The brief was to renovate, refurbish and remodel an existing but tired and out-dated beach resort and grounds and introduce modern facilities to expand and regenerate not only the resort but to act as catalyst for the upgrade of public and private investment into the surrounding area, a popular seaside destination of old, close to the Tunisia border at the seaport of Annaba, Algeria’s third largest city.
This scheme is in response to the Governments’ comittment on behalf of the people of the Democratic Republic of Algeria to upgrade social infrastructure amenities to reach 21st Century expectations and standards, and to meet the demands of the population growth of the city that has doubled to 500,000 since 2008, and forms part of the Governments infrastructure regeneration programme, representing the rebirth of the Nation, offering modern facilities that respond to the future needs of people and planet, and which offer significant improvement in the access to and the level of amenities available for citizens across the country.
Our design reflects the traditional construction and ideals of the architectural heritage of Algeria as demonstrated in its’ historic “Casbah” urban model which unequivocally exemplifies current sustainable and climatic responsive design, and gives us clear knowledge of the traditional design principles of this Mediterranean region addressing the lifestyle, social values, and locally available materials, and how those architectural methods belong to and provide valuable solutions to the Global 21st Century call for wellbeing and sustainable design aspects that have been degraded over the centuries.
Drawing on historic influences and strategies for successful coastal developments responding to contemporary expectations, needs, and a renewed sense of national identity the scheme recognises and reuses tried and tested passive sustainable design and urban principles, strategies and examples to deliver the refurbishment, renovation and extension of an existing beach resort on the Mediterranean Sea at Plage Rizzi Amor, in Annaba, Algeria.
Using locally sourced materials, orientating and juxta-positioning the newly introduced elements in response to the site conditions, location and natural resource capture, creates a cohesive single development that responds to local contemporary needs.
A new tower comprising of 104 hotel suites around an atrium “courtyard”, with retail and F&B outlets is nestled within renovated existing buildings that offer a conference centre, wedding and celebration hall (salon de fêtes), hydrotherapy and spa facilities, indoor sports and aquatics centre which are all open to the wider community as well as to the hotel guests.
Locally sourced timber is used for pedestrian bridges introduced within the landscaping of the site, linking the old and new of the resort and from the tower to the beachfront (Phase 2 currently at highways approvals stage), to offer direct beach access for guests.
Main Architectural Features
The design incorporates typical Casbah set-backs, balconies, archways and colonnades, and in the climatic responsive character of Mediterranean architecture, which is externalised towards the sea and the sun, to passively benefit from the naturally abundant resources of the onshore winds to naturally ventilate and cool the buildings with clean and fresh air during the heat of the summer, and offer direct sunlight to heat the fabric of the buildings and improve interior comfort levels during the coolest of winter months providing for a healthy environment accessible to each and every guest and space.
By recreating the hierarchy and interconnectivity of public and private spaces, and using the traditional design elements of courtyards, and open rooftop patios that allow the natural resources to filtrate the development we retain the traditional response for a traditional lifestyles and architectural norms, and use materials and construction techniques that have been proven to stand the test of time.
The three types of houses in the Algerian Casbah, the “wast-eddar”, for bigger families, the “Chebek”, medium, and the smaller “Aloui”, have all been provided for within the hotel and grouped around an atrium to represent the traditional courtyard, and restaurants with roof gardens introduced for outdoor event spaces to top the scheme.
Main Design Challenges
As the site location is directly on the shoreline and with a natural drainage channel “wadi” running across it for the surface water discharge from the foothills of the Atlas mountains direct to the sea, giving the risk of flooding. From our very initial proposals we have provided timber bridge links to both sides of this wadi to ensure access across the whole complex throughout the year, and the design of the hotel tower entrance and egress were created to be substantially elevated above the flood plain levels anticipated during periods of heavy rain which can be scattered across the year.
To comply with local seismic design considerations the development is engineered to Zone III classifications for seismicity and to improve ductility of the primary structure we introduced reinforced concrete which was also used to confine in place the weaker and more traditional elements found in the Casbah construction and undertook seismic modelling using Seismosoft for earthquake engineering assessment of the structural design proposed.
Main Sustainable Aspects
Without any existing Algerian sustainable development codes or targets to meet our design reflects the traditional construction and ideals demonstrated in the traditional “Casbah” urban model, from the oldest part of the city of Algiers, built in 1516 by the Ottomans, and a recognised symbol of Algerian architecture, identity, culture and heritage.
The philosophy of this scheme is not to innovate, but to recognise and reuse tried and tested passive sustainable design principles, strategies and examples and to repurpose this in a modern manner to reflect and respond to contemporary lifestyle, climate, and environmental needs.
The need to understand and benefit from both vernacular and sustainable architecture is unequivocal today and is the premise which forms the backbone of our project’s study and application of traditional urbanism in a contemporary manner. One which offers plausible strategies by utilising the knowledge and techniques that were recognised centuries ago that demonstrate the impressively rich indigenous techniques that the early city dwellers used to protect themselves from the diverse and extreme weather conditions they were subject to.
Materials used in Casbah houses are elementary, local, and easy to get from the site itself, without the need for energy for processing and transportation, we incorporated locally sourced marl soil, debris, and brick within the foundations and the building fabric, and timber from the adjacent forests for the bridges that we introduced to connect all components of the resort and link the resort itself to the beachfront.
The materials incorporated are locally sourced to reduce carbon emissions associated with transportation.
Local timber is incorporated in the carpentry, from the nearby forests of evergreen oak, Aleppo pine and cedar. Reforestation has been programmed in Algeria since the destruction of two-thirds of the historic growth during the 1954-62 war. Currently a “green line” of planting is underway from its’ Morocco to Tunisia borders to halt the encroachment of the Sahara at a rate of 45,000 hectares per year.
Desert Rose stone, sourced from the east of the country and typical of the vernacular is bonded with gypsum mortar joints, with the gypsum prepared from the local Tafza stone.
Local marl clay, was used in the construction of the building fabric, and debris and bricks incorporated in its’ foundations
As the site location is on the shoreline and with a wadi running across it, leading to the risk of flooding, the hotel tower entrance and egress have been substantially elevated above the flood plain. The architecture incorporates typical Casbah set-backs, balconies, archways and collonades, and in the climatic responsive character of Mediterranean architecture, is externalised towards the sea and the sun, to passively benefit from the naturally abundant resources of the onshore winds to naturally ventilate and cool the buildings with clean and fresh air during the heat of the summer, and offer direct sunlight to heat the fabric of the buildings and improve interior comfort levels during the coolest of winter months.
Annaba - Algeria