During the Algerian Revolution (1954–1962) the French civil and military authorities profoundly reorganized Algeria’s urban and rural territory, drastically transformed its built environments, rapidly implanted new infrastructure, and strategically built new settlements in order to keep Algeria under French colonial rule and protect France’s interests in Algeria.
“Discreet Violence: Architecture and the French War in Algeria”
13 April – 3 June 2017
ETH Zurich, Departement Architektur gta exhibitions
Stefano-Franscini-Platz 5, Zurich
The exhibition features only one aspect of these territorial transformations: the construction of militarily controlled camps dubbed the centres de regroupement in Algeria’s rural areas. These spaces resulted from the creation of the forbidden zones—free fire zones—and engendered massive forced relocations of the Algerian population. Special military units called the Sections administratives spécialisées supervised the evacuation of the forbidden zones, the regrouping of the Algerian population, the construction of temporary and permanent camps, the conversion of a number of permanent camps to villages, and monitored the daily life of Algerian civilians. The aim of this regrouping was to isolate the Algerian population from the influence of national liberation fighters and to impede possible psychological and material support.
Based on French military photographs and films produced by the propaganda teams of the Service cinématogra- phique des armées (SCA), the exhibition “Discreet Violence: Architecture and the French War in Algeria” features only certain aspects of the evacuation of the Algerian rural population, the building processes of the camps, and the living conditions in the camps. It disclosures the ways with which the French colonial regime attempted to divert the mili- tary purpose of the camps in the aftermath of a medial scandal of 1959. The exhibition unfolds the intrinsic relations- hips between architecture, military measures, colonial policies, and the planned production and distribution of visual records. Today, the SCA is called the Établissement de communication et de production audiovisuelle de la défense (ECPAD) and is still active in warzones where the French army is involved.
The exhibition is a partial outcome of Dr. Samia Henni’s doctoral dissertation, entitled «Architecture of Counterrevolution: The French Army in Algeria, 1954–1962» which was defended in September 2016 at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture at ETH Zurich, under the supervision of Professors Tom Avermaete, Jean-Louis Cohen and Philip Ursprung. The dissertation was awarded the ETH Medal. The book will be published by the gta Verlag in Autumn 2017. The exhibition was curated by Dr. Samia Henni and realised with gta exhibitions.