Research studies

La nature aquatique dans la ville de Tunis: UN Janus à deux visages

The aquatic nature in the city of Tunis: a Janus with two faces. Abir Messaoudi


Prepared by the researcher : Abir Messaoudi – landscape engineer, doctor in studies of landscapes and regional planning at the ISA ChottMeriem Sousse, research unit: VAD in ENAU Tunis

Democratic Arab Center

Journal of Urban and Territorial Planning : Tenth Issue – December 2021

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin.

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
ISSN (Online) 2698-6159
ISSN   (Print)  2699-2604 
Journal of Urban and Territorial Planning
:To download the pdf version of the research papers, please visit the following link


In view of the historical events, the arrival of the Carthaginians, Arabs, Turks, French, has shown distanced compositions from the lagoon even though they often coveted to find ways to accost it. The absence of dissertation with the lagoon gives a confined image of Tunis’ city, which fears to face its water bodies on the one hand but also spare lagoon waters gradually all ties with the Sea ‘somewhere else. What has procreated a repulsion between the city and the water accentuated not only the city was embarrassed by its lagoon site becomes a space of miasma and polluting discharges but grew against him also deprive society of a ‘show at the water’s edge especially when approaching over these margins.

By way of entering in the waterfronts of Tunis were an embarrassment, an obstacle that limited the kind of urban development, the city legal moves farther lakes unlike that which by illegal against projects on marshy surfaces. It was only in 1983 that the Tunisian government has begun working with the Saudi group AL Baraka SPLT Tunis and finally gave his reluctance aback facing the lagoon: the success of the remediation work in the lake in ecological and business was promising to see if installing a ‘new urbanity at North Lake. Improving the ecosystem baffled his back to the city; it was a pregnancy to trigger urban development projects in Tunis

The problem of the article is to show that if the presence of water was feared for the city after it became the stronghold of the city of Tunis and that reconciliation between the city of Tunis and its waterfronts was induced by three moments: the design, marketing and implementation.

Notwithstanding, we formulate the hypothesis that through probably fulfilment of the opening on the nature, idiosyncrasy on the development of space exudes an impression of openness fundamentally marked by the paradox: profitability serves him as a focus to finally reach an urban project where the lake is not felt. We hear there, through the appearance of a “speculative intoxication” carrier of meaning, as the landscape of the manufacturing city project in the waterfront is not technical but political.


Au vu des événements historiques, l’arrivée des Carthaginois, des Arabes, des Turcs, des Français, a montré des compositions éloignées de la lagune même s’ils ont souvent convoité pour trouver des moyens de l’aborder. L’absence de dissertation avec la lagune donne une image confinée de la ville de Tunis, qui craint d’affronter ses plans d’eau d’une part mais aussi d’épargner les eaux lagunaires peu à peu toutes liées avec la Mer’ ailleurs. Ce qui a engendré une répulsion entre la ville et l’eau accentuée non seulement la ville était gênée par son site lagunaire devient un espace de miasmes et de rejets polluants mais s’est développée contre lui aussi priver la société d’un ‘spectacle au bord de l’eau surtout lorsqu’on s’approche au dessus de ces marges.

A force d’entrer dans les quais de Tunis étaient une gêne, un obstacle qui limitait le type de développement urbain, la ville légale déplace plus loin les lacs contrairement à ce qui par illégal contre les projets sur les surfaces marécageuses. Ce n’est qu’en 1983 que le gouvernement tunisien a commencé à travailler avec le groupe saoudien AL Baraka SPLT Tunis et a finalement marqué ses réticences face à la lagune : le succès des travaux d’assainissement du lac en matière écologique et commerciale promettait de voir si l’installation d’un ‘nouvelle urbanité à North Lake. L’amélioration de l’écosystème a dérouté son dos à la ville ; c’était une grossesse pour déclencher des projets d’aménagement urbain à Tunis

La problématique de l’article est de montrer que si la présence d’eau était redoutée pour la ville après qu’elle soit devenue le fief de la ville de Tunis et que la réconciliation entre la ville de Tunis et ses quais a été induite par trois moments : la conception, la commercialisation et la mise en œuvre.

Néanmoins, nous formulons l’hypothèse qu’à travers probablement l’accomplissement de l’ouverture sur la nature, l’idiosyncrasie sur l’aménagement de l’espace dégage une impression d’ouverture fondamentalement marquée par le paradoxe : la rentabilité lui sert de point de mire pour aboutir enfin à un projet urbain où le lac est pas ressenti. On y entend, à travers l’apparition d’une « ivresse spéculative » porteuse de sens, que le paysage du projet de ville manufacturière au bord de l’eau n’est pas technique mais politique.

  1. Introduction

The name usually given to megaprojects around waterfronts in some Arab spatialities refers in many instances to a variety of uses: some point to the importance that decision-makers attach to these projects depending on the financial or technical investment scope they impose. Some also mention the complex urban dimensions and implicit problems of city planning, in particular most of the processes that crystallize a set of multidimensional concepts including urban mobility, public spaces, development…Other projects involve a large number of political and technical actors, require a selection of economic activities, and targeted social groups that is generally followed by spatial change of the marginalized and the undesirable.Thus, it appears here that this term «mega» on the one hand raises the study of the expected future effects on all social groups, environments and economic nature, and on the other hand, it questions the complementarity between the plans of the megaprojects around the waterfronts and the strategic plans of the whole city.

We will explore the implications of lake water bodies in Tunis in the evolution of the relationship of the city with water. Several questions arise about the discontinuities that have managed to push back the lagoon but also on correlations that occurred at the gates of Tunis to accentuate the opening of the city’s natural spaces that have constituted borders for the city. The aim of this analysis is to provide a panoramic view of all the heterogeneous geographical changes between urban sprawl and water during time stratifications relating to relevant moments in Tunisian history.

Straddling between urban and water, the relationship of the Tunis’ city and lakes does ‘nt display a typological determinism where water became one of the founding elements of the city itself but rather remains a constituent element of the city. It puts at the center the understanding of urban changes that can certainly not follow a linear path but sinuous changes between opening and closing, between the turn back to the lagoon and look to it. Certainly, these variations highlight the fact that water is the raw material of analysis of the city even if city-water relationship isn’t consolidated really by strong links, remains that don’t mean non-existent.

The questions arise: why does the city of Tunis remain hesitant about its reconciliation with the lagoon? What are the limits of development of the city at the expense of its waters?

  1. Material and Methods

Regarding the methodological approach, it was based on the local experiencefollowing plans and some analyzes of the field that have changed their relationship with the waterfront and affected the heritage. As for the local reality, for a long time, in the context of his relationship with the lake, Tunis was born of the interaction that produced a kind of fear and instability in the process of his opening to this important, natural and geographical component: water. This period of history has tried to reconcile the city with water during the colonial era by drawing the Avenue Habib Bourguiba, which means that public space is a body of liaison between them. Today with the rise of urban projects in the lake after obtaining technical tools abolishing the usual barrier we need to start from the area of the north lake shore to analyze it within a framework that depends on the form on the one hand, and on the intrinsic relations on the other.

