Yesterday’s final session of the 10-day Mittelmeerland workshop in Tangier featured impressively researched and presented studies of 5 different coastal sites in Northern Morocco. The sites were well-chosen, ranging from the conversion of Tangier’s city port (the subject of our TALIM April Seminar 2011) to that “other” port city on the southern Strait of Gibraltar coastline, Spanish enclave Ceuta, which all the roadsigns in Morocco call by its original Arabic name, Sebta – Morocco’s way of contesting Spanish claims.
In between Tangier city and Ceuta, panel members critiqued the students’ presentations on Tangier-Med, the huge new container port east of the city, the town of Ksar al-Seghrir, undergoing rapid change as a result of Tangier-Med, and finally the isolated village of Belyounech, wedged in between the border with Ceuta and Gibraltar’s Moroccan twin, Jebel Musa. The range of sites gave free rein to the students’ curiosity, and showed how architecture is a discipline that is best practiced by those with a broad education. One of the workshop’s operative terms, “landscape ecology,” captures the multidisciplinary approach nicely. Beyond dazzling architectural and narrative mapping graphics, the students called on their economic, political, environmental, and cultural knowledge to craft intriguing presentations, though their visions for future directions sometimes bordered on the whimsical. I was very impressed at their quick absorption of local knowledge, after barely two weeks in Tangier. So much so that I truly believe that they should share their findings with Moroccan authorities, especially on ensuring that development does not come at the expense of local heritage and culture. Wouldn’t a maritime and terrestrial (inter)national park along the beautiful, wild border area between Morocco and Ceuta help defuse tensions? And why not signpost a “scenic route” along the old coastal road to Tangier, instead of routing most Tangier-Med car ferry tourists onto a modern but banal autoroute which bypasses the city completely?
This group of students, largely continental European, with a strong Moroccan contingent and outliers from Venezuela and the UK, took their work very seriously and made the most of their concentrated program. AA and the Mittelmeerland teaching staff are to be complimented on the quality of the program, and TALIM was happy to participate.