The “Climat de France” project, started in 2011, is based around Fernand Pouillon, a figure of 1950’s architecture who was one of the great builders of the post-World War Two reconstruction boom. Through photography and video, Stéphane Couturier dissects Alger’s biggest district, which was built during the war in Algeria, a place of conflict between the GIA and the authorities, and now the centre of all types of trafficking.
Climat de France, “an architecture without disdain”
« Fernand Pouillon was an architect of Mediterranean sensibilities known for his designs of high-quality, low-cost housing developments with a great many units. The mayor of Algiers commissioned him in the nineteen-fifties to design three such projects, including the Climat de France complex. These developments were built for the purpose of relocating the Muslim population that was living in cramp conditions in shantytowns, thereby contributing to reducing social tensions and reasserting the authority of Metropolitan France. Overlooking the working class district of Bab el-Oued and the old city, and facing the sea, Climat de France was the biggest of these developments, offering nearly 5,000 housing units. [...] The main building is structured around a rectangular plaza, 233 x 38 meters long. White stone columns line the interior building fronts, giving them a classical look. Pouillon wrote:” I’m sure that this architecture is without disdain. Maybe for the first time in the modern era we have settled people in a monument. And these people who were the poorest of poor Algeria understood this. They were the ones who named it « the 200 Columns ».” Today, Climat de France is an overpopulated housing development, some of which is dilapidated and unfit for habitation. The cellars have been converted into rooms and the rooftop of the 200 Columns building – initially designed specifically with the housework and social life of the women in mind – has been turned into a shantytown. The plaza has been dubbed La Colombie [Columbia] for all the trafficking and dealing that goes on there and the police don’t enter the project anymore. But the stone architecture has nonetheless withstood these overpopulated conditions much better than concrete would have done » Étienne Hatt