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Algiers Under French Rule Overview

Algiers was the home of unending conflicts between the French colonizers and locals, as it was viewed as the best colonial city by the European power; they never wanted to lose it to their counterparts. As urban forms and architecture took shape, confrontations started to emerge, marking the origin of various cultural wrangles. In her book Urban Forms and Colonial Confrontations, Çelik (1997) describes 132 years of French occupation in Algiers; the center of cultural, political, and social conflicts during the time. Urban and architectural forms were crucial parts of the colonial period.

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Algiers’ planning included the casbah fragmentation, an amazing Beaux Arts scheme used for making European style of housing. The city “also engraved the power relations of colonial order power relations onto the urban image” (Çelik, 1997, p. 35). This was a master plan, which was influenced by high modernism and detailed local plans. In the end, a tremendous shortage of housing made all the planning arrangements to be focused on the creation of large-scale residential territories, as seen in the film The Battle of Algiers by Pontecorvo (1966). The architects here based their architectural designs for local space on the traditional house idea, an interdisciplinary colonial idea, which was interlaced with the dialogue on Algerian women.

One significant aspect of the reading and the video is the uniqueness of the approach the French used to rule Algiers. Both the book and the film cover the war proceedings, which marked a notable event in the Algerian war of independence. It was set in the small alleys and backstreets of the Algiers Casbah (Pontecorvo, 1966). I agree with the author that calling this a battle would be inappropriate since it was not city warfare like those in the early 20th century. The confrontations were in the form of close-quarters fights combined with civilians bombing the French troops. Amid this heated violence was one major struggle; controlling the Muslim population of Algiers. Overall, the battle was a pivotal event in the Algerian quest for self-rule, one of the most significant points.


Çelik, Z. (1997). Urban forms and colonial confrontations: Algiers under French rule. University of California Press.

Pontecorvo, G. (Director). (1966). The Battle of Algiers [Video]. YouTube. Web.

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