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Structural and functional transformations of an intermediate city and the emergence of commercial strips, the case of Tiaret in Algeria

Transformations structurelle et fonctionnelle d’une ville intermédiaire et émergence des rubans commerciaux, cas de Tiaret en Algérie
Transformación estructural y funcional de una ciudad intermedia y emergencia de strip centers, el caso de Tiaret en Argelia
Asmaa Bekkouche et Tayeb Otmane

Résumés

Tiaret, ville intermédiaire de l’intérieur de l’Algérie, a connu une croissance urbaine rapide et étendue à partir des années 1970, modifiant sa structure urbaine. Elle a gardé ce rythme d’évolution pour se recomposer sur elle-même à partir des années 2000 en se densifiant. En parallèle à cette urbanisation accélérée en lien avec son rôle de ville carrefour et de pôle régional, elle a connu une diffusion rapide des activités tertiaires, notamment le long des axes structurants de transit ayant donné naissance à des rubans commerciaux animés par le commerce de détail. Ce processus d’évolution caractérisé par la diversification des activités tertiaires, mené aussi bien par les pouvoirs publics que par des acteurs privés, opère une métamorphose continuelle. Cette contribution examine ces processus de mutation en mobilisant des données issues de l’enquête directe par questionnaire et des relevés de terrain. Les résultats montrent des interactions entre ces transformations fonctionnelles et l’espace dans lequel elles s’inscrivent. La diffusion linéaire du commerce en périphérie, menée majoritairement par des jeunes, transforme le paysage urbain, rend la ville plus attractive et l’anime davantage, mais elle génère une pression foncière plus particulièrement dans les lotissements de l’habitat individuel et met le centre-ville, peu favorable à la circulation, en concurrence partielle, mais inscrite dans la durée.

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Introduction

1Intermediate cities and their spatial constellations represent a substantial proportion of the population (Sýkora & Mulíček, 2017), they traditionally retain an intermediary function between the metropolitan urban sphere and rural space (Brunet, 1997; Saint-Julien, 2003; Dumont, 2005; Rozemblat, Cicille, 2003; Santamaria, 2012), and they should be part of our comprehension of urban systems.

2On the functional plan, these cities tend to be either service centers or manufacturing centers (Henderson, 1997); several types of research have highlighted the correlation between the density of economic activities and space structuring (Kloosterman, 2000; Desse, M. 2000; Guillain, R., & Le Gallo, J. 2010), where the context of intra-city structure is becoming more and more important in the research. Thus, the deployment of tertiary activities (trade and services) in these cities has become a factor of economic recomposition and the development of a new urban system.

3To understand these mechanisms of spatial structuring at multiple scales, intra, inter urban and regional, various multidisciplinary studies focused on them (Hartwick & Hartwick, 1974; Odland, 1976; Anas, Arnot, &Small, 1998; Davoudi, 2003; Dikec, 2007; Bontje, 2000). These researches have deployed several approaches to analyze the spatial structure of cities, which varies from one area to another. These approaches include the study of city morphogenesis (Passini, 1988; Belanger, Mercier, and Bedard, 1999; Gerard, 2006), the analysis of urban structure through the use of urban socioeconomic data and urban land use (Shaw, Yu, 2009; Kloosterman, 2000; Zhong et al., 2017), analyzing urban density based on population distribution and employment (Hall and Pain, 2006; Riguelle et al., 2007; Alidadi and Dadashpoor, 2018), and studying commuting or shopping patterns (Burger and Meijers, 2012).

  • 1 The last general population and housing survey (RGPH) in 2008 classified the urban network into fiv (...)

4In Algeria, the agglomerations classified as metropolises1 in 2008 (Algiers, Oran, Constantine and Annaba) ranked at the top of the urban hierarchy, with 3.95 million inhabitants (11.6% of the total population), while the second-ranking agglomerations, the "upper urban" stratum, numbered 33, and varied in size from 100,000 to 300,000 inhabitants, and housed 5.6 million inhabitants at the same date (16.5% of the total population). Due to their demographic weight and their administrative role, often commanding (province capitals), these cities play an intermediary role between the upper and lower hierarchic levels: they structure their respective areas. Their public service facilities are based on social and demographic concerns and meet sectoral standards set at the national government level. As for the installation of shops and services in the cities, this is a matter for private initiative, which has been much stronger since the country's transition from a command economy to a liberal economy. This change had an impact on the spatial, economic and social structure of these cities, which have seen their urban structure change and adapt to the new requirements of globalized trade.

5Depending on a fine analysis scale of the Algerian space, many urban structure studies have relied on the study of the population (Prenant, 1956), or on the analysis of the areas of influence of service centers and structuring facilities (Messaoud, 1971), while others have been based on the analytical interpretation of the urban space and its morphogenesis evolution (Belouadi, 2016).

6Further studies associated with the same topic highlighted the link between the urban structure of Algerian cities and planning policies (Signoles, El kadi, Sidi Boumedienne, 1999; Bendjelid, Brulé, Fontaine, 2004; Boumaza, 2005; Yamani and Trache, 2020). Planning policies have dictated to a significant extent the land use and the distribution of functions in the new urban expansions. As a result, new structures have been juxtaposed to the inherited colonial structure, contributing as many structural and functional transformations to the cities.