Results and Discussion

 2.1. Arab Urban Waterfront Planning Policies:

This aforementioned “mega” assignment may be obvious if one takes into account what it entails as a manifestation of Western stereotypes in architectural and urban dimensions and attempts to reproduce them in the Arab world. However, the reality of the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean shows the opposite in many cases, both for the general public and for the decision-makers who act in the governance of the city. Unquestionably, the literature that dealt with the study of Western urban projects around waterfronts precisely the renewal of the portico city and its transition from a dilemma to an economic and social opportunity shouldn’t be projected on the experiences of the Arab world without taking into account its political specificities. Elsewhere, we advocated the preservation of “horizons” and “dynamics”, of urban planning in the crucible of major Western projects. These orientations had no means of application: we could urbanize but faced with the process of the waterfront project, we were powerless and this problem was indeed a question of aesthetics. Reduced to a simple chronology, the study of the project in the Arab world shows that one of the most important moments that have hindered or failed the monitoring of the progress of major projects is the difficulty of collecting data.

The technical meetings are closed and reserved for policy makers and project managers without being open to society and without involving its target audience, which is the source of any urban revitalization. Therefore, negotiation procedures and project workshops are missing, not to mention access to technical resources (specifications, tenders and strategic studies) such as meeting reports and agreements between political actors and investors) is seen in the wake of the follow-up phase of the project as a difficult, if not impossible, issue. In this way, the transformation of the exchange of information as a resource for discussing the project outside of official circles towards a closed system between only two parties has contributed to a new convergence between the major Arab and Western projects of which the most important common characteristics are:

They reveal forms of urban and architectural style at the service of consumption and the liberal economy: such as shopping malls, parks, high towers and closed communities. This prompted us to take inspiration from new expressions of architecture, so we started talking about the Marketecture as a business perspective that reflects the competition between famous architects in the Western world embodying licensing and sales models, value propositions, technical details relevant to the customer, data sheets. Autographed by their names, urban contexts and architectural structures around water fronts in the Arab world has been marked by competitive differentiation and brand elements, In concrete terms, a mental model that marketing tries to create for the customer. The use of these imported formations, which explore a small architectural area in order to elicit feelings of dazzle, has also motivated the return to urban importation of Western planning codes to include them in the local built environment. For example in Egypt along the Nile, the polarizing power of western construction proceeds by round-trip application of the French law which determines the maximum height of buildings by adding the width of the street and its half. This is not compatible in application with the Arab environmental reality since the angle of inclination of the sun with the horizontal in winter is 47 ° resulting in a lack of light for the opposite building during the entire winter period. In this respect, it is more correct to apply a law that allows a maximum increase in the authorized limits of the 4/3 gauge of the width of the street that is to say half of the building code appropriate for the capital of Paris. (Elmessiri, 1996).

The influence of the Western model was not limited to importing models and structures, but extended internally to the space of the Arab world, that is to say in its vision for the future of cities and the organization of urbanization. Even though the major projects around the water fronts were trying to integrate into their initial prerogatives the imperative of dealing with the Arab-Islamic heritage, they did not go to the beyond highlighting their formal and decorative components such as moucharabieh and domes, without understanding the reasons for their use in their environment. Formerly conceived in a protective relationship, but now prescribed independently of contexts and imposing itself on it based on a modernist expertise. It is now envisaged in an integrated and systemic relationship with its objectives of urban development of waterfronts and is part of a logic of spatial planning not as a place of urbanity but rather as a punctuality structuring the future of the city and campaign. As if the moment of their use has become sacred while restoring these formations as an image or a descriptive approach isolated from the social context. This logic has also firmly anchored in the consciousness of the Arab architect or engineer concerned with these great projects, the western thinking based on the highlighting of the form, not functions and their interactions with their civilizational components based on economic and social latitudes.

This means that these major projects lack in their cultural base a link between architecture or urbanization and an ethnographic study of society. Given that this social context is the one that, in the past, it created methods to solve its urban dilemmas and today, in hypermodern societies, was content to simply adopt a global model based on the unification of urban thought and the transformation of capitalism into a dominant culture.

By mobilizing the different lines of analysis, this urban apprehension refers to an iconic representation of the aquatic landscape updating these urban entities supported by Western trends. Indeed, in Greek mythology, Narcissus was this young man who one day randomly by quenching his thirst near a spring, discovers his reflection in the water but does not know that it was his own image, he subsequently fell in love with this image until he reached death and metamorphosed into a flower: Narcissus. Water, if one considers as painting or image was a scene enraging words, gestures and thought: water becomes an ambush, a sort of conspiracy, which traps men in artifice; such is the case of Narcissus. Thus, the mute water participates in this process of self-forgetfulness: the being detaches himself from his soul, from his inner strength to see only the external image.

This can explain the abundance of water in all the architectural and landscape fantasies: the excessive concentration of skyscrapers at the edge of the water, this reminder narcissus that was taken by the form and the image, forgets to drink and eat until it fades. As if man through water wants to show us ostentatiously his technical power even when he turns to nature, which is in fact an extension of himself. Through the experience of narcissus, water is only a lethal water, and that has gagged the depth of the human being to become only a mirror of its physical dimension without letting it externalize. What is relevant in this experience is that, through water, it reflects not only on the western vision of water as an image but also on western hegemony over Arab Man, today fascinated as Narcissus by the perception of the other without even getting to see the errors, the dissymmetry in the Western urban or landscape experiences. The lack of error in the adoption of the Western model on the part of the Arabs, cancels this differentiation between the imaginary that is external and the real, which is internal according to their own requirements and needs. For this reason, in the studies of the relationship between the city and water carried out by Europeans in the Mediterranean, they always tend to want to examine whether or not the schemes launched check that of their own: they do not seek to discover the specificities but to ensure the success of their waterfront renewal model.

These were executive structures that brought together the public and the private:

The authority that manages these megaprojects around water fronts must be a public institution or a private institution resulting from a partnership between private institutions or the power is mixed involving public and private institutions of the State.

The latest patterns, private and mixed, have become dominant in Arab urbanism. The first private company appeared mainly in the 2000s and contained, in addition to foreign real estate developers, national private companies in Morocco, Syria, Egypt and Libya, but the second mixed company occurred in the project of the development of Lake Tunis, which was shared by the Tunisian government and the Saudi Al-Baraka Society.

Thus, the scheme for managing major projects around waterfronts differs from one country to another. For example, dependence on the private sector may be more developed in Lebanon than in Algeria. This pattern generally applies to Arab countries, which, through their choice of urban authorities managing these projects, have experienced a rapid growth of the urban fabric around their waterfronts, such as the United Arab Emirates.While most Arab countries proceeded to the methodical identification of a style of management that goes from dependence to central authority: Monarchy in the case of the Moroccan example. A partnership with the foreign private sector in the capital to ensure, on the one hand, the completion of a technical structure during the implementation of the parts of the project, on the other hand, aesthetic and architectural characteristics embodied in major Western projects.

Moreover, the two prototypes in Morocco are envisaged: the container port “Tanga Med” _ that approximately 2 billion dollars has been allocated to it as a platform of international activities and related to global logistics flows that promise to be a major competitor. On the lower part of the intermediate Mediterranean between Europe and North Africa. Of course, if we go back to the example of the development of the Bouregreg Valley which was launched by King VI in 2006 on an area of 6000 hectares at an estimated investment cost of 15 billion dollars.

