- "Part of Who We Are": Using Old Buildings to Foster Citizenship in North Africa (Oran, Algeria, and Casablanca, Morocco)
- Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum
- University of Minnesota Press
- Volume 25, Number 1, Spring 2018
- pp. 44-63
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Historic preservationists in northwest Africa (the Maghreb) have launched vibrant movements to appreciate and preserve mainly French colonial buildings. This essay focuses on the three best-known associations: Bel Horizon and Santé Sidi el Houari in Oran, Algeria, and Casamémoire in Casablanca, Morocco. All three aim to protect the built environment by encouraging people to develop a personal sense of belonging and responsibility for their particular cities. By training guides, establishing an artisanal school, and organizing tours, these vanguard activists are celebrating colonial architecture and the specific qualities of their individual cities, thus nurturing civic-mindedness. They also want to affect the way local people regard their history. They are subtly challenging official stories, ones that suggest the fault for contemporary social problems lies not in government policies but in an inherited cultural mess (Algeria) or in the disorder that results from opposing the monarchy (Morocco). Teaching people to appreciate the design and craft of their buildings encourages them to explore their history without seeing foreign influence only as evidence of a terrible "rupture" from an "authentic" past. By encouraging people to ensure the preservation of those buildings and public spaces in general, the activists are trying to stoke an active understanding of citizenship.