7Being part of the upper urban stratum, Tiaret has witnessed a diversification of its urban functions, and its size and its spatial organization cannot be deprived of the role it plays in its territory. Similarly to African cities that have developed new morphological and functional forms (Gerard, 2009; Aka, Andih, 2018.), Tiaret, along with other Algerian cities, is experiencing the multiplication of tertiary activities that generate new urban structures. Its evolution is linked to endogenous, socio-demographic and urban factors and to other exogenous factors related to the relations undertaken with its surrounding space (local, regional and national), these are associated with urban functions: administrative, commercial, health, training, industrial ... etc. Hence, the tertiary sector has become the supporting factor of its urban economy with 60% of total employment since the 1980s. In the national urban hierarchy, it occupies an intermediate position between the upper rank, dominated by Oran as the metropolis in western Algeria and Algiers as the country's political and economic capital, and the lower rank (small towns and rural hinterland).

8Moreover, in this research context that focuses more specifically on metropolises and large cities, several studies are interested in intermediate cities to analyze their organization and urban functioning, and to highlight their role in the local and regional, or even national organization of space (Deheeger, Fauret, Ferré, 2019; Adelfio, M., Serrano-Estrada, Martí-Ciriquián, Kain, Stenberg, 2020). This contribution aims to be part of this second field of research that studies the example of Tiaret, which reveals the current dynamics of intermediate Algerian cities in the country's interior. Furthermore, it aims to analyze the mechanisms of its evolution on both morpho-structural and functional plans and determine the interactions that have resulted from it.

Study area

  • 2 Ruling house of Ibadi imams of Persian descent centered in Algeria. The dynasty governed as a Musli (...)
  • 3 High plateau with an average altitude of 900 m located in the central region of the Algerian Highla (...)
  • 4 National Statistics Office, 2021

9Located at 361 kilometers southwest of Algiers, Tiaret, an intermediate city and among the oldest of Algeria, first founded in the third century by the Romans, became the capital of the Rustumids2 at the beginning of the eighth century. It has played the role of a crossroads since antiquity. Tiaret is the capital of the Sersou3, the granary of wheat in the Algerian West, and the chief town of the state (equivalent to the department in France) of a territory which covers 20050 square kilometers and constitutes a rich agro-pastoral background with 1 062 656 inhabitants4 (Map1).

  • 5 Statistical yearbook of the state, 2008.

10Tiaret has counted 201263 inhabitants5 and ranks fourteenth nationally with the cities of Skikda Bejaia and Tlemcen. Due to its industrial facilities built during the 1970s under the national policy of centralized economic planning and during the last two decades characterized by the introduction of the liberal economy, Tiaret attended to the diversification of its activities, especially tertiary. These activities have become a dominating factor, ranking it nineteenth in the country. It has developed into an administrative and service center not only for the 42 municipalities that make up the state but also for the neighboring regions. This role has been reinforced by a dense road network which makes the city an important crossroad and an inevitable passageway between the northern port cities and the western, eastern, and southern regions of the country.

  • 6 New urban housing zone

11These combined factors had an impact on the dynamics of the city and its urban structure. Currently, the city is composed of two urban entities: the colonial city of Haussmann-inspired urban planning and the new expansions concretized by the new urban housing zones (NUHZ)6, the individual housing estates, and the collective housing. The main roads have played an important role in the establishment and structuring of these programs, as well as in the development of commercial strips.

Map 1: Tiaret Study area

Map 1: Tiaret Study area

Source: topographic map, 1/2 300 000, INCT, Algeria, 2016

Approach method

  • 7 UMP; Urban Master Plan
    MPUDP; Master Plan for Urban Development and Planning
    LUP; Land Use Plan

12A diachronic analytical approach was adopted to explain the mechanisms of the morphological and functional evolution of the urban space of Tiaret. This approach is based on the analysis of urban planning documents (UMP, MPUDP, and LUP)7 which have guided the urban evolution. A field survey was conducted to assess on the one hand the projected urban planning and the executed urban planning and on the other, to highlight the interaction of the actors involved within the city through the realization of seventeen directive and semi-directive interviews between 2017 and 2019 with the public and private actors responsible for the realization of urban planning plans and their execution.

13Tertiary activities are an excellent basis for analyzing the functional aspect of the urban structure in the city of Tiaret. These activities are a factor of animation, organization, and hierarchization of urban space. To approach these activities, a cartographic and systemic survey of shops and services has been shared for the whole city to determine their density and understand the logic of their installation. To understand the process of emergence of commercial strips as well as the morphological transformations that resulted from it, a direct survey by questionnaire reached 200 shops and services and 100 users (customers). This work was supplemented by statistics from the Directorate of Commerce and the National Chamber of Commerce Registers (DCNCDR).

Urban growth dominated by the juxtaposition of construction programs

Colonial military urban planning

  • 8 Cite in Mabogunje A. L., 1990, "Urban Planning and the Post-Colonial State in Africa: A Research Ov (...)

14North African cities have experienced distinct urbanization and urban planning trajectory; they have undergone different construction phases that reflect social, political, and economic requirements. Their urban fabrics are the result of superimposition or juxtaposition of several types of town planning regulated by both colonial and local urban policies, Abu-Lughod (1967) noting that the colonial extractive economy dating from the nineteenth century played a major role in determining the pattern of urbanization in African cities and the system of differential urban growth8. These patterns persisted after independence and have continued to define much of the current spatial structure.

