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Asinara The Lighthouse of the Island, Paolo Emilio Pisano


Casting Castaways

Monday 24 August – Sunday 6 September 2020

Every human intervention on an island – even those that interpret it as an ideal space for confinement - starts as an act of colonisation aimed at reducing the unescapable condition of insularity. Enacting the power of nomads as decolonising agents, Casting Castaways migrates every two years from island to island across a former carceral archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. We seek for a pedagogy that, while suggesting future scenarios vis a vis current trends in tourism, environmental preservation and heritage, interrogates those territories to understand how and whether architecture can challenge and escape from the very ideas of incarceration and colonisation.

In 2020, for the second year, we will set camp in the island of Asinara (Italy), a penal colony from 1885 to 1997 and now a National Park. Arguing that a new project for the island can only stem from direct engagement with its bare life and by de-structuring the conundrum of stratified formal structures and perceptions of the penal colony, we will engage with its territory through conceptually and physically digging into its substance. We do so in order to re-build what it means to engage with an island which, perpetually moving along a spiral, seems to have gone full-circle, periodically erasing and replacing the signs of its past like an over-recorded tape. We will approach the island recognizing that everyone is a foreigner in it. Asinara, in fact, has no trace of a local community as we usually define it, and any politically-correct attempt to build ties with the locals is out of question.

On the traces of Sardinian sculptor Costantino Nivola, we will experiment with sandcasting to read, measure, represent and intervene across scales from the vast territory to fragments and objects dispersed in the landscape.

Prominent Features of the workshop/ skills developed

- Carceral Islands
- Colonisation / Decolonisation
- Heritage / Preservation
- Penal Tourism
- Sandcasting

The visiting school will take place in the Island of Asinara, that is currently uninhabited and with limited access and accommodation facilities. Here, we will lodge in a building that in the past served the penal colony establishment. This will be our base camp and workshop space while we explore the full extension of the island – 59 square km – and its surrounding waters by foot, bicycle, or boat. We will engage the territory, the buildings, and the objects scattered in the landscape of Asinara through photo essays, a multilingual collective diary, and models made with sand-casting.

Towards the end of the first week, we will take a 2-day break from the Island to the mainland village of Orani where we will be hosted over-night by the village community and the Museo Nivola, the institution that preserves the legacy of artist Costantino Nivola. Here we will be introduced to the sand-casting technique by a local craftsman and will then return to Asinara to complete the workshop with the production of sand-casting models.

Overall, the workshop seeks to operate off-the-grid, employing a range of low-tech tools of representation and exploration.

With the support of local and international guests we will elaborate on themes of islandness and isolation, colonisation and decolonisation, heritage and preservation, penal tourism, and representation. We will open the discussion to the local community of associations, cooperatives and agencies operating in the park, to local artists and craftsmen, to academics and activists, and to the visitors in daily trips to the Island.

Due to the nature and location of the school, accommodation and food will be organised and a certain level of adaptability will be required. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have specific questions regarding any of the above.

An extended brief will be issued in due course.


Applications will open once the fees have been confirmed, in the meantime you can register your interest in this programme by sending an email to the Visiting School Office 

1) You can make an application by completing the online application found under ‘Links and Downloads’ on the right-hand column of this webpage. If you are not able to make an online application, please contact the Visiting School Office for instructions to pay by bank transfer or by telephone.

2) Once you complete the online application and make a full payment, you are registered onto the programme. Please note that a deposit payment holds your place on the course but does not confirm it.

3) A limited number of partial scholarships are available. If you are interested to apply for one of them Please send your portfolio and cover letter to and the Programme Heads will be in touch in due course to organise a Skype interview. A portfolio/cover letter is only required if you are applying for a scholarship

The deadline for applications is: 03 August 2020.


The programme is open to participants from a range of backgrounds, including but not limited to current architecture, art and design students, PhD candidates and young professionals. We are interested in people from different creative backgrounds. Places are limited.


Asinara Island, 0746 Porto Torres, Sardinia, Italy


The AA Visiting School requires a fee of £TBC per participant, which includes a £60 Digital Membership fee.

Fees includes: tuition, essential sandcasting workshop materials, accommodation in Asinara island and food (breakfast, lunch and dinner). It also includes bus transport and accommodation for the field trip to Orani. If you have specific accommodation or food requirements we are not able to meet, alternatives options can be advised but will not be covered by the fee.