The Bouregreg Development Agency, the Sama Dubai company and finally the Moroccan CDG undertook the project. This regional plan extends from the Sidi Abdallah dam to the mouth of the river in the Mediterranean and seeks to renovate the urban links between the two sides of the valley: Salé and Rabat. This landscape embodies the construction of a “common good”, which invariably returns the city dweller to a recharge between the two shores by the development of a social and economic dynamic as a rule of good conduct guaranteeing the urban equality of proximity for these spaces distinctly configured.It therefore appears a complementarity between the two cities, an urban place produced by and the means of a waterfront allowing it to live together. While the city of Saléis economically shaded by the concentration of industrial activities in Rabat, whereas, on the contrary, Salé achieves social stability and balance in Rabat, because the cost of living is low.

Thus, overlooking an arrangement of relations, the city of Rabat will be the city of work, beyond that of Salé for its nightlife will be the place to sleep but the fact remains that this city remains on the margins for decades.

Intended to dress the walls, the first part of thesea gate’s project _ since the project is divided into six sequences_ was not limited to maintaining the packaging of the two cities by a western configuration faithfully circumscribed by entertainment. The establishment of the Marina, the center of technology, commercial and residential areas, hotels and international conference centers, an artificial island and a theater designed by ZahaHadid.

It is rather a question of achieving another more natural horizon, which poses a varying challenge to foreign companies by objecting rather to the general interests of Moroccan society. This marked another organizational logic adjusted by the urban liquidity and dynamism between the city of Salé and Rabat, by setting up a double tramway line over 17 km.In the light of this perspective, which accompanies without cognitive break the western style as an attempt to affiliate with the modern profitable city, the land then becomes a source of possession to add value. This requires in its essence the expropriation and transfer of the population according to the provisions of the project that emerge from a perimeter of legislative reform facilitating real estate developers their activities. In this sense, the project design requirements, dominate the rest of the urbanization documents and subject the permit authorization to its provisions.

It is rather a question of achieving another more natural horizon, which poses a varying challenge to foreign companies by objectifying rather the general interests of Moroccan society. This reflects another organizational logic adjusted by urban liquidity and dynamism between the city of Salé and Rabat, by setting up a double tramline over 17 km.

In the light of this perspective, which without cognitive disruption accompanies the Western style as an attempt to affiliate with the profitable modern city, the land then becomes a source of possession to add value to it. This essentially imposes the expropriation and transfer of the population according to the provisions of the project, which emerge, from a perimeter of legislative reform making it easier for real estate developers to carry out their activities. In this sense, the project design requirements dominate the rest of the urbanization documents and subject the permit authorization to its provisions.

As a result, social tensions have tried to exert pressure through civil society in the Bouregreg region especially when it comes to an expropriation of the wakfs “SidiBenacher cemetery in the town of Sale to make it a park of attractions “, not replaceable given the narrowness of the allocated spaces.

Through this reality that mobilizes all these contradictions that can force the real estate nature of the land and this sensitivity of the political agenda of these projects, the attempt to integrate local public institutions to become more independent of central government is seen as an asset that highlights the structural similarity with project management in Western countries. This is the case in Morocco, in the Casablanca development plan; the mayor of the municipality manages the financing of the private promoter and the provision of urban facilities as well as the resumption of the implementation of operations by calls for tenders to select the promoter. This face-to-face meeting between the municipality and the promoter enshrines the increasing interference of urban local and regional authorities in the management of major projects around waterfronts as an anticipatory process that is beginning to materialise. Despite the fact that the process of integrating local public institutions to enable them to acquire skills in the management of large projects makes them completely independent from the central government.

It should be noted that this combination and the creation of groupings involving central government, local authorities and investors in a way that is appropriate to the characteristics of projects oriented towards neoliberalism, does not necessarily lead to the management of disturbances that generally result from the interweaving of decision-making modes into urban governance. It tends rather towards the classic top down model; such is the case of the development project of Lake Tunis: attempts to build a project with joint management remain rare. Indeed, this urban workshop, which dissociates itself from local governance, shows through the reading of the urban dynamics of Tunis in these different planar perceptions that the city was seen as a model and not as specificity. Although it has recently succeeded in seeking reconciliation with its lagoon approaches through a tropism mechanism concerning the influence of external experience (KSA, United Nations, Europe) which triggered a Tunisian political craze to make urban around the shores of the lake.

The city of Tunis also risks giving birth to a fragmented urbanization in spite of this vision of a city that consolidates and unifies its territory through development projects around the lake. This risk is foreseen given the cuts of the industrial establishments of Lake South (50% of the industries of the country). The city of Tunis over time and water hasn’t really been thought of as a problem but as an object cloned from the experiences of others that will be projections already prepared and assigned to Tunisians.

While there are similarities between the Western model and the Arab model in megaprojects around waterfronts, Arab countries also have a paradox and major difference with their Western counterparts:

This discrepancy is due to the political nature, which makes major projects within Arab countries authoritarian and directly linked to the president or the king, which means that their raison d’être is contingent on the handling of the rules of the throne. Even if this close relationship can also be spotted with senior officials of the North: French President Nicolas Sarkozy launched Greater Paris in 2008.

Only in the countries of the South, the presence of the President remains higher than in the West. It closely linked to the start of prestigious projects that should be carried out on its aquatic environment, whether by a presidential designation in Tunisia or a monarchy in Morocco.

These same megaprojects can reveal the fragility of the state, unable to define a clear strategy for its capital, which is surrounded by bribes and other forms of corruption. For example, in 2007, the Tunisian government sold 950 hectares of land along South Lake Tunis officially to Dubai for the symbolic dinar. This agreement did not provide a clear definition of public facilities, infrastructure and the method of social inclusion in the real estate sector. Unlike Algeria, which has cash inflows from oil revenues, it was not prepared to sell the Bay of Algeria. Perhaps the coincidence and convergence of petrodollars and major projects around waterfronts add to the number of non-Western and distinctive views of Arab cities that stretched from Dubai, Rabat, Damascus, Amman, Khartoum, Nouakchott and Beirut to even outside the Arab world, for example in Istanbul. Gulf investors are targeting areas with high speculative potential and rapidly changing investments as residents: downtown, industrial waste, green fields on the outskirts of cities.

In the context of a growing housing speculation that exploded at the end of 2008, governments strongly encouraged the arrival of investment companies from the Gulf: Sama Dubai, Diar Qatari, Emaar, Boukhater, Sarh, Saudi Oujah Company, DAMAC, etc.), with the aim of improving the capacity to polarize strategic sectors on waterfronts such as tourism. These companies can either manage this project only on a specific site: the development of the Corniche in Rabat, for example, or associate with the State: similar to the company in charge of the development of Lake North of Tunis.Finally, in exchange for the land, the partnership with a national institution will be accepted: the deposit caisse and Management in Morocco, and Mawared in Jordan and Al-Sunt Development Company in Sudan.

This type of development encourages national authorities to keep an eye on the planning and development of their urban project. The construction of new decision-making structures reveals difficult negotiations between national companies and those in the Gulf.

Not to mention that the relationship with the Gulf investor differs from one country to another. The main difference with the Western model is the lack of participatory management with the target community in these projects and the consultative approach has been assigned to it, due to the weakness of civil society. Notably in Tunisia, where bloggers have criticized the arrival of investors from the United Arab Emirates and the total lack of community participation. As a result, these projects are mobilizing the urban factory simply as a product, not a chain of procedures and processes.

In general, the discovery of oil was a decisive step that contributed to the realization of urban transformations in many Arab capitals around the waterfronts. The revenues from oil flows in Nouakchott are the best example cited to show their impact on the image of the city, and their roles in urban transformations.

