Bureau Architecture Méditerranée, which has a network of offices around the Mediterranean basin, has unveiled the design for the new Parliament of Algeria, which includes the People's National Assembly, the National Council (Senate), the Chamber (Congress) and a residence for legislators.
A key element of the new political centre's organisation is the way in which it embodies significant ideas: the development of a democracy that successfully combines tradition and modernity, capable of serving the nation's interests while remaining open to the world.
These notions underpin the architecture of the entire new political centre and the arrangement of the seats in the two legislative houses, the Senate and the Congress.
The upper and lower houses are organised around a huge, majestic plaza -"a symbolic gathering place for the free people who give the republic its legitimacy and authority" - facing each other on a north-south axis. The square sits against the backdrop of the historic city, uniting East and West, the modernity of the new city and the tradition of the old.
A conference hall shared by both houses, which will also be used for international meetings, forms the plaza's eastern border. Located along the square's main axis, the hall is at the centre of the new political complex's layout.
The conference hall was given its prime position not only because joint sessions of the two legislative branches are crucial moments in democratic life, but also because the facility will host international delegations, and Algeria's hospitality customs require that guests be given an honoured place.
Organised as they are, the centre's major elements come together to create a space steeped in the symbolism of strong democratic values: freedom, assembly, a sense of history, tolerance and hospitality.
The buildings, being so closely related, are variations on common themes. The Senate and Congress buildings both have an assembly hall at the centre, surrounded by all the rooms needed for orderly operations, such as offices, meeting rooms, lobbies, etc.
This arrangement gives the outer rooms views of lush gardens and the Algiers skyline and harbour, while the assembly chambers add their domes to the skyline.
The domes, the intricate mouchrabiehs, the simplicity of the large volumes facing the vast square, and the luxuriant gardens are all in keeping with the long tradition of Arabic architecture, while the construction methods, glass façades, and climate and lighting control systems are all based on the most modern technology.
Viewed as a whole, the architecture therefore situates itself clearly in historical, cultural and geographical context, while using technology in service to the sense of appropriateness and identity.
The transition from exterior to interior is marked by a series of materials of progressively greater refinement and rarity. The glass building façades are shielded by ceramic and concrete mouchrabiehs that diffuse sunlight and obscure views. The façades of the inner courtyards and assembly buildings are protected by gold leaf embedded in glass plates, and by leaves made of alabaster.
This sense of preciousness is also expressed through the use of water: in colourful mosaic-lined pools, gently babbling streams, and lively fountains that produce a cooling mist, as well as through the scent of orange and lemon trees, luxuriant vegetation and shade provided by fig trees.
By surrounding the complex with gardens - beyond the shadow of the assembly buildings overlooking the square - the site becomes a park echoing the famous parks of El Anasser or Diar el Mahcoul.
Client: People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
Architects/designers: Bureau Architecture Méditerannée (Thierry Chambon / Maxime Repaux / Frédéric Roustan)
Project manager: Frédéric Roustan / Yassine Alliche
Collaborators: Sergii Mitaki / Ievgen Grytsenko / Laura Marchepoil / Guillermo Pando de Prado / Jean Christophe Jodry / David Fromain / Olivier Vanel / Jonathan Tourtois / Antony Longerey / Louise Catin / Thérésa Topouka
Landscape architects: Bureau Architecture Méditerannée
Lighting design: Bureau Architecture Méditerannée
Area of project: 220 000 sq m
Project end date: 2019