Call for Papers

Urban expansions and environmental challenges in Mediterranean countries: Statements and perspectives

Coordinated by: Ammara Bekkouche, Retired professor of architecture (USTO). Scientific adviser at the Centre of Research  in Social and  Cultural Anthropology   (CRASC), Oran.

Lakhdar Yamani, The University of Science and Technology of Oran Mohamed Boudiaf   (USTO-MB).

Historically linked to the phenomenon of urbanisation, the problem of urban expansion is understood as a consequence of demographic growth combined with industrialisation and rural exodus (Dorier, Lecoquierre, 2018; Chaouad, Verzeroli, 2018). Different disciplines in the human sciences have addressed this problem from various angles on an international scale.. For example, analyses of the characteristics of the city/countryside relationship have shown the nature of the issues and joint transformations, as well as the socio-spatial reconfigurations linked to available land resources (Lançon, Mora, Aubert, 2014). Among other issues related to land policies, they necessarily include the right to the city in terms of planning and governance (Michel, Denis, & Soares Gonçalves, 2011). The point of view of architects and urban planners on the phenomena of urbanisation examines the aspects of urban composition as a practice but also a set of knowledge and know-how, referring to two broad categories of science, the sciences of project and the social sciences of space (Thibault, 2012). As for the work of historians, they observe urban expansion through different periods of successive development to decipher the processes of change that link politics, urban space, and society (Benkada, 2001). In this regard, Algeria faced the challenge of urban expansion after gaining independence to implement its economic and social development policy. The city, as a focal point of territorial planning, is undergoing unprecedented progressive urbanisation in its peripheries due to the importance of construction programs (Yamani, 2023; Mouaziz-Bouchentouf, 2022).

Indeed, since the 1970s, the considerable needs for housing, equipment, and jobs have led institutional actors to take measures for an urban policy on a national scale (Yamani, 2014; Bendjelid, Brulé, Fontaine, 2004; Mutin, 1985), creating ZHUN (collective housing) and residential subdivisions (individual housing). However, over time, alongside the objectives of improving the living environment, the dilapidation of old fabrics and uncontrolled urbanisation have incidentally led to irreversible damage such as the collapse and destruction of built heritage, degradation of remarkable sites, and decline in the central city (Trache & Khelifi, 2020). Likewise, we observe the combination of two modes of occupation of urban space: one is assigned to so-called regulatory planned urban planning, and the other is perceived through what is described as informal or illicit (Belguidoum & Mouaziz, 2010). The main characteristic of this urbanisation lies in the emergence of new fragmented urban spaces breaking with the existing city, causing dysfunctions in the management of these urban areas (Yamani & Trache, 2020). The transformations generated result in socio-spatial reconfigurations, an alteration of urban identity, and urban mutations favored by a bundle of combined and complex factors (Lakdja, 1997).

At the end of the 1990s, the PDAU and the POS were developed at the same time as the partial disengagement of the State in favour of new formulas devoted to housing (Safar Zitoun, 2012). Diversified statuses launch the concepts of participatory social housing or subsidised or free promotional public housing, rental purchase, progressive housing/RHP, real estate cooperatives and private subdivisions. For this reason, several stakeholders in project management, prime contractor and financing were called upon to carry out a gigantic housing program, thus causing profusion of spatial extensions at the expense of natural spaces and often of agriculture. Also, the recurring problem of the city/countryside relationship remains posed following the semantic evolution of the notions which define the city and its environment (Belguesmia, Yousfi, Otmane, 2019). Urban extension assimilated to the terms "expansion" or "suburbanisation", integrates questions relating to "urban sprawl", the "new city" but also densification of existing urban fabrics (city center and pericentral districts, renovation and destruction of old tissue). As such, the mechanisms related to this problem open up several research perspectives relating to the anthropisation of places and living environments. They are expressed in terms of territorial planning and urban planning policy to the test of modernity confronted with contexts where the weight of history and other dichotomies or discrepancies between the means and the expected objectives are linked. (Noizet, Clémençon, 2021; Semmoud, Aït-Amirat, 2009, Boumaza, 2005). Therefore, the interest in these phenomena is motivated by the intention to better understand their transformations in order to control their management and prevent effects considered harmful to the environment (degradation, nuisance, pollution). It is true that the expansion of urban areas generates needs that put pressure on natural resources such as water, energy and construction materials. It can also lead to an increase in costs which have repercussions on the provision of public services and therefore on social relations and community cohesion as recommended in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (2015). Beyond investigations on aspects of morphology and adaptations to the site, they refer to methods of anthropological analysis including the practices and logics of appropriation of the inhabited space (actions implemented, adaptations, diversions, reports in power, urbanities, reconfigurations, recompositions, etc.).

