The extreme conditions of the desert offers us a wide variety of complex spaces for innovation, where multidisciplinarity it is not an option but an imperative. Geography, natural ecosystems, anthropology, history, architecture, engineering, economy... are some of the issues that must be considered and studied in order to propose any (cultural) development in these regions.
In 2013 we organised a workshop for artists and architects in the oasis of Tighmert, near Guelmim (Morocco). Moroccan artist, Rachid Ouhnni, started to develop a research about how children use public spaces. For that purpose, he asked some children of the oasis what do they play during the holidays. One of the games was sailing regattas, it was totally a surprise but they do that in the middle of the desert. Oasis Tighmert situation: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=28.944918,-9.958506&num=1&t=h&vpsrc=6&ie=UTF8&ll=28.934327,-9.939709&spn=0.094722,0.081539&z=14&iwloc=A
They built their own sailboats and they explained us how they did
Some of the sailors of the desert, Ali and Abderrahim.
After the explanations we had to look for a place for the regatta.
We needed to find a canal with water, but with water running down. How to find it?
They had to explain us how the irrigation system in the oases works in order to do not waste a lot of time in the pursuit.
We finally found one canal with water running and we made the regatta.
This is the whole story:
Thanks to this activity we could start to learn how topics, apparently without connexion, are related and how they are important for living in the desert. For example, we learnt that the oasis is an ecosystem composed, mainly, by three elements, the palm trees, the fruit trees and the cereals, but if you stop to cultivate the cereals, then the fruit trees will disappear, the sand will invade the oasis and finally it will be the palm trees that will fall down, in summary, the three elements are the best barrier against desertification.
The irrigation of plots needs an infrastructure of canals, organised according to the topography and the distribution of plots.
But this hydraulic engineer structure also conditions the economy, the social organisation (with a complex watering schedule) and the public spaces of the oasis.
Even the urban spaces of villages.
Water conditions architecture too. A place with temporary water resources will have temporary settlements.
In an oasis, the individual houses will be adapted to a space structured by canals and plots.
We can also find small settlements (small tribes) that can be used temporary if there is no water.
But most of the population lived in the ksour, fortified cities.
The ksour could be situated inside the oasis, if the dimensions allowed it, like in the Drâa valley with hundreds of ksour inside the palm grove.
We have seen how the geography conditions an ecosystem, that determine a human settlement, with a specific social organisation and an economic structure.
All this topics will let us understand the different landscapes of the desert and not just like an empty space. The dune landscapes.
The stone landscapes.
Or the mountain landscapes.
But also we will better understand the archaeological and architectural heritage and the values of traditional construction systems.
Because still today, the earth is the best material to build houses in such an extreme climate.
How people live with the earth, and in the earth, is only understood if you spend some time living in an earth construction.
Where architecture is optimised to the maximum.
It is also important to understand the relation between human being and landscape.
In a landscape where elements appear and disappear. In this case, it was raining for four days in Tissardmine (the last time it rained for such a long time, it was eight years ago) creating some small rivers.
Or in landscapes with elements that move…
With a direct incidence in the architecture, that must be adapted to the dunes, and of course, with consequences in the way of living.
The physical environment has also a great influence on intangibles matters.
With crafts related to anthropologist topics, like this kind of pottery that use the same technique from henna tattoos.
Or like the design used in carpets, that comes from...
The Berber tattoos.
In fact, the anthropology of the desert is everywhere and the different tribes are a result of the physical environment, with theirs ways to be dressed, to be organised, to live...
With their cultures and traditions.
We have seen the richness of landscapes, the natural, the biological, the architectural, the historical, the cultural, the social... How they can be related, but the most important thing is...
The opportunity that these landscapes offer us for creation...
With amazing spaces for visual arts.
And performing arts.
It is true it is not easy to find financial support for artist interventions in Morocco, maybe if we introduce artists in multidisciplinary teams (with architects, engineers, historians, anthropologists, biologists…), we could improve the presence of art in the society.
The important thing is that the South regions are being developed and they need the contribution of these multidisciplinary teams in order to avoid...
An impersonal, insensible and respectless development in these landscapes.
How are they going to rehabilitate the architectural heritage, or just to introduce technologies to improve the life conditions (p.e. solar and photovoltaic panels)?
How are they planning the urban development of villages and cities and how are they going to affect the palm groves? Multidisciplinary teams are not an option they are an imperative.