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In search of a formula… An investigation into the smoothing of a post-traumatic city

Part 1 Dissertation 2013
Khedidja Benniche
Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, UK
We venture into the cool shade of the Casbah’s alleyways, the air is still, there are little signs of life other than the movements of my fellow companions, our guide explains its Friday, Jumuaa, the holy day, the morning is spent in preparation for the Friday prayer, hence the calm. Though its been lifeless for quite some time now he goes on to explain, what with all the troubles, its not the same as it was. I am aware of what he is referring to; this is my second visit to the Casbah. The town’s name is synonymous with the word danger, once known, as the home of the revolution and independence soon became the home of terror, despite it being over a decade since the end of the feud, the reputation stands fast. As we travel on, heading down the stepped paths, towards the sea, we pass a number of ruins; buildings left as they are from the many years of war, and neglect. New voids have opened up, disrupting the density pattern of the labyrinth like citadel. The result is a feeling of unease; most remain as anti-spaces, collecting rubbish, perfect outlines of plans scar the urban carpet, a reminder that homes once stood here. -Account from a visit to the Casbah, Algiers.

Is this to be the consequence of the Casbah? What has often been described as the ‘heart of the city’ has come to a debris-strewn standstill. Decades of war and neglect have taken affect. The Casbah is an exemplification of the post-traumatic city. Ruins and punctured voids remain as ‘terrain vague’.

This dissertation examines the journey of particular places undertaken by cities that have undergone a period of trauma, in order to reach a ‘smooth space’. Is there a formula? If so, what are the components? Through exploring relevant themes and pilot studies that apply to the forces at play in the operations of smoothing one brings to light the factors to consider in the process of achieving a smooth space, in this case during the restoration of the Casbah of Algiers.

Khedidja Benniche

Oscar Brito
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