Fees do not include flights and travel towards the island, the ferry and transportation within the island (bus, bike or electric car rental), but transport options can be advised. Students need to bring their own laptops, camera (instant or digital), equipment and specific model making tools. A detailed list of needed equipment will be provided in due course. Please ensure this equipment is covered by your own insurance as the AA takes no responsibility for items lost or stolen during the workshop.


All participants travelling from abroad are responsible for securing any visa required, and are advised to contact their home embassy early. After full payment of course fees, the AA School can provide a letter confirming participation in the workshop.


All participants are responsible for securing their own travel and health insurance. Please ensure that your travel insurance also covers your personal belongings i.e. laptop, equipment, tools, passport etc. The AA takes no responsibility for lost/ stolen property.


Paolo Emilio Pisano studied in Italy and the AA. His Diploma project focuses on the island of Asinara and the pedagogical possibilities for a de-colonising inhabitation of its territory. In 2016, his Intermediate Design Thesis ‘The Thirty Years of Architecture: A short guide on abandoning accumulated memories at the mercy of an inclement weather’ was awarded a RIBA President Medal Commendation. He has worked in practice since 2012, and currently for Takero Shimazaki Architects in London. Between 2015 and 2018 he collaborated with t-sa Forum x AA, a long-established visiting school run at the AA by Takero Shimazaki Architects. In collaboration with Takero, he currently runs a design unit at London Metropolitan Unversity (The CASS). Paolo has extensive expertise in fabrication and model making.

Sabrina Puddu is an architect, teacher and researcher trained in Italy and at the AA. She teaches design and history and theory at the Royal College of Art and, Central Saint Martins. She received an MA with distinction in Housing and Urbanism from the Architectural Association and a PhD from the University of Cagliari, Sardinia, where she also conducted her post-doctoral research between 2012-15. In 2013 she was a Visiting Research Scholar at GSAPP, Columbia University. Her research focuses on the role of major public institutions across the divide of the contemporary urban and rural conditions, with her more recent studies being on the architecture of confinement and the urban and rural territorial logics of prisons and penal colonies. Sabrina has co-authored two books and publishes regularly on architectural magazines and journals. Besides teaching and research, Sabrina has worked as external contributor for Domus magazine of architecture and co-directs the practice urbanaarchitettura based between London and Sardinia.

Yuri Palmin is a photographer, researcher and teacher trained in Moscow University. He is based in Moscow and teaches at MARCH school of architecture. He co-founded the Moscow Institute of Modernism in 2015 and since than had been involved in various research programs dealing with architectural heritage of the post-war period in Russia and former Soviet republics. As an architectural photographer he collaborates with many Russian and international practices including Alexander Brodsky, Manuel Herz and others. He is also experienced in research projects in the form of photographic essays and has leaded Casting Castaways photographic research since 2019.

Museo Nivola, Parco Nazionale dell’Asinara


Programme Heads
Paolo Emilio Pisano
Sabrina Puddu

Head of Visiting School

Christopher Pierce

T +44 20 7887 4014
F +44 20 7414 0782

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The Architectural Association receives Taught Degree Awarding Powers by the Lords of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.

The Architectural Association (AA), the oldest independent school of architecture in the United Kingdom, is pleased to announce that it has been granted the power to award its own degrees. As of 1 October 2019, the AA has the right to establish new academic programmes and degree awards and is working to create some of the world’s most pioneering courses in architecture to shape and build the future.

Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) give UK higher education institutions the right to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Prospective students worldwide can apply to the AA Foundation Course (Foundation Diploma), Experimental Programme BA(Hons), Diploma Programme (MArch), and nine taught postgraduate programmes encompassing History and Critical Thinking in Architecture (MA), Projective Cities (Taught MPhil) and Sustainable Environmental Design (MSc/MArch), amongst others.

AA Director, Eva Franch said, ‘since our founding in 1847 we have never ceased to create new horizons, institutionally and academically. This is a significant milestone for the AA and demonstrates how we have grown and progressed as an institution that has always valued independence. Receiving TDAP marks a new era for our institution; these are exciting times for the AA. The process has required considerable work from all members of staff and students. I would like to take this opportunity to credit them for this major achievement’.

President of the AA Council, Victoria Thornton added, ‘the TDAP process has recognised our strong governance, academic standards, scholarship and teaching as well as the environment supporting the delivery of taught higher education programmes’.

The School’s application for Taught Degree Awarding Powers was supported by the Architects Registration Board, the Royal Institute of British Architects and The Open University.