15Algeria is among the countries that had different urbanization stages: pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial. The colonial phase marked and conditioned the evolution of urban planning in Algerian cities, which took on a military dimension from 1830 to 1919 when the military engineering of the French army took the initiative in the development of city plans based on the principle of streets alignment.

16In Tiaret, the first city nucleus, "Redoute" (Map 2), was created within the Roman citadel's ramparts to play the role of a military base to control the city and its hinterland. Further south, to the west, the construction of the city obtained the areas outside the ramparts following an orthogonal structure adapted to a constraining natural site. The layout of this urban fabric was conditioned by the essential elements of the urban composition: the street, the block, and the public place. Thus, the urbanization grew by embracing the hilly landscapes structured by the river “Oued Tolba”, which is arranged in underground tunnel atthe city center’s level (Map 2).

  • 9 Pious hermit, saint of Islam, whose tomb is a place of pilgrimage.

17The buildings with tiled roofs dominate the colonial fabric and they are easily spotted from the highest point, on which is built the dome of the marabout “Sidi Khaled”9, symbol of the city. The city center, which covers part of the colonial fabric, contains many buildings of artistic architectural quality which are often occupied by administrations and public services (banks, the post office, the city hall, security, tax departments, etc.). Its urban structure, well adapted to the accidental topography, is articulated by a network of roads and numerous staircases which overcome the unevenness and ensure the junction between its blocks. However, many Haussmann-style buildings for residential use have been left to their destiny and are sometimes in a state of advanced deterioration, as they are subject to demolition and reconstruction. In addition to the city's emblematic facilities, the downtown area is animated by shops and services.

18The crossroads of two main national roads NR 23 in a north-south direction and NR 14 in a west-east, constituted the structuring element of all the town planning conducted during the colonial period and remains valid to the present day. Hence, the urban fabric was extended to cover over 375 hectares in 1943 and 555 hectares until 1962. This crossroads position made the city of Tiaret a national communication network node.

Urban planning in the 1970s, the abandonment of the street as a structuring element in planning in favor of a Functionalist vision

  • 10 National Statistics Office (NSO), 2008.

19The immense spatial expansion that characterized the Algerian cities after the independence was a direct interpretation of explosive demographic growth. The city of Tiaret continued to expand gradually to the south without any urban planning framework until 1974, maintaining a functional profile in the service of the agricultural vocation of its region. The population increased rapidly from 24578 inhabitants in 1962 after the colonists' departure to 37168 inhabitants in 1966, primarily due to the arrival of a significant number of people of mainly rural origin. During the 1966/1977 decade, the population growth dynamic was marked by a very important annual rate of 4.50% resulting from an annual migratory rate estimated at 1.50%10. A positive migration flow was a result of at least two factors, the first was the incapacity of large cities (Algiers, Oran, Annaba, Constantine) to receive more inhabitants, which led to a shift in destination to medium-sized cities (Tiaret, Saida, Chelif, Setif.); the second factor was related to the economic development of these cities, which was part of a rebalancing logic of the national urban network. This type of project is part of a macro-economic planning policy adopted by most African countries between 1970 and 1986 (Ominde, 1969; Mabogunje and Faniran, 1977; Lawless, 1979 and Brebner, 1981).

  • 11 Mabogunje A. L., 1990, "Urban Planning and the Post-Colonial State in Africa: A Research Overview",(...)
  • 12 Ordinance°74-26 of 20.02.1974.

20The Algerian government has adapted economic planning to spatial planning by redistributing the urban population and decentralizing industrial facilities, particularly within the framework of the 1974-1977 National Plan11. In fact, in 1984, the number of industrial areas created was estimated at sixty (Bendjelid, 1986). To support this economic dynamic, urban planning became essential. A process of "Algerianization" of the legal texts governing development and urban planning was initiated, of which several texts were promulgated between 1974 and 1976: the establishment of urban master plans (UMP) and the creation of communal land reserves12 to implement housing and facilities programs.

  • 13 National Statistics Office (NSO), 2008

21The UMP as a master plan has served the city of Tiaret as a tool to constitute 2884 hectares of communal land reserves available for development and for locating both housing areas and industrial zones. The city of Tiaret has therefore become an important industrial pole in Western Algeria, with four areas covering 724 hectares having been developed and assigned to industrial activities and storage. That has reinforced its role as the capital of the state. The high population growth rate was maintained between 1977 and 1987 (4.83%), the population increased from 65636 to 105209 inhabitants13. During that period, the urban fabric expanded to the southern part of the city, sprawling over the agricultural land of the Sersou with flat topography and good agricultural value. This expansion towards the south in a semi-radiocentric form was guided by the road network where the conception of the urban structure was corroborated by the road system inherited from the colonial period.

  • 14 Form of individual housing realization according to a standard plan for the whole of the co-operato (...)

22The need for housing has become a national concern given the incessant pressure leading the public authorities to massive production of built-up areas. It was materialized by two urban planning operational procedures; the first concerned the program of new urban housing zones (NUHZ), reserved for collective housing, and the second by the subdivisions of individual housing and housing cooperatives14.