Regarding the consequences of urban expansion in terms of risk on the environment, the climate and our daily life, the ecological transition challenges new architectural and urban planning productions (Bekkouche, 2020). Among other impacts of urban growth, the CNES (National Economic and Social Council) published in 1998 and 2003, instructive reports on the Algerian city and the consequences of excessive urbanisation. Their purpose is to point out the disastrous effects of the forms of development carried out to date by the choices of location and urban planning on the one hand (littoralisation, uncontrolled urbanisation, fragmented urban space, degradation of natural resources, urban pollution, services failing public authorities, urban violence, etc.). On the other hand, prevention against industrial and natural risks (earthquakes, floods, land movements, etc.) is addressed. However, “… the city project “as” a social project […] which is political” (Sidi Boumedine, 2013), the legislation in terms of architecture and town planning has placed emphasis on new methods for the protection, preservation and enhancement of the specific potential of nature and tangible and intangible heritage. As such, it is conditioned by ecological issues and governance questions, the broad outlines of which are set out in the City Orientation Law. For the moment in terms of urban planning, it turns out that giving meaning to fragmented territories subject to urban expansion amounts to injecting large amounts of green spaces and networks (Jennifer Buyck. 2022).

Given the observed facts and actions taken regarding the issue of urban expansion, it is necessary to examine its various forms in relation to the political, social, and economic environment. Whether old or recent, the identification of types of urbanisation qualifies it as important, massive, diffuse, anarchic, etc., depending on the situation in time and space. Nowadays, the issue of urban expansion is approached in terms of its relationship with the natural environment and the impact of human activities on the environment. The conjecture of ecological transition includes the problem of sustainable development at the international level, irremediably linked to global warming (Tedjani, 2021).

Expected contributions on the issue of urban extensions in the Mediterranean basin and in relation to the environment prioritise case studies according to objectives that aim to decipher urbanisation processes in terms of modes of living. They involve examining the mechanisms of design-realisation-anthropisation of space, including changes in planning principles and social practices. The “coevolution” of interdependencies between management and planning of needs, environmental quality, and quality of life integrates several themes of reflection that relate to different issues and planning logics (urban planning instruments, actors, constraints, standards, regulation, etc.). It is also a matter of highlighting the consequences of excessive or disproportionate urban extension phenomena (management of migratory flows in relation to the management and consumption of land resources and other risks). Moreover, from the perspective of architectural and urban design concepts, it is interesting to explore issues related to circumvention practices, anomalies, segregations, ruptures, dysfunctions… of new fragments of urban expansion. In this sense, the suggested axes (non-exhaustive) are as follows:

  • The spatio-temporal forms of urban extensions.
  • New cities and environmental challenges.
  • Planning, governance, territorial location.
  • Urban expansion in relation to rural space.
  • Urban renewal.
  • Urban programming and local development.
  • Environmental and ecological issues of urban extensions.
  • Land issues and pressure on agricultural and/or natural space.
  • Urban sprawl and spatial manifestations of suburbanisation.


