Rock the Casbah

June 11, 2009

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When it comes to the future of cities, it is often easiest to look to Le Corbusier. In the case of the future of Algiers it appears Corbu thought of it too. After his visit in 1931 he took it upon himself to design a plan for a future Algiers, an Algiers that was to become the center of Africa, a world capital just like Barcelona and Paris. He called it Plan Obus.

Corbu’s plan consisted of three major elements: a business district at the tip of the Casbah, in the Cape of Algiers, a residential area on the higher land and an elevated highway that would connect different cities and would begin to create his desired viaduct city. This elevated highway would contain fourteen levels for residential purposes beneath it, and according to Corbusier’s plans, it would be a model for infill housing that would fill in little by little in response to demand. Ultimately the highway would house close to 180,000 people in it. As seen in Corbu’s renderings, the plan’s scale as compared to the scale of the city was gigantic and makes it a brutal attempt at bringing modernist forms to the Casbah.

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The plan was declined over and over and never came to be realized in full, but remains of the Obus plan can still be found. Pierre-Marie’s Immueble Burdeau shows the application of Corbusier’s vision of a viaduct city with housing towering down beneath the roadway.

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This kind of infill strategy for residential space begins to set precedent for creating urban space along transportation networks. In thinking about how much we depend on highways nowadays this model presents interesting conditions between housing and transportation. Everyday more and more lofts and apartment complexes pop up on the feeder roads of our highways, which means we are clearly not worried about air quality and car noise as much as we’d like to believe we are. So why not explore the possibilities of housing under the highway?

The day we begin seeing viaduct cities appearing from under our highways might not be too far away from now.

Images and information via: Planum

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