These changes are part of a blatant social contradiction, given the widespread poverty in the Mauritanian capital and in the midst of an international contradiction that has accompanied it for some time. Indeed, we can sketch a marginal city, especially if we go back to its origins, we see that the French occupation chose Nouakchott as capital because it was empty of inhabitants and therefore not touched by the tribal link. What some analyse it as a colonial settlement prior to abstraction to create a modern city that lacks historical value. In 2001, an Australian oil company, Woodside, stimulated Mauritania’s hopes of becoming an oil emirate. Only, after the embezzlement scandal, this company sold its licence to the giant Malaysian oil company, then to other oil companies: Spanish, French and Chinese.New contracts have led to the discovery of additional oil deposits and the realisation of reserves estimated at 400 million barrels of crude oil: which prepares Mauritania to become one of the top ten oil-producing countries in Africa. In the light of these oil flows, the question of the need to create new centres in Nouakchott was raised, and so the question was, how do we turn the capital into a set of regions that have the capacity to become new hubs with activities that attract investment?Therefore, the construction of the new international airport under the decision of the Council of Ministers was the first approach to attract the outside world for this new investment hub. Nevertheless, it has contributed to the erosion of green belts: vegetable gardens for the city Ain Diar and has created a real estate crisis since in the Bedouin mentality the acquisition of property is dependent on the occupation of land. In addition, there is a social crisis, as other communities based in the city remain linked to agricultural activities, especially after the loss of oases due to the salinity of the Sebkha. These activities contributed to a certain extent to the economic coverage of low-income landowners or small-scale farmers. In addition, it is on the fate of this class that we wonder, in the event that agricultural activity is transferred out of the city. How can the development plans accommodate residential complexes close to agricultural land? Finally, the sequencing of a landscape crisis refers to a city in a block of mineralized construction in which the natural scenic sense is absent. This crisis was aggravated by the loss of the oasis, as already mentioned, which could have been used as a recreational area for its visual value.

During this part, I was interested in looking for a fresh look that studies the design and nature of the system of government, where the nature of the place and the organization of the city is determined the form of the political system, whether democratic, or authoritarian. When young designers want to change the world, but politicians have other ideas in mind: to serve the regime and drive towards an ideal future for them only, this suggests a tension between the operational action of urban revitalization and the public money spent on this planning.

2-2Tunis: Historicity of water confused report

The city of Carthage was established in 814 AD by the arrival of the Phoenicians driven out of Tyre. Initially, Carthage or QartHadasht (New Town) was involved in a religious subordination of the peninsula of Tyre.Then after two centuries this connection is removed without losing the major characteristic of the city, which is none other than the maritime facade: the city opening onto the sea by its profitable commercial strategies has been able to expand in other places on the shores of the Mediterranean: Sicily, Sardinia, Iberia etc.…

Fig 1: Map of the empire of the Phoenicians

Source:The great encyclopedia of the history of the junior world volume 1, p.56, Éditions Nathan, Paris, France, 1994

The city of Carthage, the Phoenician counter has evolved by managing its aquatic matrix and keeping the same defensive footprints formulated from its place of departure: the island of Tyre. This attraction towards the coast is justified by natural resources, ease of access and subsequently urbanization and the development of economic poles. Bordered to the south by the lake of Tunis, to the north by the lagoon of the Soukra, which was in antiquity a bay and to the east by the maritime waters, the city should protect itself only by its western outcome where Tunis is located.

However, according to some analyses the process of maritime protection was reversed by the arrival of the Arabs at the end of the 7th century. The city of Carthage is eclipsed by Tunis.The latter fears the arrival of the adversaries by the sea that is why it recedes from the sea by promoting an urban development inside, without breaking completely with the sea: during the beginning of the 8th century, the Arabs built an arsenal that opened through the port to the lagoon.

On the one hand the exit of ship whether commercial or war is assured by a channel through the cordon of the Goulette, on the other hand the prohibition of the penetration of the ships is facilitated by stretching a chain between the castle of Qasr el Amir and a wall on one of the banks of the channel. On the other hand, by going back on the Arabic writings of the history of Tunisia, the city of Tunis was traced by Hassan Ibn Numan in 82 AH to be a maritime military base and to prevent the recurrence of the Byzantines on Cartagena in 78 AH.

The latter, dug a canal to join the city to the sea thanks to a seaport after the establishment of the industry of the ships: for this industry he brought the Egyptian Copts. Thus, Tunis was built in this era while keeping eyes on the major political strategies aiming to limit the Roman invasion in the African Sahel but also to move to the stage of the Arab-Islamic conquest.

From the Carthaginians to the Arabs, the lagoon was the mediator connecting two oppositions to the sea and the continent.

If the former feared the continent, the latter, on the contrary, went towards the interior of the country. Especially during the Aghlabid period, where they converged instead towards the Kairouan region, which was likely to achieve different military objectives: contain the natural passes of the west (Haidra and Sbeitla) to subjugate the Berber population, invite the Byzantine maritime offensive attack of the coast.

The military vocation has well delineated models of geographical positioning and has implicitly translated the relationship of these civilizations in relation to water, thus reminding us of the positioning of man in relation to water. Narrowing or extending the fear of the sea, the lagoon took advantage of the two cases since it is geographically located between the continent and the sea, to open towards the sea or incline towards the land of Carthage to the Arabs.

The interest in the lagoon was present at the crossroads of eyes, but in this mixture at once hesitant or betting, the perception of the lagoon translates this hesitation. Sometimes it is obstacle of the urban development especially with the Romans (time between Carthage and the Arab conquest) or a place of concern sometimes it is a shelter to gain the opening towards the sea.

For P. Sebag, between the two experiments the author sees that the site of Carthage favored more the opening towards the lagoon since this civilization was destined to sea while the site of Tunis was ‘ absurd’ and ‘unfavourable to the affirmation of its maritime facade, in addition the lagoons.

To contradict this unfaithful vision, the first argument consists in the choice of the location of the mosque Zitouna (olive mosque) which was not hazardous. The historians show that it is an old building built before the arrival of the Arabs and of military vocation: one noticed the great thickness of the stones used like those of the forts and the Ribats. Other study believes that this may explain the minaret rejection in the mosque up to the Hafside Air, in place Hassan Ibn Numan put two watchtowers and that at the same time uses them for calls to prayer exactly like minarets.

This indicates that the mosque had a dual role of cult and protection of the Tunis’ city by holding a furtive look on the sea. In his book, ‘Tracts and Kingdoms’, Al Bakri says that whoever is in the mosque can see the ships in the sea. Without forgetting also, concerning the second argument ‘in my regard’ that this judgment on the part of P. Sebag “the Arabs doubted the water because they don’t control it” is contradicted by looking closely at the hydraulic works in Kairouan at this time. It can be traceda genious incorporation that was able to bring back the water to the city while keeping the concern to tame nature and to take advantage of its gifts by guaranteeing the drinking water supplies to the city. The choice to have given more interest to the Kairouan’ city in comparison with Tunis is justified by a geographical rationalization to win two battles that of the Byzantines and those of the Berbers and not by a technical problem that of cannot be able to face the sea.What still seems to be relevant is that for the Arabs their relationship to water is always linked to a utilitarian logic to pawn water to the city, and subsequently think of positioning an arsenal in these places (lagoon, sea) to protect the city.Yet during the pre-Hadhasid era, about the 11th century, the city kept its morphological characteristics crystallized around a repetitive prototype.

