Contemporary Architecture in Tunisia (1)



The reconstruction of Bab Souiqa (old Tunis) 1980s
This is the first of a series of notes I'm going to write about a subject I've always wanted to write about: contemporary architecture in my home country Tunisia as an example of contemporary architecture in the Islamic world.

First, I must say something about architectural reviews in Tunisia. it's really sad that even though there are enough indications pointing towards some new trends in the Tunisian architetcural landscape very little has been written on it. It's even fair to say that we don't have what we might call a tradition of reviews on contemporary architecture; of course we can't include in such a category the very vague, mostly amateurist, and, after all, very few essays that are being published from time to time in the various local magazines and newspapares. Here something seems to be clear enough so that it's really hard to miss it: if there are any specialists in this field (that is the field of the history of contemporary architecture in Tunisia, and I know there are really very few people who can be rightly considered so) they don't write critic reviews... and that's why we don't have "architetcural criticism"... as by the way it's almost difficult to say that we have "art criticism" in Tunisia... but that's another subject I'll talk about it another time.



Second, even in the academic arena it's difficult to say that we have people teaching such a subject: The Ecole d'Architecture (now located in Sidi Bousaid, a northern suburb of Tunis) does not have a serious focus on the very subject of the history of arhcitecture. The same can be said about the interest on history of art in the Tunisian Ecole des Beaux Arts. Even though both were supposedly made on the model of their French counterparts they did not "copy" an essential element in the French model that is its attraction to the learning of the history of art and architecture as an essential mean in the overall formation of an "architect" or an "artist"... On the other hand the few historians of art or architecture in Tunisia (who are teaching in the various schools of Sciences Humaines) are more focused on pre-contemporary issues... besides unlike what many might think, there is no single department in any Tunisian university emphasizing solely the field of the history of art and architecture, in addition to the field of archaelogy... All the courses being teached about these topics are possible only through the various departments of history (there is a new "department" of archeology in the University of Qayrawan but it gives only a Bachelor degree and that's why it can't be technically considred a department)... This stands in contrast with Tunisia's rich past in art and architecture and with other countries in the region... For instance in Egypt they do have such departments (Cairo University and American University in Cairo). In other words the very limited conditions of the field as whole (history of art and architecture + archaelogy) must have affected the subfield of comtemporary architecture...

(To be continued) 
By : arts-of-islam.blogspot.com