MADINATI: landscapes of Algeria

To co-incide with today’s workshop in Tunis on landscapes and shared spaces of the Maghreb, we are introducing MADINATI magazine based in Algeria, whose director Djillali Tahraoui is speaking at the workshop.

Developed out of discussions amongst friends, MADINATI is now an online and print magazine in French, with their latest issue in December 2018 being dedicated to questions of landscape, particularly urban and green space.

Articles are authored by a broad range of people working within landscape in Algeria: authors: landscape architects, architects, urban planners, economists, biologists, agro-ecologists, journalists, writers and artists.

Director and editor of MADINATI, Djillali Tahraoui, an architect, introduces the issue:

Landscape as an alternative / Le paysage comme alternative

To explore the urban landscape alternative is an invitation to approach public spaces from the prism of landscape reading. Moreover, this reading is motivated by a restoration of the primacy of the site, in its historical and geographical components, over the program.

As such, on one hand, this anastrophe allows a legibility of “places” and territories while on the other, it gives meaning to the localities and provides potential solutions to design issues.

In practice, against the voluntarist organization is opposed the “care” for the site, thus favoring the work with time, senses and uses. In fact, this approach would mean a living and dynamic design process able to reconcile architecture and urbanism with the space transitions (adjacent, residual, in-between, etc.) that have been too often neglected. Consequently, the intrinsic data of the site would constitute the very essence of sustainable landscape and evolution.

The studies coordinated by Samir Slama and Farid Hireche reinforce the idea of ​​the need for a reinterpretation of the notion of landscape and the urgency of a total reconsideration of the discipline. The invited contributors come from different horizons, and professional profiles such as landscape architects, architects, economists, biologists, agro-ecologists, journalists, writers and artists. They share the same passion for the landscape albeit, with varied optimism about its future.

Their articles address different aspects of landscape in Algeria, with insights from international examples.

In his introductory article, Kamel Louafi asks the sempiternal question: For whom are public places and gardens designed? and tries, through his long international experience as a landscape architect, to propose some answers by developing his own manifesto “to articulate the imaginary” and (re)find “paradise” in the urban context.

The urban context is also acutely evoked by Fadéla Kettaf and N. Mouaziz-Bouchentouf in their analysis of several public spaces in the city of Oran.

First, Kettaf chooses to demonstrate that “the permanent power of the image” can give meaning to the place through a historically documented study of the emblematic Place du 1er Novembre 1954 (formerly Place d’Armes), which is now part of the “territorial emblems” popular with users.

Similarly, Mouaziz-Bouchentouf is interested in the usage made of the gardens of the Promenade Ibn Badis (formerly Promenade de Létang) and the Mediterranean urban garden and notes several paradoxes in the praxis of these iconic public spaces.

While concerned with the conservation policies of historic gardens, Mohamed Metallaoui is interested in the case of the Jardin de Prague (formerly Jardin Marengo) in Algiers, currently undergoing rehabilitation. He traces the garden’s historical and patrimonial importance which predisposes it to become, once more, a place of sociability and rest for its users.

More skeptical, Slama (re)defines the notion of “the remarkable tree” and explains how this “heritage in perdition” is inventoried over the years, however without any sight for a real support for revival. He hopes that his work announces, “the beginning of a policy of the urban tree, to make it a tool for sustainable urban planning, instead of a mere accessory”.

Specialized in environmental issues, Malika Boudjani notes, based on the study of the management of national parks and its various inconsistencies, that in Algeria, “references to the concept of landscape (such as “Promotion of the city “, “Sites and landscapes”, “Urban systems”) are evacuated from the political discourse, in favor of an “environmental” concept that does not serve landscape management, understood as the everyday management of the living environment of citizens. “

Paradoxically, the recognition of the landscape is at present time, the necessary condition for achieving international recognition of cultural landscapes.

It is precisely this subject that Ammara Bekkouche addresses. She explains that Djebel Murdjadjo, winner of the Elena Mercouri Prize in 2001 {in the cultural landscape category, could be a cradle of urban resilience in the sense that the Mediterranean Games of 2021 offers a unique opportunity to bring together developers’ and civil society’s initiatives in Oran.

For his part, Hireche abounds in the same direction and challenges both civil society and public authorities are experiencing in the face of the deterioration of this cultural and heritage landscape of gardens, Djneïn, Haouach, oasis, garden neighborhoods and parks. Presently, an invaluable heritage exposed to decay and for which the author proposes a “management system inspired by ancestral know-how based on transversality and interdisciplinarity where the democratic and citizen consultation would be the keystone”.

Encouraged by the convincing results that he obtained in the realization of vegetable gardens (Paris-Oran), Fayçal Anseur boasts the great prospects opened by the “Permaculture” and its potential benefits to a Mediterranean city like Oran.

Given the interest and relevance of the theme addressed in this issue, its enrichment by a “look from elsewhere” was welcome. The contribution of Jungwan Seo (South Korea), expressed in the form of a clear, spontaneous and richly illustrated narrative, highlights the characteristics of the Algerian landscapes from the deep south to the Mediterranean Sea which he finds impressive. In her contribution, Emeline Brossard (France), shares with us, her current experience of a unique collaboration in studies for Sétif’s stadium. She explains her methodology and declines her reference to a method based on four main perspectives of analysis around the landscape profession: “the cultural approach, the scales of intervention, the natural and urban environment and the question of the urgency of intervention “. She does not fail to note that the rich and diversified Algerian landscapes do not enjoy the interest and the status they deserve.

In the breakthrough section dedicated to the work of architects, we present the project of Touring Voyage of Biskra designed by Smail Mellaoui, a backdrop of metaphors around two pivotal landscape elements: the palm tree and the palm grove. This project won the Prix National d’Achitecture in 2014.

In the introduction to this present issue, we include a plea by Saddek Benkada for the organization of an exhibition on cartography on the sidelines of the 2021 Mediterranean Games in Oran. In his article, the former Mayor of Oran, reveals that in addition to its fortified city status, Oran is also one of the most mapped cities in my world, which strongly supports the creation of a museum of cartography in this city.

Happy reading and Happy New Year 2019.

[1] Read article : l’alternative du paysage, Sébastien MAROT in Le visiteur n ° 1, Paris, Fall 1995, pp 54-81  Djillali TAHRAOUI, Architect and publication director,  translated by Professor Kheira TABET AOUEL


Shared and submitted by LRG member and MADINATI author Malika Boudjani.