The space is enclosed in an enclosure that formulates an interface with the rural landscape. In this urban silhouette coming from a branch of the arteries to let develop the suburbs (the extensions), there is a structural opposition that advocates on the differentiation between the outside and the inside of the city.The disadvantaged population was rejected outside the medina or resides bodies of water and large gardens.In 1236, with the arrival of Abu ZakariaYahya, the capital of Tunis became the capital of Ifriqiya; this new extension has led to an increase in water supply by different hydraulic systems, especially with the succession of drought’s years that the country experienced during this period. Tunis took good advantage of the shallow and sparsely brackish water table to satisfy its water needs over the entire stretch from the east side of the hill to the lake below. The geographical position of Tunis isolated from the center of the country in the Hafsid era reflects in itself several meanings.

The focus is not just on the economic inspection of the plains located in the north of the country, which are irrigated by moderate rainfall to allow social groups to settle there and provide them with a stable life. In addition, its interest in the sea exceeds that of the interior of the country _ especially if we know that Tunis had relations under tension with the interior given the concentration of the Berber tribes since they manage to provide significant resources derived from piracy. The city of Tunis was open to the sea so implicitly to its lagoon.What can be noted that the city’s relationship with water reflected on the way the life of city residents. This is why the Berbers in the mountain areas suspected this luxury culture.It allowed cancelling the empty spaces intramuros to be replaced by the urban extension of new districts where the presence of water benefited the development of gardens and orchards. Subsequently, it can be said that the changes that allowed the passage from one Hafsid state to another, although it has preserved its balance throughout successive centuries, were inflicted largely under the effect of international conditionality and not only the internal state of the country.Therefore, among the repercussions of the great maritime discoveries on the one hand and on the other hand of the vitality and activity that Europe experienced at the time of the renaissance, mention is made of the loss of the Mediterranean basin after the deviation of the major trade routes. The economy of cities focused on the use of preponderance is weakening, society has failed to compete with its crisis, thus, the Hafsid state deprived itself of the external resources obtained from the exchanges, which further contributed to the dissolution of the state rapidly since it lost its ability to deter the tribes inside.Then the Turks and the Spaniards occupied Tunisia respectively in 1534 and 1535 were not interested in Tunisia itself but only in its supervising strategic location on the Strait of Sicily. In fact, this corridor links between the Mediterranean basins whether of the Eastern field of domination of the Otman Empire or of the West that is under the influence of the Spanish king. After having put Tunisia under his control in 1535, Charles V ordered to build a great rampart at the Goulette, ‘the base port of the capital’ that, thanks to him, guarantees the survival of the Spanish army on African soil for nearly forty years.This arsenal is relaxed from ‘Bab El Behar’ or sea gate to the shores of the lake at the level of the martyrdom square (currently) and which served to protect Tunis from the sea. In the direction of the lagoon, the construction of Nova Arx the citadel that preserved the same urban dynamics of yesterday was not already accomplished when the Turks seized Tunis in 1574. The fighting destroyed the Nova Arx, and the lake’s surroundings were transformed into a dilapidation within which not only the exclusion of cemeteries in these places was witnessed, but also the concentration of polluting discharges of the city the lake became the mouth of the open sewers.

Fig 2: the city of Tunis and the Nova Arx.

Source :

The name Bûghaz attributed to the lake, which means strait shows well the perception of the Turks at the time Otman with regard to the relationship of the lagoon to the sea. Only this cooptation of the state facing its waterfronts was not able to translate a link between lagoon and sea, but rather a break, since he was anxious to hide Tunis from any ambushes from the sea, the channel of the gully is then obstructed, the lagoon communicates with the sea only through the natural pass of Radés.

The ecological impact on the state of the place was considered, the lagoon was confined by mutating into a reservoir of pollution of the city in evolution. Only the gully was an important point of communication with the outside, via this bay built at the same place of that of the Spaniards the goods were exchanged.Only at the end of the Otman era, we were beginning to think of drying up the lagoon, but we gave up on this idea and instead began to rehabilitate the harbour of the gully by creating new wharves.As a result, during this temporal translation from the pre-Hadhasid era to the Otman era, the city’s interests in these waterfronts were changing; they sometimes procreated a life at the lagoon to be considered as a city entrance necessary to solicit these commercial needs: the lagoon was therefore a subsistence for the city. Moreover, sometimes, they only reflected this altered image of a city that rejected its ruined ruins (sewage polluted water, cemeteries, etc.) to its bodies of water.So that it provoked to annihilate the lagoon, but for lack of technical and financial means, we would always come back to the port of the gully to renovate and dust off its harbour components by increasing the number of facilities.History tells us that on the eve of the protectorate (Husseini period), Tunis outlawed in its peripheries the less noble activities (scrap shops) and agricultural activities (large fields are relegated close to waterfronts).

On the other hand, the analysis of the French protectorate installed in Tunisia, shows that it is by the promenade of the navy that this new report has just crystallized.Especially if we know that practically it is the only pivotal motivation, which left the eye of military circumspection for another directly concerning the urban.If we start from this consideration, we understand that the promenade was in fact a link between the new city and the lagoon. Nevertheless, if we start from the Promenade ofthe navy itself, we see that it was a large esplanade surrounded by crevices and scattered with rubble. In addition, it propagates a feeling of disgust since it constitutes a void surrounded by a void that is why Ahmed Bey decided to prolong urbanization in this area especially with the establishment of the Consulate General of France.

Fig 3: The Promenade of the navy.

Source :

So far, the colonial city guarantees a new relationship between the urban and its waterfronts.However, the practice of the city shows us that this relationship is undone by an enormous contradiction between utopia and reality, between ends and means. There was a suspicion of economic ‘utilitarianism’ of the French settlers regarding their relationship with the city, although in their home country they managed to know how to do with the maritime facades in the European port city. The Avenue of Jules Ferry above (the Promenade ofthe navy becomes the avenue ofJules Ferry in 1900) is supposed to connect the city to the water, but the stratification of deposits tied up to the activity of the port blurred the perspective towards the maritime facade.

Fig 4: Avenue Jules Ferry, a perspective blurred by the warehouses of the new port.

Source: www.

It was a tangible result of the commercial interests of the French settlers. It concealed a landscape that was valued as “charming” by urban water from an interstitial space: the axis of the city.

The socio-spatial image at the edge of the lagoon referred to rurality much more than to urbanity. The attempt of the French settlers to open up to the lagoon since the model of the Arab city was locked in on itself by taking intimacy as a conceptual landmark was only ‘commuting’.

The European city pushed the lagoon limits and allowed an urban and landscaped anarchy to develop close to the bodies of water; the shores of the lake remained an area of rural belonging to which it was transformed into land speculation (whether for industry, or regulated habitat: small Sicily, or for transhumant Bedouins).

Of course, at the crossroads of humanitarian change, the geographical nature still maintains its rights, even with the crystallization of the most complex systems such as the city. This undoubtedly feeds the urban planning paradigm, which dissolves into the geographical aspect as its destination and original place at the same time.

In doing so, urban geography becomes one of the most dynamic scientific branches, especially after the inflation of cities and the extension of its territories scrutinize the facts and rules of a deformation of the ecosystem that is at the limit of eutrophication. Geography after having established quite polysemic progress, materialized in research and books, justifies the introduction of the cartographic structure of the Greater Tunis, in the ambition to clear the future of its waterfronts.