Some bibliographical references

  • Bekkouche, A. (2022). « (Ré) concilier l’architecture et l’écologie ? » in Ouvrage collectif (dir) Mohammedi, S-M., Ed. CRASC, Oran.
  • Bekkouche, A. (2020), « L’urbanisme écologique entre risque et incertitude », Communication au Colloque virtuel international « Société et Pandémie », CRASC/FAEELOUN, 3-4 juin 2020, Oran, Algérie.
  • Belguesmia, S., Yousfi, B. & Otmane, T. (2019). Interface ville/campagne et dynamiques des espaces périurbains d’une ville intermédiaire sud-méditerranéenne. L’exemple de Mostaganem (Algérie).
    Cahiers de géographie du Québec, 63(179-180), 259–279.
  • Belguidoum, S. (2018). « La ville algérienne dans tous ses états : transition urbaine et nouvelles urbanités», Revue Moyen-Orient,  62-68.
  • Belguidoum, S. & Mouaziz, N. (2010). L'urbain informel et les paradoxes de la ville algérienne :politiques urbaines et légitimité sociale. Espaces et sociétés, 143,  101-116.
  • Bendjelid, A. (dir.). (2010). Villes d’Algérie. Formation, vie urbaine et aménagement, Oran, Éd. CRASC.
  • Bendjelid, A., Brulé J.C, Fontaine J. (2004). Aménageurs et aménagés en Algérie. Héritages des années Boumediene et Chadli, Paris, L’Harmattan.
  • Benkada, S. (2001). « Un demi-siècle d’extension de l’espace périphérique oranais, à travers quelques exemples de politiques d’urbanisation (1948-1998) », Insaniyat / إنسانيات, 13 | 2001, 95-104
  • Boumaza, N. (dir.). (2005). Villes réelles, villes projetées. Fabrication de la ville au Maghreb, Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose.
  • Buyck, J. (2022). Urbanisme et humanités environnementales : Eco-critique des situations, pratiques et savoirs du projet urbain. Architecture, aménagement de l’espace. Université Grenoble Alpes.
  • Chatel, C., Moriconi-Ebrard F. (2018). « Les 32 plus grandes agglomérations du monde : comment l’urbanisation repousse-t-elle ses limites ? »Confins, n° 37.
  • Chaouad, R., Marc Verzeroli M. (2018) « Réalités et enjeux de l’urbanisation du monde »Revue internationale et stratégique, n° 112, 47-65.
  • CNES (Conseil national économique et social). (1998). La ville ou le devenir urbain du pays : avant-projet de rapport, CNES, Alger.
  • CNES (Conseil national économique et social). (2003). L’urbanisation et les risques naturels et industriels en Algérie : Inquiétudes actuelles et futures, Rapport de la 22e Session Plénière, Alger.
  • Choplin, A. (2006). Le foncier urbain en Afrique : entre informel et rationnel, l'exemple de Nouakchott (Mauritanie). Annales de géographie, 647, 69-91.
  • Dorier, E., Lecoquierre M. (dir.). 2018). « L’urbanisation du monde », Documentation photographique, n° 8125.
  • Lakjaa, A. (1997). “L’habiter identitaire : éléments pour une problématique d’une urbanité en émergence”, Insaniyat / إنسانيات, 2 | 1997, 77-103.
  • Lançon F., Mora O., Aubert F. (2014). L’extension urbaine à travers le monde : enjeux pour les villes et les campagnes. Cahiers DEMETER, 2014, 15, pp.83-100. ffhal-02517021f
  • Michel, A., Denis, É. & Soares Gonçalves, R. (2011). Introduction : les enjeux du foncier urbain pour le développement : Nouveaux marchés et redistribution des responsabilités. Revue Tiers Monde, 206, 7-20. 
  • Mouaziz-Bouchentouf, N. (2022). « De la villa à l’appartement. Analyse des parcours résidentiels dans les quartiers périphériques d’Oran (Algérie) », Territoire en mouvement Revue de géographie et aménagement [En ligne], 52 | 2022, mis en ligne le 30 août 2022.
