AN INTEGRATION APPROACH FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THE COLONIAL HERITAGE - The case of the colonial checkerboard
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Algeria, a North African country, that is historically defined with a great diversity of cultural influences marked by its architectural and urban character. The French colonial memory, which resulted in prestigious productions and city planning, contributes as an actual indicator to the identity of the Algerian built heritage. The authenticity of the pre-colonial cities, intersected with visions of the French engineering in the colonial period, frames a unique meeting of identities. This hybrid heritage becomes a lesson for patrimonial adaptations in Algerian history. The historical legacy of French Algeria is the vanishing point for modern preservation practices. The perception of the colonial heritage is a vulnerable subject and requires an objective understanding and interpretation. Today, the situation of the French historical centers is problematic and lacks adequate preservation strategies. Moreover, significant monuments belonging to this period are endangered, abandoned, and at risk of disappearance, which announces the essential interrogations for this research. The aim is to introduce a new methodology for the requalification of the French-built heritage and its acceptance as part of the national identity. The colonial checkerboard in the city of Biskra is an example of neglected French centers. The research approach aims first to evaluate and diagnose the current state of the built heritage, and the mutations threatening its stability. The results of the investigation classified the French quarter’s constructions according to multiple criteria, based on the identification of the related conservation statuses; to finally generate the condition and the situation of all the constructions in the checkerboard. The deteriorated state of the center and the loss of its significance is the focus of the investigation. As a result, the definition of the French checkerboard’s potentials and the resolving of the different problems and pathologies is essential to the study. Based on the evaluation and the classification database applied in the historical center, an inventory strategy was developed to define a new logic when dealing with possible conditions in the French historical centers. The diagnosis inventory proceeds with a selection of representative monuments where the monography of the emblematic buildings serves as a definition of potential landmarks, based on their qualities and significance. In the process of requalifying the image and the experiences in the colonial checkerboard, the inventory approach highlights the significance of the selected monuments in a cultural circuit, presenting a unique patrimonial path in the ex-European city that sets the light on both the values and the conditions of the built heritage, and contributes to a better understanding of this French legacy in Algeria and the preservation of similar historical centers.