  • 15 El-Moudjahid of March 1, 1989.

23With this new orientation, the city of Tiaret, along with other Algerian cities, has just undergone a new form of urban planning with a functionalist vision, where the urban structure was developed according to the principle of land zoning and specialization of space, thus abandoning urban planning where the street was the structuring element. Until 1988, 250 NUHZ were registered in 175 cities, with a total capacity of 660,000 dwellings15. Tiaret thus benefited from two NUHZs (Map 2). This urban planning strategy has just ruptured with the logic of structuring of urban space which has prevailed, resulting in the juxtaposition of two distinct urban fabrics (Mebirouk et al., 2005). Both NUHZ were supposed to support the needs of their population and the population of surrounding neighborhoods.

24In addition to the construction of the collective housing estates of the NUHZs, land located on the eastern and southern fringes of the city was reserved for individual housing in the form of cooperatives or subdivisions. Until 1993, individual housing consumed 561 hectares, which equaled the city's surface area in 1977, creating 5438 dwellings and giving a low density of 9 housing units per hectare.

25In contrast to what was planned functionally, the production of housing took precedence in the realization of the NUHZs, and many planned facilities never saw the light of day; only two supermarkets (Souk El Fellah and the gallerie, map 3) and a few shops set up in the houses of the adjacent individual housing. The city has retained a mono-centric functional structure, the city center remained the main provider of shops and services to the new population settled in these new expansions, thus creating problems of congestion in terms of road traffic.

26The land in the immediate vicinity or sometimes within the NUHZs has been coveted by the real estate cooperatives individual housing. Aware of the challenges of these promising and knowledgeable land bases, close to or part of the administrative machinery, the beneficiaries of these real estate cooperatives quickly seized the opportunity to on the one hand facilitate the administrative procedure of creation and location and on the other hand, build dwellings and integrate shops and services on the ground floor to benefit from certain affluence of the residents of collective housing estates. This process has produced a mosaic of buildings that disfigures the beautiful urban landscape that the NUHZs expected to offer. This voluntary or involuntary neglect on the part of local decision-makers, who are unable to equip these new urban entities combined with the pressure from new residents to provide basic facilities, has even led them to rearrange the ground floor of some collective buildings for shops, services, and some facilities.

27The two strategies adopted by the city makers are contradictory and conflicting, with the first aiming at a polycentric urban development, and the other aiming at maintaining a compact city morphologically and functionally structured around a single urban centrality. These antagonistic visions, the first decided and financed from the higher government level and the second practiced from the lower level; has led to interactions between these actors which have resulted in hybridization of actions and partial dysfunctions in the urban dynamics.

Map 2: Tiaret growth of built-up area

Map 2: Tiaret growth of built-up area

Source: Master Plan for Urban Development and planning URBATIA TIARET, 1996, Revision MPUDP 2006, Revision MPUDP 2017, Field survey 2012, 2015, 2019, Google Earth, 2021.

Urban recomposition and return to the street as a structuring element of the city, failure of the functionalist vision!

  • 16 National Statistics Office (NSO), 2020

28The pace of urban growth became more important in the 2000s, a period of financial prosperity for the country linked to the oil rent. Significant achievements, both in housing, more particularly collective housing, have seen the light of day; as a response to high social demand maintained by high demographic dynamics. The city's population increased from 161,502 inhabitants in 1998 to 201,234 inhabitants in 2008 at an average annual growth rate of 2.17%,higher than the national one (1.48%), and it was estimated to grow to245,929 inhabitants16 by 2019.

  • 17 National Statistics Office (NSO), 2020

29If earlier expansions were built on flat agricultural land south of the city, recent expansions have been built on empty areas within the urban fabric, the residual spaces of the two NUHZs (Map 3), and the hilly land north of the city. "An effort has been made by local authorities to contain this expansion within the confines of the former siding road» (MPUDP studies chief manager, 2019), the siding road has become in part an important urban artery. Therefore, this effort has produced a compact city in comparison to many Algerian cities of the same size. The construction of vertical housing under different forms (progressive housing, participatory, social, hire-purchase, social assisted, etc.) not only have contributed to the complete eradication of squatter housing (4080 constructions) developed during the period of insecurity of the 1990s in the north, north-east, and south-east (Guenabir, Boudraa, Zemala, Chaib, Mezguida, Zaaroura, Lala Abdia) but also have increased the housing park from 17370 dwellings in 1987 to 24571 dwellings in 1998 and to 38582 dwellings in 200817. The densification of the urban fabric took place by recovering lands that were occupied by dissolved industrial units to establish collective housing units or by converting the disused buildings of the foundry into faculties in favor of the University of Ibn Khaldoun.

30The overall urban structure has been preserved by the Master Plan for Urban Development and Planning 1996 MPUDP and its revised version of 2006, but morphologically some urban entities have recomposed on themselves morphologically. The animated street has strongly returned in the new urban expansions, the ground floors of collective buildings are systematically reserved for shops and services (photos 1, 2). This planning approach, conducted by the city's decision-makers and technicians, is considered an adequate response to the failure of the functionalist vision of the NUHZs, which produced low-density "dormitory" urban units. These have been the subject of recomposition through operations in the form of "patches" and by revisions of road layouts, the integration of facilities, and the development of public spaces. In reality, the primacy of public power in the acts of making and managing the city in Algeria has often been the marker in the production of the urban fabric (Bendjelid, 2010).