  • Mutin, G. (1985). « La politique urbaine algérienne », In Politiques urbaines dans le monde arabe,Lyon, Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, 121-147.
  • Noizet, H., Clémençon A-S. (2021). Faire ville. Entre planifié et impensé, la fabrique ordinaire des formes urbaines, Vincennes, Ed. Presses universitaires de Vincennes.
  • Safar Zitoun, M. (2020). « Participation citoyenne aux projets de développement », Insaniyat 90 | 2020.
  • Safar Zitoun, M. (2021). « La vie dans les marges », chapitre 3 (pp 127 à 174) in Signoles P. et Semmoud, N. (dir), Exister et résister dans les marges urbaines. Villes du bassin méditerranéen, de l’Université de Bruxelles.
  • Safar Zitoun M. (2012). « Le logement en Algérie : programmes, enjeux et tensions », Confluences Méditerranée 2012/2 (N°81), p. 133-152. DOI 10.3917/come.081.0133
  • Semmoud, B., Aït-Amirat A. (2009). « Évolutions politiques et planification, production et gestion urbaines en Algérie », in Baduel P.-R. (dir), La ville et l’urbain dans le Monde arabe et en EuropeActeurs, Organisations et Territoires, Tunis, IRMC, 135-146.
  • Sidi Boumedine, R. (dir). (2013). L’urbanisme en Algérie. Échec des instruments ou instruments de l’échec ?Alger, Les Alternatives urbaines.
  • Sidi Boumedine, R. et Taïeb M. (1996). La recherche urbaine en Algérie. Un état de la question, Pratiques urbaines, No.14, Groupe de recherche INTERURBA (CNRS/Paris) et URBAMA, Université de Tours.
  • Signoles, P. (dir.). (2014). Territoires et politiques dans les périphéries des grandes villes du Maghreb, Paris, Karthala.
  • Signoles, P., El kadi G., Sidi Boumedine R.(dir.). (1999). L’urbain dans le Monde arabe, Politique, Instruments et Acteurs, Paris, CNRS.
  • Souiah S-A., Chanson-Jabeur Ch. (dir). (2015). Villes et métropoles algériennes. Hommage à André Prenant, Paris, L’Harmattan, 159-175.
  • Ongo, Nkoa B-E., Simon Song J. (2019). « Urbanisation et inégalités en Afrique : une étude à partir des indices désagrégés »Revue d’Economie Régionale & Urbaine,447-484.
  • Tedjani, K., (2021). Le développement durable en Algérie, Changement Climatique, Énergie et Environnement. Rapport.
  • Thibault S. (2012). Composition urbaine, projets et territoires. Composition(s) urbaine(s), Tours, France.
  • Trache, S. M. & Khelifi, M. (2020). Périurbanisation et décroissance démographique de la ville centre : l’exemple d’Oran (Algérie). Cahiers de géographie du Québec, 64(181-182), 169–189.
  • Yamani L. (2014). Logiques d’acteurs, processus et formes d’urbanisation : le cas de la ville de Mostaganem, Thèse de doctorat en urbanisme, Université des Sciences et de la technologie d’Oran Mohamed Boudiaf.
  • Yamani, L., Trache S-M. (2020). « Contournement des instruments d’urbanisme dans l’urbanisation de l’agglomération mostaganémoise (Algérie) », Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Aménagement, Urbanisme, document 943, mis en ligne le 12 mai 2020.
  • Yamani, L. (2023). Périphéries anciennes et extensions récentes de l’agglomération de Mostaganem : effet de l’histoire et impact de la morphologie des sites, Communication d’ouverture au Colloque national intitulé « Les extensions récentes des villes algériennes (ERVA-23). Espace, pratiques et appropriations », les 02- 03 mai 2023, Département d’Architecture, USTO-MB.
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