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Unit X Cabo de Gata Natural Park in Almeria, PactoVisual

Unit X

Desert Oasis

Tuesday 7 – Saturday 18 July 2020

Unit X focuses on the study and exploration of singular territories and the ways they can be inhabited. These are extreme environments in which living is often challenged and the future is at stake. Some of these places are becoming truly relevant as the effects of climate change are more evident year after year. What once were singularities in the territory might become standard conditions for life in larger areas of the planet over the years to come.

Desert Oasis

Unit X proposes to travel to the Tabernas desert in Almeria, the only desert of its kind in Europe. At the same time, this region is home to singular areas such as Natural Parks, filming locations, solar fields and the biggest dedicated area for agricultural production in greenhouses in the continent, nicknamed the Plastic Sea. A reason for which this area, that only 50 years ago was just a desert plain, is considered to be Europe’s orchard. In recent years this desert is most certain to expand to neighbouring areas due to the effects of climate change, scarcity of vegetation, human activities and lack of a consistent future agenda.  We will explore its odd, harsh and picturesque landscapes, understand human activities and investigate to produce bold proposals for habitation in the desert.

As a counterpoint to the desert panorama, we will then return to the oasis in the city of Granada to visit the Alhambra and Generalife, an essential architectural paradigm in which we will get to know about its palaces, gardens and orchards; and to learn about the symbolism and the importance of the ever present water and vegetation in its architecture. During the first half of the course we will collect impressions, keep a photographic journal and take extensive field notes. During the second part of the course, we will host an intensive workshop and team up to design proposals for a retreat in the desert.

Prominent Features of the workshop/ skills developed

- Intensive architectural workshop on-site.
- Lecture series by leading professionals in the fields of architecture, landscape, history and theory will complement the Unit’s daily workshop.
- Final Jury with relevant personalities of the local and international scene.
- Informed design: research oriented decision-making.
- Road trip as a tool for investigation.
- Development of a keen eye to read the territory, particularly through the intensive use of a photographic camera and notebook field notes.
- The course will take place amid two locations, Almeria and Granada.
- Production of a course booklet with the contributions of participants.


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. A CV or a portfolio is not required.

The deadline for applications is: 23 June 2020.


The workshop is open to current architecture, landscape and design students, PhD candidates and professionals. Software Requirements: Adobe Creative Suite, Rhino/SketchUp/3DS max, AutoCAD.


Granada and Almeria, Spain.


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

Fees do not include flights, but accommodation is provided. Other specific accommodation options can be advised, but they will not be covered by the fee. Field trip in bus and entrance fees are included. Students need to bring their own laptops, cameras, digital equipment and model making tools.


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.


Rok Oman and Špela Videčnik, both graduates from the Ljubljana School of Architecture and the AA, established OFIS Arhitekti in 1996. Their built work spans public, sport, cultural and religious buildings, as well as housing. OFIS’ winning competitions include student housing in Paris and a football stadium in Belarus. Their academic research investigates European and Slovenian identity in contemporary architectural language. Špela and Rok have taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, ENSA Paris Val de Seine, and the Faculty of Architecture in Ljubljana and currently at the AA.

José Navarrete Jiménez holds a Master of Architecture and Urbanism from the University of Granada. Since 2016 he is a project architect in OFIS arhitekti, where he has participated in more than 30 projects. During this time he has also been project leader for projects of diverse sizes and programs, from shelters to museums, such as the Glass House in the desert, for which he served as architect-in-charge. Currently he is Unit Master at the AA.


Programme Heads

Špela Videčnik
José Navarrete

Head of Visiting School

Christopher Pierce

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

Links & Downloads


Visiting School Prospectus


The Architectural Association, Inc. is incorporated as a company limited by guarantee (No.171402) and registered as a charity (No. 311083). Registered office: 36 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3ES, 020 7887 4000

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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.