Map 3: Recomposition of the NUHZ of the city of Tiaret

Map 3: Recomposition of the NUHZ of the city of Tiaret

Source: MPUDP; Master Plan for Urban Development and planning URBATIA TIARET, 1996, Revision MPUDP 2006, Revision MPUDP 2017, Field survey 2012, 2015, 2019.

Photos 1, 2: The photo on the left is showing a NUHZ building reserved exclusively for housing. The photo on the right side represents a building realized within the framework of the densification of the NUHZ in which the ground floor is reserved for shops and services to give back the importance to the street as a structuring element of the urban space.

Photos 1, 2: The photo on the left is showing a NUHZ building reserved exclusively for housing. The photo on the right side represents a building realized within the framework of the densification of the NUHZ in which the ground floor is reserved for shops and services to give back the importance to the street as a structuring element of the urban space.

Source: Field survey, 2020

Growth of commercial strips: a diffuse decentralization?

  • 18 Master Plan for Urban Development and Planning instituted by Law 90-29 of December 1, 1990, is a to (...)

31The urban planning actions conducted in the city of Tiaret have produced functioning modes different from the classic center/periphery system. After the failure of decentralization, planned within the framework of the MPUDP18, by the development of secondary agglomerations near the city (Karman and Senia), a fragmented relocation of some structuring facilities took place in the periphery to relieve the city center. Among the 32 facilities built after 2006, a dozen were located along the national road 23; a dozen were set up along the national road 14, five near the national road 90, and five others in the city center.

32The process of relieving the city center had a significant impact on the urban fabric of the city, allowing for the diffusion of shops and services resulting in a recomposition of the urban fabric, both morphologically and functionally. The city center continues to have a commanding role, although it is affected by the dilapidation of its buildings and lack of maintenance, and it is now under competition from the commercial strips areas.

33The choice of location of these facilities was made far from a coherent vision established by the urban planning plans (MPUDP and LUP). These have been content to regulate a done deal and legalize the choices made by technical commissions that are guided by financial availability, by the urgency of the operations registered at the central government level, and by the pressure exerted by the actors concerned at the local level to monopolize a well-situated property base.

34The city had 4119 shops and services in 2019:36% located in the city center, 44% located along the main roads of the city, and 20% distributed in a punctual or nodal form within residential areas (Table 1). Except for the trade of first necessity, the installation of other businesses and services, which were exclusive to the city center, began at the commercial strip level in the late 1990s with a limited number (4% of the 200 surveyed), it increased to 23.69% between 2000 and 2010 and reached its peak (72.31%) between 2010 and 2019.

Table 1: The distribution of tertiary activities in the city of Tiaret

Location

Number of tertiary activities

%

The services

The shops

City center

1290

36%

561

729

Commercial Strips

1611

  - NR 14

80

31

49

  - NR 40

47

44%

17

30

  - NR 23

192

48

144

  - NR 90

232

94

138

  - PR 10

349

120

229

  The shopping centers

711

/

711

The suburbs (Punctual concentration)

899

20%

315

584

Secondary agglomerations

319

/

84

235

Total

4119

100%

1270

2849

Source: Field Survey 2019+ DCNCDR, 2019

35Several factors have contributed to the installation of tertiary activities along the commercial strips: the attraction of the site favored by the presence of structuring facilities (61% of surveyed), the accessibility ensured by the main traffic roads (22%); the commercial concentration, the residential density, the security and the proximity of work have reinforced the choice of installation of shops and services.

36In Tiaret, the development of activities in the form of strips animated by retail trade has been encouraged by strong demand of its populated hinterland, supported by the improvement of the road infrastructure and by the deployment of passenger transport by private operators and the car ownership of families.

37The establishment of this commercial system diffused along the strips (Map 4) (1611 shops) is the result of the commercial urban planning intended by the public authorities through the establishment of facilities and shops integrated into the buildings of the collective housing by densifications of the NUHZs, breaking with the functional urban planning that was conducted during the 1970s or in the new expansions. As well, it results from the intervention of private individuals who want to take advantage of this commercial dynamic by resorting to sometimes radical transformations of the individual housing (Photo 3) which contains approximately 60% of the buildings housing trade and services. In order to fit out commercial uses, 29% of the respondents performed partial demolitions, 26% transformed the garage to provide space for an activity, 20% arranged a room, 13% proceeded with horizontal extensions and 12% resorted to complete demolitions. These operations have progressively contributed to the transformation of the urban fabric, both functionally and morphologically. The modern design of building facades and storefronts, as well as of the interior of the stores, the installation of advertising panels, and the whole is revealing a behavior change and contribute to the desire to conform to international standards. This development, which is recomposing the urban fabrics of many cities in the Arab world, is connected to transnational trade (Belguidoum and Pliez, 2015).

Map 4: The pattern of distribution of tertiary activities in the city of Tiaret

Map 4: The pattern of distribution of tertiary activities in the city of Tiaret

Source: Field survey 2018, 2019, 2020, Directorate of Commerce and the National Chamber of Commerce Registers (DCNCDR), 2018, 2019.

