marginality.
A Guideline Through The Book
In the name of a coherent and well-placed architecture, André Ravéreau continues his romantic yet realistic and well-described narrative by taking us across the elements of those perfectly Maghrebian houses. From the center of the dwelling called “patio”, the yard, describing its origin and architectural expressions, as far to illustrate the circumscriptions of the “Algéroise” family of this area and of all times, to the “Terrasses”, those feminine privileged spaces.
Each chapter of this book is dedicated to the explicit description of the architectural composition of one element, not without making it intelligible to us, readers of all times, the sign, the writing, the integrity, the coherence, and the functionality of each. Nothing was left to hazard, the “K’bou’, the “door thought open”, the “door thought closed”, “porches and galleries” — all explicated and exemplified in words, plans, photos taken by Manuelle Roche, and sometimes illustrated by fine sketches, to tell the logic, the purity and the meaningfulness of every single composing detail.
Other chapters were dedicated to further amazing concepts such as “The facade is inside”, which is just another living proof that, in the Kasbah of Algiers, everything was planned, the composition of its thoughtful architecture was achieved in every detail to suit the cultural values and popular customs of the inhabitants. “The other height of life” is a concept where the altitudes of the spaces and the places and even the objects correspond exactly to the comfort of each specific use, and meet the great freedom of occupation of the house.
Life and Legend of the Kasbah
Despite the portrayal of the architectural skills, composition, and decoration, in this chapter, André Ravéreau puts the spotlight on the ethical heritage and the everyday life and rituals of the people living in this old city, to conceive a beautiful portrait of “La Famille Algéroise de la Casbah”, the Algerian Family of the Kasbah, from the late afternoon of a summer day, till the dawn where gathering takes place in the Terrasses under the magic lights of the Mediterranean evenings. The author, seduced by the extraordinary tales of the site, reveals one of the most famous legends of the Kasbah, that will enchant your reading journey of this exceptional book.
When I first read this book I was in my first year of architecture. I have been hearing stories about the Kasbah of Algiers since a very young age and have been there several times, but never have I ever perceived it the way I did after discovering “La Casbah d’Alger et le Site Créa La Ville”. André Ravéreau, with his constructional-thought, intelligence and talent of writing, stated through his words and analysis a heartfelt tribute to the power of the well-conceived and unaltered site that has allowed the city to survive for so long, and offered me a lesson of an architecture that is well-adapted to its context, and thought to the lesser extent.
He taught me to perceive the beyond of the standing fold walls of the houses of this fighting and martyrs city, with admiration and respect, and most importantly to understand the configuration and the harmony of the Algerian and Mediterranean conceptual traits.
Ravéreau, A. and Roche, M., 1989. La Casbah d’Arger, et la site créa la ville. Paris: Sindbad.
Fr.wikipedia.org. 2021. Casbah d’Alger — Wikipédia. [online] Available at: <https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casbah_d%27Alger> [Accessed 27 June 2021].
Le Chatelier, L., 2021. André Ravéreau, passeur et précurseur d’une architecture “située”. [online] Télérama. Available at: <https://www.telerama.fr/scenes/andre-ravereau,-passeur-et-precurseur-dune-architecture-situee,n5349251.php> [Accessed 27 June 2021].
Centre, U., 2021. Kasbah of Algiers. [online] Whc.unesco.org. Available at: <https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/565/> [Accessed 27 June 2021].
Aridj, M., 2021. Kasbah of Algiers – photography of the citadel | Mahdi Aridj Photography. [online] Mahdi Aridj Photography. Available at: <https://www.mahdiaridjphotography.com/en/kasbah-of-algiers-photography-the-citadel/> [Accessed 27 June 2021].
Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine. (2018). Hommage à André Ravéreau architecte (1919-2017) Entre engagement et transmission. [Documentary Film]. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9IIRt5oXL4>