Thus, by perfectly tying a new reunion of the city with its site, which implies that systemic behaviour of the phenomena of the insertion of wetlands in the city with of course its double consequences of opportunity or crisis which are clearly posed. The enthusiasm for this nature didn’t raise a positive impression, in this respect the testimonies point the finger at the miasms triggered by the standing waters at the edge of the water.

In fact, various emitters caused the imbalance of the ecosystem. Despite attempts to dig channels of communication with the sea that relate the renewal of the waters since the time of KeiredineBarberouss, and later Charles V.

«The emperor Charle Quint had a canal dug up to Tunis in 1535, the French had a much deeper one dug in 1885: it is the one that is currently used and is regularly dredged”  .

Pollution and weak trade with the sea have become an irreversible phenomenon, where the impact on the fishing sector is linked to a situation of economic vulnerability. Moreover, the slope of the Tunis region explains the discharge of raw or uncleaned wastewater precisely in the basin of the esplanade for Lake North and then to the south lake via the communication channel.

At the confluence of all the wastewater, there is added another quantity of rainwater that only causes an overload of the water body and causes its eutrophication by going towards the basin of the esplanade by the formation of organic mud.

Marine traffic is the driving force behind the appearance of oil stains in the lake; this pollution remains inevitable through the exchange between the lake and the sea. By extrapolation, these external emitters have intensified the internal mechanisms of pollution of Lake Tunis. It is evident from a primary observation of the inheritance that exists between wastewater discharges and the salinity index, to witness an increase in the mean of salinity, which varies over time and space going from the West to the East that lies between27 ‰ and 41 ‰.

This salinity by a correlative effect marks the disappearance of dissolved oxygen, which triggers by a physico-chemical effect the appearance of the phenomenon of “red waters”. The advent of the destruction of the lake’s ecosystem by internal mechanisms such as oxygen, salinity, nutrients such as phosphates, nitrates and chlorophyll, was the prelude to the production of ULVA algae, which amplifies the complications of stagnation of the waters and forbids any maritime exchange.

Fig 5: The lagoon an ecosystem in imbalance.

Source: Zarrouk, Sami, presentation of the development project for the shores of Lake Tunis North, March 2008

To these road accompaniments, the State proceeds to a change of the hydrological balance that has substituted the risks of foul smells. It calls on the various institutions to mobilize and take action. This result in a categorization of these actions through the dredging of formed organic mud, or a regeneration of lake waters that requires the widening and deepening of the main communication channels as well as the various fishing breaches.

2-3 The moments of the development project of the Lake of Tunis:

Until a while, the manufacture of the city was a tool of opposition between an urban centrality that began with the medina practiced positively, and a periphery considered external to the territory and perceived negatively. Subsequently, in the colonial city, the city-water relationship was still a work in progress: the history of Tunis is one of hesitation with the real opening to bodies of water.

However, the concern to control the fringes of the city, is concretized with the launch of the works of sanitation of SPLT “society of promotion of the Lake of Tunis which is a mixed economy Tuniso-Saudi” at North Lake in 1983.It was a starting point for a new reconciliation of the city with a healthy and reduced lagoon rather than an enlarged and polluted lagoon, opening the centrality of Tunis to new spatialities.In fact, according to the project manager of the North Lake project, architect Hans Barreth, the project is divided into three subdivisions: subdivisions A, B are used for urbanization: space dedicated to housing, to the shops, on the other hand the subdivision C remains reserved only to spaces of animation and leisure.

This choice was dictated by the situation of the spaces in relation to the acoustic nuisance of the planes. Therefore, the direction of air navigation of the Ministry of Transport authorizes this positioning. The city design is argued by features, but has resulted in creating a spatial segregation by tracing a luxury urbanism.This building followed a plane orthogonal space; the city is screened by aprioritization of roads and a symmetrical and repetitive parcellization.

Fig 7: Batch assignments defined by the SPLT

Source: Barthel, PA, making the city by the water, University of Lyon, 2003, p 490

This constructible space followed an orthogonal plan, so a hierarchical hierarchy of roads and a symmetrical and repetitive parcellarisation frames the city.

We can therefore distinguish according to a classification parallel to water: the first lot closest to the body of water arranged in clusters contains habitats, commercial buildings (R+3) and which lets see between each cluster another space of tourism animation. The second lot in the center is composed of individual housing and the third towards the street of the highway of Tunis – The Marsa has large buildings (R+4) for housing and services.

In the planning sheets prepared for an easy social layer, Barreth reproduced a good number of proposals. Nevertheless, he kept the buildings feet in the water thus increasing its privatization. This floating fabric is composed of an Arab-Islamic architecture that emerges inside these patios of the gardens.

Moreover, the heritage discourse becomes one of the connotations appreciated.It serve the space recalling the port of Grimaud called the Provençal Venice which was a lake city implanting in these corridors a local vernacular architecture and not wild referencing the legend of neoliberalism and the wealth that iseven a myth imposing its authority over the world by these financial enterprises and these skyscrapers.

This cloning, whose patrimonial semiotics is carried out by Western external structures, has turned its back on the Tunisian legal disposition, which can’t in any way accommodate in the public maritime space a private construction.

A new designer has just won the study contract for the development project of the “North and South” East zone of North Lake.  JellalAbdelkafi drew a morphology of horseshoe at the edge of the water while simplifying the model represented by Barreth by cancelling the forms projected in the water.

The conceptualization of the urban project on the shores of the lake based on technicalities induced two images. The first of a waterfront that is open to different social groups but that is linked to a leisure context. The second where water is privatized by residents’ buildings or tearooms: the lagoon serves as a picturesque sight that recalls the sea; this is what explains the interspersed location of animation space to tourist convocation: the lagoon is treated on the same point of equality as a seaside front.

In another relay, the streets of the residential space are called according to several names of lake in the world: Lake Victoria, Lake Biwa, Lake Ontario, Lake Neuchâtel, Lake Annecy, Lake Mâlaren, Lake Geneva, Lake Huron, Lake Dhaya, Lake Volta, Lake Moero, Lake Tiberias, Lake Turkana, Lake Bourget, Lake Maggiore, Great Bear Lake, Lake Toba, Lake Maracaibo, Great dirty lake. Only like several streets in Tunisia whose context and reality have nothing to do with the name ‘Rue de l’environnement’, the perspective of the orthogonal layout gave the impression that the city was partly opening on water not totally. However, for the space surrounding the cornice, the opening is much freer.

By also analysing the proportion of scale between the frame and the width of the road, we note a strong inequality interval that induces the accentuation of the fragmentation of the urban space in kind of compartment.

The tropism of the city towards the water is also confirmed towards the public space of the cornice. It is true that the space functioned mainly through the creation of urban animation close to it, but also by the presence of water in second position.

Its parallel treatment of the water body- in spite of its simplicity- was certainly a major point in the city since it on the one hand has a little poorly managed spatially its relationship with water.On the other hand, it was the only place that foresees an urban mix close visually to the water of the lake.The effect of this treatment also contributed to the accentuation of the confusion between lagoon and maritime water. If the public space ‘ avenue Jules –ferry was an attempt to re-link the relation between the new city and the lake, the new public space of the corniche goes without saying in the same logic. The corniche is an important matrix in the city, since it’s the only place where the waterfront is of a public vocation: around it, an urban animation follows a conception advocating on consumption.

