UNSCALE - Sahara Nomadic pastoralism in the Saharan West

UNSCALE - Sahara


Saturday 1 – Sunday 23 September 2018

The AA Visiting School (AAVS) UNSCALE Sahara is a new education and research programme which pair architectural design with the unique spatial perspectives of the inhabitants of the historic nomadic enclave of Twizgi Remt, in the Drâa Valley of Southern Morocco. Highly unstable mediums such as the Sahara desert challenge our notions of scale and distance. Indigenous groups inhabiting such hard-to-urbanise remote milieus survive without a geographical conception of space. Instead, they use the structures of the natural world in order to make sense of their surroundings.

That sense of space was transformed in the West through novel geographical techniques of calculating, dividing, navigating, and ultimately colonising and controlling the physical space. The act of learning became subject to a static model of space distinguished by the quantifiable properties of measure and scale. Progressively, this led to a new world-order of fixed territorial lines that shaped in turn the ways of grasping both the natural and social worlds. This process has devastating effects on many world societies, which became increasingly visible over the last two centuries. The discovery the Anthropocene crucially reveals that those effects had not by-passed the West.    

UNSCALE Sahara opens with a 2-day public symposium entitled ‘Water: Space, Physics and Law in Sahara’ where an assembly of leading scholars will present current research projects on geology, climate, law and politics. We will then travel with Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Entreprendre through the Middle Atlas mountains to the North-East of the Moroccan Sahara Desert, near the Algerian and Mauritanian borders to build a nomadic school while investigating the nomadic sense and use of space.

Throughout the research project we serve as spatial consultants in order to re-establish the nomadic habitat and management of Twizgi*Remt, in Assa Zag province. Assa Zag lies within the extent of the tribe Ait Oussa, the largest nomadic confederation of the Saharan West. Twizgi-remt is an arhaeological site crossed by major Saharian trade and pastoralist routes, and punctuated by a dispersed Oasis.  In place of solid foundations the nomadic school emerges from desert waters. The design of the water system will function independently from the school development, adding a new water-point to the landscape. By enabling pastoralist and agricultural activity in and around oases, the new system puts the nomadic ways of learning into practice.

UNSCALE Sahara is a social event. Participants will live and work outdoors guided by tribal people, archaeologists, and anthropologists. We learn indigenous technologies of building, alongside a rigorous field-study of the nomadic space and laws of sustaining human life in contact with a harsh medium. Our research will be documented towards a forthcoming publication release and contribute to the evolution of a nomadic enclave.

What’s next?

A subsequent edition of Unscale goes to the forest east of the Sea of Japan. We will join the efforts of a new transdisciplinary school within Akita University of Art created amidst uneven landscapes of densely and sparsely populated regions. Both projects are local pedagogical initiatives that have emerged out of a need to interrogate the globalisation of knowledge.


You can make an application by completing the online application found under ‘Links and Downloads’ on the AA Visiting School page. If you are not able to make an online application, email  visitingschool@aaschool.ac.uk for instructions to pay by bank transfer. 

A CV and a short bio is required. Once you complete the online application and make a full payment, you are registered to the programme. 

The deadline for applications is: 17 August 2018

Unscale Sahara is open to all students, researchers and professionals in architecture. It also welcomes participants in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, law, physical geography, visual art and curatorial practices.

All participants travelling from abroad are responsible for securing any visa required to enter Morocco, and are advised to contact their home embassy early. After payment of fees, the AA School can provide a letter confirming participation in the workshop. Please note that Morocco is the only country that we will be situated in throughout the workshop.

All participants are reponsible for their own insurance including travel and health insurance. All participants also need to ensure that any equipment and valuable items such as laptops are covered by their own insurance as the AA takes no responsibility for items lost or stolen.


The AA Visiting School requires a fee of £695 per participant, which includes a £60 Visiting membership fee.

Fees do not include flights or accommodation. However, a guest house is offered to participants free of charge by the municipality of Assa. Trips to and short stays in major cities, if scheduled, are not covered. Students need to bring their own laptops, digital equipment and model making tools. 

Programme Heads

Merce Rodrigo Garcia trained at the Bartlett School of Architecture and the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths. She is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at Birkbeck College and teaches history and theory at the AA. Merce initiated the practice OrnAmenT with artist/researcher Verina Gfader, and devised the research line of Unscale.

Hammadi Habadis is assistant professor of hermeneutics, pragmatics and anthropology at the Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, Cadi Ayyad University-Marrakech. He is member of the laboratory for Philosophie et Patrimoine dans la Société du Savoir, FLSH-UCA of Marrakech, and of the Centre d’Études Sahariennes, Med V University-Rabat. He acted as advisor and supervisor for the Agence du Sud, CNDH and CESE on matters concerning Ḥassaniyya (al-biḍan) culture, language and society. He directs the ‘‘Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches ‘Entreprendre’’ CERE-Assa.


Programme Heads
Merce Rodrigo Garcia
Hammadi Habad

Visiting School Director

Christopher Pierce

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

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