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Efforts to restore the historic Algiers district are accelerating

#Efforts #restore #historic #Algiers #district #accelerating

The Algerian capital’s kasbah, a UNESCO-listed rabbit warren with 16th-century battlements and Ottoman palaces, is falling into disrepair, but efforts to save it have accelerated.

The densely populated district, about a kilometer in diameter, towers over the Bay of Algiers and has been the scene of important moments in the history of the North African country.

Some buildings weakened by earthquakes, floods or fires are still supported with scaffolding, but a plan launched in 2012 aims to rehabilitate the area.

Work to restore the Kasbah began right after Algeria gained independence from France in 1962.

That was about six years after a battle between French colonial troops and urban guerrillas from the National Liberation Front (FLN) that was later immortalized in Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film The Battle of Algiers, which was filmed on-site at the Kasbah.

Efforts to restore the buildings involved “multiple plans and multiple stakeholders,” said Aissa Mesri of Archimed, a firm that studies the kasbah and oversees the work.

“Restoration work was started and then stopped for financial, technical or legal reasons related to the property,” he added, bemoaning the lack of a “clear vision” for a “Casbah project”.

The 2012 plan was approved with a budget of €170 million (now $170 million).

The aim of the project is to give the Kasbah its “authentic face” back, to protect it in the long term and to keep at least some of its residents in their homes.

– Heroine of the Battle of Algiers –

The government project has already restored a number of prominent buildings, including part of the citadel, which includes the Dey Palace, the Mosque and the Ammunition Depot, which have been partially open to visitors since November 2020.

The mosque was decorated with earthenware, marble and Arabic screen printing.

A cluster of four houses that once served as a haven for key figures in the War of Independence, including the militant Djamila Bouhired, a heroine of the Battle of Algiers, has been renovated.

The Ketchaoua Mosque, which had been closed since 2008 after being severely damaged by a powerful earthquake five years earlier, has also been restored.

The Ottoman-era mosque reopened in April 2018 after 37 months of construction, which was fully funded by the Turkish government.

Before the restoration plan began, the Algerian authorities had launched emergency measures to “consolidate buildings at risk of collapsing,” said Mehdi Ali Pacha, head of an architectural firm specializing in monument preservation.

“More than 300 buildings were upgraded in 2008 and 2013,” adds the architect, whose office conducted restoration studies.

– “Residents a problem” –

Restoration work on the many small traditional houses in the kasbah are sometimes hampered by local residents who deny access to architects or workers.

“The residents remain a problem. There are some small old houses that have been emptied and bricked up by the town hall.

“There’s no problem, we can work.

“When the houses are inhabited, the studies are completed as well as possible with difficult access,” complained Ali Pacha.

At the end of 2018, the redevelopment of the kasbah was at the center of controversy in both France and Algeria after the Algerian authorities decided to commission French architect Jean Nouvel with a development plan.

Around 400 people, mostly architects, planners and academics, asked Nouvel to withdraw from the project.

The petitioners feared that a French architect might propose modifications to a key site of the Battle of Algiers.

The company was eventually abandoned.

Seven restoration projects of historic buildings are currently underway, according to Fatima Larbi, an architect with the Algiers Public Works Department, quoted by the official APS news agency.

“The goal is to revitalize and upgrade the Kasbah,” said Ali Pacha.

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#Efforts #restore #historic #Algiers #district #accelerating

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