Photo 3: Individual housing with integrated shops and services to animate the NUHZ s

Photo 3: Individual housing with integrated shops and services to animate the NUHZ s

Source: Field survey 2020

Genesis of the commercial strips and frequentation

38The city's functional mode is closely related to the process of structuring its space. In Tiaret, the junction between the major national roads and the urban penetration routes has favored the concentration of shops and services in the city center, but also the development of commercial strips in view of the spatial exiguity of the colonial fabric and the difficulties it poses for automobile traffic.

39The commercial structure in the city of Tiaret is based on the main roads, namely the extension of national roads (23, 14 and 90) and radial roads, especially the PR10 (map 5), the high commercial density is materialized in the form of aureoles around their intersections. The city center captures more activities where the density is the highest, the southern part comes in second place and asserts itself as a secondary centrality. The concentration of shops and services decreases as we move away from the main boulevards and is limited to the most basic commercial products at the scale of the urban entities (Map 5, Kernel Density).

40The retail trade specializes by type (86%), the rest offer multiple products at the same time, both of which draw about 40% of their supplies from the city's wholesale trade and 60% from Algiers, Oran and El Eulma in Setif, transnational trade hubs for all of Algeria. Other traders numbering 14 out of 200 surveyed are individually part of globalized trade networks and engage in direct international transactions with countries such as Turkey, China, France and Morocco.

41The commercial strips present different commercial profiles: between 2006 and 2019, the southern section that makes the continuity of the national road NR 90 a wide boulevard composed of two roads has benefited from a program of public facilities (administrations, bus station, etc.) which has encouraged the installation of 232 shops and services. According to the international standard industrial classification of all economic activities (ISIC), trade on this strip tends to be in the retail of personal and household goods (36.84%), accommodation and food service activities (22.36%), other information service activities related generally to telephone based information services or computer services (21.05%), retail sale of clothing, footwear and leather articles in specialized stores (19.75%). The two large traditional surfaces, souk el Fellah and the galleries disused for years, have also been redeveloped into stores to free the sidewalks of the city center occupied by the sale on the side and absorb the informal trade.

42At the southern exit of the city, the section associated with the NR 23 which supports north-south flows of Western Algeria has favored the installation of commercial activities mainly for transit: wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (58% of the 192 businesses and services listed), the rest is distributed between accommodation and food service activities, wholesale and retail trade of food products, and retail of personal and household goods. The development of this strip began in the early 2000s and has intensified further since 2014.

43The axis that is part of National road NR 14, penetrating from east to west, is characterized by less diversified shops and services compared to the previous axes (80): retail sale of food in specialized stores (36.12%) is related to high densities of collective housing, accommodation and food service activities (23.69%) which is related to the presence of administrative facilities such as the town hall, the tax center, the headquarters of departments, etc., wholesale and retail trade ; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (17.78%), other information service activities related generally to telephone based information services (15.15%), information and communication (7.26%). The new areas built at the eastern exit of the city along this axis have contributed to its expansion.

44The penetrating road (PR10), the second main road of the city, ensures the link between the main arteries of the city which are formed by the national roads (23, 14, 90, and 40) and articulates the collective, semi-collective, and individual housing estates as well as the different faculties of the university. This road constitutes an important commercial strip by concentrating 349 shops: retail sale of food in specialized stores (21%), retail of personal and household goods (18%), other information service activities related generally to telephone based information services, accommodation and food service activities (17% each) retail sale of clothing, footwear and leather articles in specialized stores (14%), retail sale of cultural and recreation goods in specialized stores (6%), other retail sale of new goods in specialized stores (4%) that are no longer exclusive to downtown, and service activities such as wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (3%).

45The section of the NR 40 leading to the airport is less animated in comparison with the other roads, it remains dominated by construction and specialized construction activities for buildings and civil engineering works, by some wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles.

46The establishment of commercial and service activities along the city's main roads was done as the urban expansion progressed. Among the businesses counted, 20% were set up in parallel with the allocation of housing, consisting mainly of basic necessities, nearly a third (30%) were set up in the early 2000s, and the last half was recently established.

47The commercial strips animate the city, exert an important attractiveness to individuals, men and women, as well as to entire families, and reveal their weight in the functioning of the city. Through the survey with customers (100 people): 23 live at the commercial strips, their frequentation is for the acquisition of food supplies, and other products of daily consumption as well as clothing, 55 live in other districts of the city, 19 and 3 come respectively from the municipalities of the department and neighboring departments to make weekly purchases related to clothing, household equipment, etc. The frequentation of commercial strips is due to several factors: 39% of surveyed frequent these places because of the convenience of prices, or retail sale of clothing, footwear and leather articles in specialized stores which has gained the strips and more particularly the sections (NR 90, PR10, NR23) whose strong concentration is materialized by the two large surfaces reorganized in shopping mall, it is addressed to the social class known as "popular" of modest income. The products of average quality or low range imported essentially from China or Asia are cheap here. 33% visit for the availability and diversity of products, "it's a place where you can find everything” (according to customers) 17% for the easy accessibility, 6% by habit and 5% for the animation and atmosphere generated. As for people's mobility: 40% use public transport to access commercial strips, 30% prefer to walk for reasons of proximity, 17% use cabs and 13% use their vehicle.

