In a series of essays published in 1966, L’Arceau qui chante [The Arch That Sings], architect Abderrahman Bouchama outlined a new path for a post-revolutionary Algerian architecture. Bouchama’s text responded directly to ambitious efforts to construct a revolutionary socialist state immediately following Algeria’s independence in 1962. Significantly, President Ahmed Ben Bella’s policies of autogestion, or self-management, intended to fuel the reallocation of property, the redistribution of resources, the restructuring of labor, and the redefinition of national culture, efforts that encouraged a radical rethinking of architecture and the construction industry in Algeria. Whereas Bouchama’s built projects have frequently been dismissed as narrowly historicist in their conception, his writings articulated a critical ethics and aesthetics for architecture that is worth reconsidering. In this talk, Bouchama’s endeavors are situated in relation to his early political engagement and to contemporaneous initiatives by Anatole Kopp, Pierre Chazanoff, and Georgette Cottin-Euziol.
Algeria’s brief, if ultimately failed, experiment with autogestion imagined a path towards socialism rooted in the new nation’s revolutionary origins, even as it repositioned the Maghrib as a defining center for Afro-Asian solidarity and an emergent Third Worldism, an impulse that shaped Bouchama’s L’Arceau qui chante. The architecture of autogestion might best be understood an expanded field, one encompassing noteworthy architectural projects and radical attempts to restructure the training and practice of architects and the construction industry––from the manufacturing of building materials to the reorganization of labor––as well as the sustained articulation of a post-revolutionary architectural aesthetics.