Agricultural School in Jemnah, Tunisia

Project

The narrative of the project is born in-between the notions of boat-collage and collage-boat.

The project is situated within the 4000-inhabitant town of Jemnah, a city in the center of Kebili’s county, southern of Tunisia, between the normalized chaos of Algeria and Lybia.

The project situates itself in opposition to the desert and the Islamic State and the occupied lands and self-determination politics of the Tunisian government. The association who rules the ‘palm lands’ in this mortal town exploits the territory and its farmers, whereby any extra benefits go directly in the hands of the association workers as well as the unconstructed public buildings of this lazy and corrupted State.

Through an educational building, a school for adult farmers, the project aims to draw local attention and regional recentralization. The structure, 4 kilometers from the center of the town, will host basic services which include a canteen, bathrooms, offices, spaces for reunion and relax, all features that the existing occupied structure lacked. Next to these, classrooms, flexible housing for the students of the region/ country, a little museum of local history, in the old little fortress built by the French during the 30’s will be erected

In a convulsive but very near Mediterranean, the almost forgotten XIX century vault construction technics of the Catalan masters embrace the walls. Wood, earth, stone and ceramics are the 4 threads through which the project is constructed in detail. Here the project exists, hidden from the sun, a little moved by the wind, ‘keeping’ the rain water on his belly and with his head looking direct to the surrounding palm trees.

Interview

What prompted the project?

I was always inspired by architectural and urbanist projects based on the rationalizing of the countryside/farming territories. Since the XIXth century, Spain other European southern countries, have a lot of ‘’living heritage’’ within this specific field, either as private or public properties, and also anti-property oriented, the examples are many and very diverse. However, throughout the last century, the government has enabled an increasing privatisation of the countryside, whilst contemporary new politics never focus on this issues, leaving creating cooperative-farm enterprises on their own and even encouraging the public management of agricultural production. As a result, I decided to make a school-farm for adults in Tunisia, a recent decolonized country, where the political options are worse than in Europe, but at the same time, more open.

What inspired and defined the language of representation of the project?

It is easy to compare my drawings with classical and modern comic authors (Hergé, Moebius and Otomo principally) as I was raised looking at these works and, in the absence of an art education, they formed the basis of my visual language. Other ‘conscious’ sources of inspiration would be all of the examples where modern painting, architecture and autonomous drawing worked together to form important artistic movements, here arts & Crafts, Sezession, German Expressionism, Pop Art and foremost baroque art are the best examples.

Cinema (Tarkovsky, Lynch, Kaurismaki) and literature (Grass, Bernhard and Goytisolo) also played a pivotal role in terms of the construction and composition of the project/drawings/illustrations, even though this is less evident to visualize.

What was your work process in terms of project development, sketches and drawings? How important was the drawing as means through which to explore the project itself?

I’m not against computer drawing or tools at all, but for me drawing by hand is a very natural way to express myself and my ideas. As a result, I’m always more at ease when mixing doodles, technical drawing (hand or informatic) and photoshop rather than vectoral tools like illustrator, 3D modelling.

What tools did you use throughout? How were the drawings crafted?

At first, pencil, manga pens and watercolours were intensively used in sketchbooks when doodling the first ideas, subsequently single lines using a ‘Rotring’ pen and ‘vegetal’ paper were implemented for the final drawings. Photoshop was used for the colouring and ‘construction’ of the biggest drawing, made by hand with smaller parts whilst traditional English pen nib was used on the main visualizations (perspectives and a ‘propaganda-like’ poster).

How does each image address a specific aspect of the project? How were these staged?

At the end, I decided to explore the project through big and detailed illustrations to better explain the various aspects simultaneously. Although I work by hand, I’m always serious about the reality of the things in my drawings, that’s why for me every drawing needs to have a constructive sense and logic, but also every constructive or ‘structural’ drawing needs to explain well the quality of the proposing spaces and also the ‘beauty of forms’.

What would you say is the architects most important tool?

Possibly, but really difficult to prove: non-illustrated books.

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