48Other accommodation and food service activities have been set up after the relocation of public administrations from the city center. In terms of health, the city has 4 public hospitals, two private medical-surgical clinics, about fifty medical specialists' offices, and 4 medical analysis laboratories. It plays an important intermediary role for medical care services between Oran as a university hospital and the cities of the interior in western Algeria.

49The economic role of the city of Tiaret has been affirmed not only through the employability provided by the shops and services but also by the attractiveness of traders of commercial strips who come from different geographical origins: 61% of surveyed are originally from the city of Tiaret, 21% came from the municipalities of the department (Ain Dheb, Rahouia and Sid El Hosni), 18% belong to other cities such as Setif, Tizi Ouzou, Bordj Bou Arreridj, Ghardaia, Msila, Tissemsilt. The traders are predominantly young men: nearly 61% are aged between 27 and 44 years, 17.3% between 45 and 53, 11% are over 54 years and 8.4% are under 27 years old. The educational background of traders remains dominated by secondary and middle school (32% and 30% respectively); 28% are university graduates.

Map 5: Commercial density in the city of Tiaret (model kernel density)

Map 5: Commercial density in the city of Tiaret (model kernel density)

Source: Field survey 2018, 2019, 2020, Directorate of Commerce and the National Chamber of Commerce Registers (DCNCDR), 2018, 2019.

Do commercial strips compete with the downtown center?

50Two commercial streets (ex Bugeaud and Cambon streets), with one-way traffic, structure the commercial activity in the city center, are, in reality, only the extension of the NR 23 and articulate the structuring facilities. By its symbolic charge, the city center is animated by shops and services that represent 36% of the total of the entire city, the influx of people is remarkable and perceptible through the frequentation of the emblematic squares of the city: the place "ex Carnot" currently called the place of Martyrs and Loubet place also called after independence the place of Victory and commonly known by "blassa". These two spaces of recreation are surrounded by a set of facilities: the Directorate of Finance, the headquarters of the security, the post office, the covered marketplace, banks, insurance and hotels. The city center is the node of convergence of all the urban transport lines which reveals its weight in the functioning of the entire city.

51The trade of retail sale of clothing, footwear and leather articles in specialized stores represents 40% of the total activities in the city center, it is intended for high or medium range products aimed essentially at the upper social classes, services occupy 23% (information service, finance, accommodation and food service activities), other businesses related to personal and household goods, retail sale of new goods, food and other services (lawyers' and notaries' offices, doctors... etc.) share the rest of the trade and service activities. In fact, the activities of the city center are becoming more refined due to the high rent of the buildings, which encourages many traders to set up in the commercial areas; 37% of the buildings assigned to trade and services in the city center belong to the traders and the rest are rented.

52However, the development of commercial strips had an impact both on the customer and on the transformation of the commercial system in downtown Tiaret. It remains a favorite place for customers, 91% of whom attend it for various reasons, although the commercial strips are well endowed with services, shops and facilities. Half of the users go to the city center to shop and promenade at the same time, 29% to shop only, 13% for leisure and recreation, and the remaining 8% for financial and insurance activities, administrative services and professional functions.

53To assess the places attractiveness and determine the city center/periphery link in Tiaret, the field survey allowed us to establish the following hierarchy: 31.9% of surveyed see the southern commercial strips as the ideal location for shops and services because of the significant capacity of their sites in terms of surface area, traffic, and commercial diversification, while others (24.5%) prefer the city center for its historical and symbolic value. The national road 90, an important road serving most of the city's urban entities, is seen by 8.3% of surveyed as a real competitor to the city center for some activities (liberal functions, restaurants, etc.). The national road 14 is only important for 2.5% of respondents. The rest of the responses are divided between the spaces surrounding the nodes formed by the intersection of the roads or around facilities.

54The city center has the advantage of containing the most important facilities of the city, including decision-making centers (city hall, banks, courthouse, treasury, etc.) which gives it this advantage, but it is affected by the obsolescence of buildings due to lack of maintenance and by the problems of road traffic due to its network of narrow and exiguous roadways. It is deserted at the end of the day; is it the suburbs that become more animated, offering only the administrative services to its visitors and delegating the commercial strips to ensure the rest, or will it become more refined to gain in quality? In parallel to this evolution, will the linear diffusion of tertiary activities gain in form and develop into real polycentric structure? These are patterns that are emerging; their significance will be revealed over time.

Conclusion

55The morphological and functional transformations that have developed rapidly in the city of Tiaret during the post-colonial period, whether framed by public policies or manifested spontaneously, have affected the classic pattern of its organization and functioning. The rapid spatial development of the city generated by a strong demographic growth has been structured essentially by the national roads that play the role of crossroads in the city. On these roads, main urban artery penetrators have been transplanted tertiary activities to give birth to dynamic commercial strips animated by the retail trade. This revival of the urban dynamic animated by the street has challenged the functionalist urban planning undertaken by the public authorities during the 1970s within the framework of the NUHZs. This process succeeded in recomposing the urban structure of these collective estates, guiding the new urbanizations, and putting the city center under partial competition, but which seems to be set for the long term. Shops and services are evolving in the city center in favor of quality (medium and high ranges), while they are essentially aimed at the working classes in the outskirts with more or less favorable real estate advantages. Thus, the urban structure of the city today is the result of an interaction between planned town planning decided by the higher government level and the town planning carried out by the lower level, sometimes unplanned, which can be integrated into a legal or illegal framework, of which the diffusion of commercial activities is the main mechanism.

