Johanna Sluiter Podcast: Building Habitat — The Atelier des Bâtisseurs in North Africa and Beyond

Johanna Sluiter is a PhD Candidate at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU where she is writing a dissertation on the Atelier des Bâtisseurs and the development of habitat in post-war architecture. She is currently an associate researcher at the École Normale Supérieure d’Architecture Belleville in Paris and a Chester Dale Fellow at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

In 1949, the Atelier des Bâtisseurs (ATBAT) founded their first overseas bureau in Tangiers, Morocco. Having split with their mentor, Le Corbusier, and garnered worldwide attention for their first building site, the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, ATBAT sought to expand its practice beyond France by establishing ATBAT-Afrique,before embarking upon future plans for ATBAT-Orient and ATBAT-Amérique,to be installed in Beirut and New York, respectively. This initial work abroad would therefore serve as both a critical test and potential catalyst for the young multinational, multidisciplinary firm. It would demonstrate the ability (or lack thereof) of European-trained architects to respond to contexts defined by radically new cultures, climates, and clients than they had previously addressed or even considered, and would articulate their idea of ‘habitat’ – a comprehensive framework for universal building – in visual form. This podcast addresses methodological approaches and challenges in researching ATBAT’s theoretical and concrete developments of habitat in Morocco before tracing the afterlives of these projects in adjacent Algeria, far-flung Cambodia, and ultimately returning to the Parisian suburbs at the end of the decade.

Further Reading on ATBAT
– Vladimir Bodiansky, Charte de l’Habitat du cercle d’études architecturales (Paris: UNESCO, 1955).
– Alison and Peter Smithson, “Collective Housing in Morocco,” Architectural Design 25 (January 1955): 2-8.
– Marion Tournon-Branly, “History of ATBAT and its Influence on French Architecture,” Architectural Design 35 (January 1965): 20-24.

Further Reading on the Development of (Modern) Architecture in the Maghreb
– Tom Avermaete and Maristella Casciato, Casablanca, Chandigarh: A Report on Modernization (Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture; Zurich: Park Books, 2014).
– Jean-Louis Cohen, “The Moroccan Group and the Theme of Habitat,” Rassegna 14.52 (1992): 58-67.
– Jean-Louis Cohen and Monique Eleb, Casablanca: Mythes et figures d’une aventure urbaine (Paris: Hazan, 1998). 
– Jean-Louis Cohen, Nabila Oulebsir, Youcef Kanoun and Dominique Delaunay, Alger: paysage urbain et architecture, 1800-2000 (Paris: Éditions de l’Imprimeur, 2003).
– Samia Henni, Architecture of Counterrevolution: The French Army in Northern Algeria (Zurich: gta Verlag, 2017).
– Paul Rabinow, French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989)

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