Ralph Ghoche is a historian of architecture and urbanism and Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at Barnard College, Columbia University. His current research looks at the territorial interventions of the Catholic Church in Algiers in the 19th century. It examines how the Church reshaped urban space in Algiers through the construction, conversion, and erasure of buildings in order to advance its aim of resurrecting Augustinian Christendom in North Africa. Ghoche has also written widely on French architecture and its relationship to theories of ornament, archeology, and aesthetics in the 19th century. His book-length study of these themes, titled Ornament and the Renewal of Architecture in France: From History to Nature (1830-1870), will be published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2020.
Christianizing Algiers: Reshaping Urban Identity by "Cross and Plow," 1830-1870
The research project looks at the architectural and territorial interventions of the Catholic Church in Algeria during the first decades of the colonial period. It examines how the Church reshaped urban space in Algiers through the construction, conversion and erasure of buildings in order to advance its aim of resurrecting Augustinian Christendom in North Africa. The project seeks to uncover the complex relationship between the church and the multiple actors who helped reconfigure Algiers into a French and largely Christian city. It is structured around three urban practices deployed by the Catholic Church and colonial administrators: the conversion of Muslim religious institutions, the consolidation of urban focal points as symbolic cynosures of Christian power, and the aesthetic and symbolic expression of the buildings themselves and the hidden forms of violence perpetuated by these material forms of representation.