Since the ideal heritage between the city and its waterfronts is loaded with Symbol. With many negative collective images, the political approach reflects the ambition of those responsible to create a new balanced city in these functions and which advocates a harmonious and coherent development.

By extrapolation, the urban marketing operation finds its raison d’être through the media. The narration of this operation advanced a new image of the lake to guarantee and fill a lack of metaphors valuing by its images and slogans a new added value vis-à-vis the social. Thus the Tunis Bourguiba board puts the Spanish fort Saint Jacques de Chikly as a heritage jewel of the site dating from the 16th century and which was in 1991 as part of a bilateral cooperation between the government of the Kingdom of Spain and the Tunisian Republic on a signature center for a protocol to restore the Fort.  The other board Tunis – El Bouhaira puts the lake at the center of a tourist activity, but the city behind the aquatic plane reflected a cured water worthy of trust of its customers. On the other hand, the PlancheCitéKhalij took advantage of a rather accentuated presence of green space and played with the dialogue between heritage on the one hand and modernity on the other hand, in the light of the Grande Motte.

2-4 The boundaries of the Lake Tunis development project:

The banks of Lake Tunis, a city built on the edge of the water through the gestation of urban development projects was generating a new urbanization configuration. In order to understand the signs of this new urban form, it is important to see that within this manufacture there are segmented territorialities between residents and non-residents. The mode of urbanity seems paradoxical, by opposing social diversity in the residential space to that of public space. Moreover, even the residential space designed in advance for housing is being converted into offices for different companies. This leads to a reduction in the relationship between partners.

The outdoor public spaces in comparison with that of the cornice arranged in linear water bodies seem abandoned and very little frequented as if they are a simple scenery in the city and does not envisage interference for its social group.

This vision puts us in the face of questions about urban development on the shores of the lake. Contrary to the desire to open the city to water to manage a new urban centrality that gives the old center the scale, there is an image in us of a city locked in on itself, even if it appears to be rushing towards the water. Can this segregation weigh heavily on the good scheme of a city with a maritime facade?

This observation reveals us that it is not a question of setting up facilities, but also of designing relationships that go with, the construction of socio-spatial interaction remains a consubstantial conditioning of an entire city. Therefore, it seems that even the development of the new port of Rades has helped to further recede distance, and to implicitly induce a need for car. It is as if the city at the banks of the lake is intended for cars and speed. By the way, this is what we can notice in the passage of some residents with luxury cars in high speed. Through the windshield, the city’s landscape is nothing more than a backdrop: speed mostly erases territorial references.

Going back again to this mono-social perspective, which is anticipated by strolling around the interior of the city too silent, the non-recreation of public space, is in fact explained by a prohibition for children to use these spaces.

The considerations to the other are articulated in a figure of anguish, retirement and avoidance that are only risks requiring protection strategies: they (the considerations) are therefore an incentive to develop a safety system. We then see villas fenced and equipped with surveillance cameras.

This retraction inside the villa leads us to see a city combined in the singular, as if an entire city were reduced to a simple residence. The physical closure and sorting of the social groups that sit inside the banks of the lake pose original problems to the city of Tunis.They are the emanations of a split or fragmentation of the city into homogeneous communities. Such is the case of urban secessions in closed communities in France or in the United States (Gated communities) which have formulated their own economic sufficiency and then become an autarkic collectivity.

The generic form of a society dominated by the rules of stretching and avoidance caused an envied space of cultural activities: cinema, theatre, exhibition room or cultural center and was crowded by discos, cafes, bowlings. The interest of the developers was to create animation zones that allow a quick financial gain. This is why they focused mainly on a commercial reference in their development. Admittedly, this perspective of a city under reserve and objected to a purely juicy and profitable logic reflects that development projects on the shores of the lake are only the guardianship of a predominant agent before even the public actor: the private actors.

As a result of experience, from observations of the cornice and its surroundings and repeated visits to which different surveys have been made, it turns out that only one of the hundred residents frequented the public space of the corniche, this is indicative of a retirement that has been reported before. The cornice is not an attractive place for these residents; on the contrary, it is a place to avoid since it makes them mix with a lower social class. It turns out that the other residents preferred to mark their dualistic enunciation by the choice of attending clubs, restaurants, or tearooms by sorting: we only choose the places whose access is already by membership card, this makes it possible to reduce one category of clientele in favour of another more class.

With regard to a partitioned mode of residence, the reaction of non-residents declined reverberations and shifted the same withdrawals and suspicions. During the Tunisian revolution, some Tunisians brought flocks of lamb to the corniche, which was strange, by asking them the reason for being in these spaces, there was a silence and a somewhat aggressive refusal to respond. What leads me to note, that some felt a certain sense of revenge from these high luxury neighborhoods, they wanted to hide from them a rural way of life, since they felt contempt and indifference on their part. This observation was also accentuated by the reaction of the residents of the shores of the lake to the revolution, while the interior of the country testifies to a sharp protest; they were completely detached from the events: it was an attitude apprehended as transgression of ordinary positions for Tunisians. Other testimonies are added not only to belittle these indifferent positions but also to question the sources of the enrichment of these new bourgeois settled in the city.

The banks of the lake, this new territory in structure, has given places allowing a predominant social diversity. However, these public places (corniche, shopping malls, tearooms, coffee shops, etc.) intersect with the elitist atmosphere of the residents of the lakeshore. The urbanity on the shores of the lake is then complex, it reveals two oppositions that were believed at first sight inducing a spatial exclusion. But in depth, this mode of internationalisation of the city although it voluntarily reduced the sociability and was confined to itself: the city which was envisioned to open on the water, leaned on the social-social closureIn this way, the new town has allowed for real social diversity. These places made possible a way of doing the city at the water’s edge by inheriting two models, one Western based on individualism, the other stemming from an Arab-Muslim culture based on ties and group sharing.

However, within these public spaces there was a dissolution of value that long characterized Arab public spaces: spaces qualified as masculinity. On the banks of the lake, the woman implied her new presence, a presence or an otherness, which, thanks to traditional references, remained a dialectic to be discussed. This back and forth from the positions between visitors and residents on the shores of the lake has certainly argued controversies. May have said that this complex urbanity has starved the identity on the shores of the lake? A clarification on the issue of identity in this new territory is necessary to understand the cultural matrix around the manufacturing of the city.

In fact, the geography of these places of consumption reveals that it follows two logics one is concentrated on the cornice of the banks of the lake, the other is diluted and punctual at the level of leisure complexes. Admittedly, this urban mythology was intended to realize the expectations of their receivers in terms of engaging in a modern atmosphere of pleasure and leisure, but it was also the result of the reflection of entrepreneurs. In this perspective, the CEO of the Lake Bowling Alley also had a path related to American culture.Returning after his studies in the USA, he introduced a bowling leisure complex by resurrecting an American atmosphere of the Far West. Rocks and cacti surround his outdoor space. This, in fact, explains in large part the origin of the creation of its spaces.The ideology of entrepreneurs was a preface for the understanding and justification of the emergence of Western modern place in this space.

The American brand image is doubly significant, it marks initially a dynamic landscape in relation to the translations of models and references since until the eighties, the model to follow in the new districts was purely francophone. The French had the dream of making the city a French by-product, but in 1990, we integrated another American image that serves to trace a broader meaning that of a city with globalized standards.

