The public housing project comprises units in the city of El Oued, located in east-central Algeria, 350 kilometres from the Tunisian border. It is set in a mountainous desert area, characterized by scattered settlements and small villages, and serves a wide variety of middle-class families. The project as it was finally realized is the result of collaborative efforts between the architects and the local authority. With the clear aim of being responsive to the culture and environment of the region, the design and construction were developed over a period of more than ten years, based on social studies and surveys and a strong awareness of regional identity. The technology adopted for the project is simply a reinforced concrete construction system. Through sensitivity to the climate and to the cultural traditions of the inhabitants, the reinterpretation of socio-spatial needs into built form for public housing has resulted in a residential environment that is both functional and efficient. The incorporation of traditional climate-control techniques into the construction system paves the way for developing aesthetic standards for public-housing schemes and results in a visually appealing residential environment.
The El Oued Housing Project comprises 402 units that vary in surface area. All the units are raised - most are three storeys above ground level - the ground floor being used as a covered space for children to play, with some commercial activities. The complex is a staggered massing of cubic volumes with minimal articulation other than narrow openings for windows. Public spaces and walkways spatially separate the clusters of units. The total site area is 40,000 square metres, the ground footprint being 24,000 square metres, and the total combined floor area is 60,000 square metres.
The project includes four apartment type of various sizes. In the context of developing design concepts for the El Oued Housing Project the architects attempted to develop a desert urban fabric in two directions: the first is the social fabric of public spaces, including patios, pedestrian pathways, covered and open play areas for children, and spaces for women's activities; the second is a climatically appropriate fabric with densely shaded areas and direct ventilation to help combat the summer heat.
400 Housing Units Presentation Panels. Courtesy of Architect. Geneva: Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 2001.
Presentation panels are drawings, images, and text graphically prepared by the architect and submitted to the Aga Khan Award for Architecture during the later round of the Award cycle. The portfolios are kept in the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Library for consultation purposes.