56By its command role as the capital of the state and its geographical location as a crossroads city, Tiaret focuses on facilities and numerous industrial installations of a national nature, this has given it an important tertiary role for its hinterland and its regional space and has enabled it to develop a diversified commercial system. This one currently animates in connection with the transnational trade the structuring roads of the city and involve the actors, private as well as public, in morphological transformations sometimes radical of the urban fabric, in particular in the subdivisions of the individual housing.

57Mostly young and with different levels of education, the traders of diverse geographical origins lead this urban dynamic and make the city more attractive, but they also contribute to pressure on urban land and real estate.

58Does the diffusion of tertiary activities in general and retail trade in particular in a linear pattern open the doors to the development of other urban centralities proper? And does it jeopardize the current center with its contiguous urban fabric, whose accessibility has become increasingly difficult and which is slowly deteriorating due to lack of maintenance?

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Notes

1 The last general population and housing survey (RGPH) in 2008 classified the urban network into five strata: urban metropolis, upper urban, urban, suburban and semi-urban.

2 Ruling house of Ibadi imams of Persian descent centered in Algeria. The dynasty governed as a Muslim theocracy for a century and a half from its capital Tiaret.

3 High plateau with an average altitude of 900 m located in the central region of the Algerian Highlands.

4 National Statistics Office, 2021

5 Statistical yearbook of the state, 2008.

6 New urban housing zone

7 UMP; Urban Master Plan
MPUDP; Master Plan for Urban Development and Planning
LUP; Land Use Plan

8 Cite in Mabogunje A. L., 1990, "Urban Planning and the Post-Colonial State in Africa: A Research Overview", African Studies Review, Vol.33, N°2, 121.

9 Pious hermit, saint of Islam, whose tomb is a place of pilgrimage.

10 National Statistics Office (NSO), 2008.

11 Mabogunje A. L., 1990, "Urban Planning and the Post-Colonial State in Africa: A Research Overview", African Studies Review, Vol.33, N°2, 121.

12 Ordinance°74-26 of 20.02.1974.

13 National Statistics Office (NSO), 2008

14 Form of individual housing realization according to a standard plan for the whole of the co-operators often gathered within a professional framework.

15 El-Moudjahid of March 1, 1989.

16 National Statistics Office (NSO), 2020

17 National Statistics Office (NSO), 2020

18 Master Plan for Urban Development and Planning instituted by Law 90-29 of December 1, 1990, is a tool that succeeds the UMP to support the urban growth of Algerian cities.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Map 1: Tiaret Study area
Crédits Source: topographic map, 1/2 300 000, INCT, Algeria, 2016
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39828/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 348k
Titre Map 2: Tiaret growth of built-up area
Crédits Source: Master Plan for Urban Development and planning URBATIA TIARET, 1996, Revision MPUDP 2006, Revision MPUDP 2017, Field survey 2012, 2015, 2019, Google Earth, 2021.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39828/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 1,0M
Titre Map 3: Recomposition of the NUHZ of the city of Tiaret
Crédits Source: MPUDP; Master Plan for Urban Development and planning URBATIA TIARET, 1996, Revision MPUDP 2006, Revision MPUDP 2017, Field survey 2012, 2015, 2019.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39828/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 878k
Titre Photos 1, 2: The photo on the left is showing a NUHZ building reserved exclusively for housing. The photo on the right side represents a building realized within the framework of the densification of the NUHZ in which the ground floor is reserved for shops and services to give back the importance to the street as a structuring element of the urban space.
Crédits Source: Field survey, 2020
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39828/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 408k
Titre Map 4: The pattern of distribution of tertiary activities in the city of Tiaret
Crédits Source: Field survey 2018, 2019, 2020, Directorate of Commerce and the National Chamber of Commerce Registers (DCNCDR), 2018, 2019.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39828/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 659k
Titre Photo 3: Individual housing with integrated shops and services to animate the NUHZ s
Crédits Source: Field survey 2020
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39828/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 564k
Titre Map 5: Commercial density in the city of Tiaret (model kernel density)
Crédits Source: Field survey 2018, 2019, 2020, Directorate of Commerce and the National Chamber of Commerce Registers (DCNCDR), 2018, 2019.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39828/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 633k
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Référence électronique

Asmaa Bekkouche et Tayeb Otmane, « Structural and functional transformations of an intermediate city and the emergence of commercial strips, the case of Tiaret in Algeria », Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Aménagement, Urbanisme, document 1036, mis en ligne le 11 novembre 2022, consulté le 27 novembre 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/39828 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/cybergeo.39828

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Auteurs

Asmaa Bekkouche

University of Oran2, Mohamed Benahmed
Laboratory of Geographic Space and Territorial Planning (EGEAT)
Oran, Algeria
bekkoucheasmaa@yahoo.com
bekkouche.asmaa@univ-oran2.dz

Tayeb Otmane

University of Oran2, Mohamed Benahmed
Laboratory of Geographic Space and Territorial Planning (EGEAT)
Oran, Algeria
otmanet1@yahoo.fr
otmane.tayeb@univ-oran2.dz

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