Nevertheless, it also suggests later that the Tunisian state whose regime is authoritarian had a fear somewhere of the public space. The governance of this potentially risky space is organized by conceding to entrepreneurs certain prohibitions: use of drugs, alcohol, prostitution but especially political demonstrations.

The space for the state was designed by a contradictory double trench, it seems from the modern exterior, luxury, and served as a symbolic bridge between east and west, to give an image of prestige of the capital of Tunis. The English historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee says about the Arab world that even though some countries are politically independent, they are not always entirely free from cultural viewpoint; they are still influenced by western ideas and ideals, and sometimes take them without really thinking or criticizing them.

The state’s view of the public space on the shores of the lake was hermetically sealed in the international model, wishing to show its willingness to value the new Tunis through this urban marketing. Only, seen from the inside, the public space wasn’t a true copy of the Western model.The concentration of consumption’s places of reveals that the political actors act by a strategy not innocent in the sense of depoliticizing the public space, in fact the cornice kept its Arab-Muslim traces, since in this model previously all functions were allowed but the public space was not dedicated to a political functionality. It’s as if the inhabitants of a Muslim city had no need to meet to discuss their destinies.

The project of centrality on the shore of the lake was affiliated in an international context that denotes the opening of Tunisia to a liberal economy, this tropism that contrasts with an introverted policy is stimulated by the entrepreneurs or even called the business bourgeoisie.

As a result, these contractors took ownership of various constructions in the city. Advanced by the SPLT’s urban marketing, land marketing was supported by a western model highlighting the concept of individualism: the habitat is partitioned, surrounded from the outside by its garden.

Thus, the urbanized setting at the banks of the lake, is a affluence and an assembly of references and architectures without style, which seems to us to inculcate to each building its particular and independent characteristics, and contributes to a heterogeneous architectural landscape. The models differ, we sometimes find a reproduction of the architecture of SidiBouSaïd with its blue, its doors and its moucharabiehs on the facades, or we find modern buildings.

The organization based on a social classification for the elites contains the image of a minority of inhabitants within another minority. The success of the matching of supply and demand can be explained by the fact that this marketing has therefore resulted in an increase in the selling prices of the subdivisions on the shores of the lake: As proof of this, in the 1990s it became the most expensive land market and continues to be so today.

Nevertheless, as the conception of the city in the North has already been advanced, the bourgeoisie was also imbedded in individual habitats; places open to the public, ‘places of community’ on the lakefront, where walkers feast on their practices, whether in the corniche or the terraces of cafés and tearooms.

Ennobled by the speeches of the planner, this description, which was found in the social imagination in a repetitive and recurring way, also reflects an ambivalence of cross-eyed gaze between the inhabitants of the banks of the lake and the other ordinary visitors.

An ambivalence that works around the identity and impact of urban marketing. For the first class, that is to say the residents, the choice of the new neighborhood is always compared to an antecedent standing compared to other neighborhoods that have made the focus of the former elitist social strata. This new Tunis therefore bears a positive image.For the second class concerning visitors, the city is a deculturated entity without identity model, in their imagination. It certainly replaced the Marsa as a place visited, but this new polarizationdidn’t succeed in posing to the Tunisians in the heart of the North Lake a history. The city didn’t speak past, moreover some of the surveyed asking them the question about the old images kept in memory about the banks of the lake, some only remember a polluted marsh site, but the majority have no image of the shores of the lake.

In spite of this feeling of a site without identity reference, what passes that urban atmospheres, also attract practices space on the shores of the lake. Some names: Miami Beach, Golden Bowling du Lac denotes an American cultural referent. Besides, the embassy of the United States is established in this place.

These places as a whole make it possible to clear the spirit that induced this urban construction. They show the divide between the action of the Tunisian political power and the action of the entrepreneurs who have produced a modern place of consumption par excellence.

Away from an architectural and urban identity focused on the shores of the lake, the presence of water, on the other hand, marks a spectacular and relevant image. The landscape experience of the cornice fits into the imagination of the tunisoise society as a habit.

The treatment of the cornice was very usual and took the repetitive model of the Walkway of the Englishat Nice in the middle of the nineteenth century. Except that, the insertion of the palm tree for the Tunisian case took on a meaning of Islamic spiritual belonging. The development around the corniche attracted visitors much more but pushed the inhabitants of the shores of the lake since it is reduced for them to a place of ‘Populism’.

The combination of public and commercial space goes without saying, and ensures an urban mix in contact with water, it is only it has erased the public space of its multifunctionality in the sense of practicing everything except politics.

However, the emotional dimensions combined with the significant thickness of water in the city, could bring out the natural setting of North Lake simply aestheticized in a sense and a much deeper and remarkable value: it is a striking landscape experience in the sense of the spatial rarity of the lagoons in the city. The relationship of walkers with water is quite different from a simple, vast and open background, other senses add to constitute an eminent identity attribution. By way of descriptions, two concepts are distinguished: “intimate landscape” generally corresponds to the landscape elements considered as constituting an individual identity lived without sharing. The “showcase landscape” corresponds more, for its part, to the emergence of a landscape heritage that is both witness to a collective identity and worthy of representing it vis-à-vis Elsewhere and the Other.

As we have already seen, for the Tunisian political actor the projects at North Lake tended more towards a showcase representation of his urban and landscape assets to public opinion but also Western politics. Only in this part, we want to bring out the identity signs of individuals independently of a conditioning of the gaze of the other. It is a matter of deciphering the link between the individual and the water.

Some expressions of the walkers of the cornice give an ease in the qualifications of the aquatic landscape, but also evoke the integration of the self in the reading of the landscape dimension of these places:

«I can’t imagine the shores of Lake Tunis without water; I think it’s my usual landscape»

The landscape of the water on the shores of the lake is for visitors a landscape participating in inculcating their intimate identities. The evocation of this landscape only engages them.

I find myself in this open space; this water makes me remember my childhood since my parents are Kerkenians»

In addition, this testimony evokes that water, unlike the mineral composition in the city, is not only an image but also becomes a strong identity value that gives to live the places:

Of course, a city that doesn’t integrate water even if it is super beautiful, without water it remains a city that lacks something, a city without life. In fact, for me, the best city in the world is Japan, because you can see the water in the new High Tech model, swimming pools at the top of buildings, or elsewhere in the old model with its bridges and fish swimming in transparent water.”


A new report otherness plays the lakeshore: public places although they are not marked by a history and a tradition urban or landscape (this is why the use of Western models ready), spaces built although they are heterogeneous and avantagent fragmentations socio-spatial, urban asset is far worse implicitly splitting place.

The presence of water is one of the connotations appreciated not only as the spatial oxygen but also as an identity of the individual instrument. Urban water reminder that “if and architectural identity was then after the war, the bombed cities were without identity” and that “The city is living only because it makes sense. ” Semiotics of the lake creates a unique identity, that identity that is sometimes rooted in the social imaginary bypassing water aestheticized an intimate identity using a possessive vocabulary.

It digs deep relationship of the Arab man with water “Arab city, the city of Arab world is inseparable from its aquatic resources […]. How to design leisure, without the palpable pleasure, audible, visible of a net, a stream, a river and vegetation that irrigates […]. For the inhabitants of the landarid, living in cities where green spaces are reduced as a trickle, garden, and water associated therewith, exert a fascination»


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