This public housing project comprises six hundred units in Ouled Jellal town, located in the south-western part of the Biskra region in east-central Algeria. 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. During the course of the project, similar housing developments were built in the region by the same architects, employing the same technology, and adopting the same design features. The technology incorporates local construction techniques into standardized modern modes of construction. Through sensitivity to the climate and to the cultural traditions of the inhabitants, the reinterpretation of socio-spatial needs into a built form for public housing has resulted in a residential environment that is both functional and efficient.
The Ouled Jellal Housing Project comprises 600 units that vary in surface area. All of the units are two or three storeys above ground level. The complex is a staggered massing of cubic volumes with minimal articulation other than screened openings. Public spaces and walkways spatially separate the clusters of units. The clustered massing of cubic volumes is simple and is emphasized by the use of unfinished limestone. Façades are mostly solid with minimal voids that are articulated by wooden screens. A local device called claustra, composed of densely overlapping gypsum screens of traditional shapes, is used in the upper section of handrails on the patios and stairs. The exterior patios serve as public spaces between the volumes and are intended for general social interaction. Different levels of privacy were incorporated into the design of the individual units to sensitively take account of the local traditions of this Muslim community.
Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture