After a global competition, the joint venture formed by exp, Canadian firm of multidisciplinary consultants, and lemay, one of the most important integrated design services firms in Canada, has made history in Quebec industry by winning an international competition launched by the Agence de gestion et de régulation foncière urbaine de la Wilaya de Constantine in Algeria. This competition aimed at the realisation of a major project in the city of Constantine, Algeria, of approximately $ 2.4 billion ($ 2.4B), including $1.57 billion ($1.57B) devoted to the residential sector.
After the contest, Algerian government officials confirmed the awarding of this contract to the Canadian team made up of the joint venture of firms exp and lemay. The urban concept, created by the exp and lemay team, was chosen unanimously by the jury. Their winning proposal stood out for its excellence, its relevance, its originality and its audacity; its competitors consisted of international firms from Europe, Asia, America and Africa.
Partner creation and director of lemay’s urban design studio, Michel Lauzon, described how the future area of El-Menia will be a multifunctional and autonomous urban agglomeration on a 47-hectare plateau directly in front of the heritage city of Constantine, the third-most important city in Algeria, and the future cultural capital of the Arab world in 2015, located some 431 km east of Algiers. He added that the proposal, “Once upon a time in El-Menia”, stands out for its unique visual signature that will be visible on the walls and pathways in the old city, a gem of the World Heritage.
Donald Bonsant, associate urban planner and senior director of exp’s design, urban planning and sustainable development department in Quebec explained, for his part, that this prized mandate involves the planning and development of a new neighbourhood, and fits within a distinctive World Heritage global development plan. The design mandate granted to the joint venture includes design of main buildings and typologies as well as public spaces and traffic networks.
Design and Cultural Approach
Developed according to sustainable development principles, the main intention of the concept proposal is two-fold: create a rich and diversified living environment and mark the territory with an urban configuration that lives up to the mythical status of the 3000-year old city of Constantine.
Inspired by the traditional Maghrebian courtyard, at the center of the medinas and Arab towns of North Africa, the concept reflects the cultural characteristics of the landscapes and integrates a clear hierarchy between private and public spaces and between openness and privacy. In this prized proposal, this medina figure is reinterpreted according to the new realities of contemporary urban life based on the peculiar topography of the sector. Using the mountains and the dramatic landscape, the design benefits from major elevations, which create zones of variable density with fluid and iconic green wedges meandering through. Consequently, even though the city was planned to achieve optimal density avoiding urban sprawl and automobile dependency, large and autonomous green spaces were planned to support biodiversity
As the sinuous lines of Arabic calligraphy and arabesques, El-Menia urban figure proposes a symbolic relationship between the individual and his territory. The iconic silhouette of the new neighbourhood will extend over an area of 1.2 million m² as a stamp on the region, at the image of the ancient and legendary cities.
Modernity and heritage
Although the concept is inspired by the history and typologies of Algeria, the proposition aims to house more than 20,000 residents, as well as various offices, shops, recreation centers and schools for a growing population of workers, visitors and tourists. The project of 6,500 to 7,500 housing units will be adapted to a contemporary lifestyle but in continuity with local traditions.
In this perspective, the proposed strategies will consolidate the citizens’ lifestyles and advanced technologies in terms of design, construction, and, of course, sustainable development. In this regard, all service areas are located from a short walking distance of residential zones and an efficient and low-cost cableway system was planned to facilitate commute throughout the city. Spaces were design to promote urban agriculture inside the city to reduce the dependence towards imported food, to allow food self-sufficiency and support the local industry. Optimized green spaces, a reduce road network, infrastructure fighting heat islands, use of solar energy as well as studies on the use of wind turbine, photovoltaic cells and geothermic system were also integrated into the program.
In other words, El-Menia is a model city in its ecological planning, based on leading best practices in sustainable development, all in the heart of an urban lifestyle. This project, which will be carried out with exp and lemay’s signature expertise will meet the population’s needs perfectly, in the creation of the new neighbourhood of El-Menia, a place that is set to become a richly diversified living environment for the people of Constantine.
With its pragmatic and audacious strategies, the city of El-Menia can be perceived as a systemic organism with a functional, technical, regulatory, economic, social and symbolic composition. As a result of these multiples forces, our new city presents an ecosystem integrating different variables while taking into account the refine art of living and friendly character so distinctive of the Algerian culture.
Louis T. Lemay, president and facilitator of excellence, lemay
Michel Lauzon, partner, chief creative officer creation and director of urban design studio, lemay
Donald Bonsant, associate urban planner and senior director of design, urban planning and sustainable development, exp
Reynald Castonguay, associate engineer, vice-president of special projects, exp