Meanwhile in the Medina


Ponts, charpentes, tours... Série d'ateliers de formation pour les futures designers et architectes de la Medina de Tunis. Avec le soutien de l'Art Rue

Fen Medineta

Evoquer des espaces, des personnes, des histoires liées aux vécus de chacun dans la Médina, voila le point de départ de cinq mois de recherches avec l'artiste Sonia Kallel. Une aventure mené avec les enfants de l'école  Bourj Louzir dans le cadre des projets de l'Art Rue.

The Making of an Hafside Capital

Open Air Museum

Last session of the five workshops we had with school children around perception and texture in the médina. Most of them had never set foot in a gallery space however they managed to curate their own street show. 

Working with artist Sonia Kallel and the association l'art rue.

Patrimoine intangible

Quatrième épisode d'une série d'ateliers dans la médina de Tunis organisé par "l'Art Rue" en collaboration avec l'artiste Sonia Kallel . Cette fois si sur le theme des cinq sens: comment traduire des sensations et aborder la question du sensible de maniere graphique. Sentir, puis traduire ce que l'on ressent par l'intensité d'un trait de crayon ou d'un signe est un exercice difficile meme pour des enfants de huit ans. 

Sand dunes of the Medina

Slowly the Medina of Tunis is being dismantled, for every sand dune that appears an old stone wall is being replaced by a concrete one.

Mapping the Medina

We had our first session mapping out the Medina of Tunis with local school children. They have some amazing insights and I am really curious to see how the next session will be when they actually take us on a tour through their favourite parts of the Medina. 

Working with artist Sonia Kallel and the association l'art rue.

Live experiment in the Medina

Making "stuff" on the street is a playful thing, the product itself might be useless but it tells a story. The act of making is a form of communication, just like a piece of street theatre, the audience and the actors extend the possibilities of the public realm. Piling up bits of wood or making a trail of broken chairs can sound a bit irrational but it's a way of questioning the order of things, opening up to new possibilities. Most importantly in this exercise the students had to confront their fear of interacting with their environment outside of the classroom. 

 With  the design students from ESSTED and the support of the ASM of Tunis. 


After a few months of wondering through the medina this was an opportunity to let go of the contextual analysis and focus on a more hands on approach. Using recycled materials found at the school of Denden and the nearby craftsman’s workshops this workshop was devised as a playful experiment. 

100 Chairs of Tunis

"Le trône (sarîr), la chaire (minbar), la chaise (takht) et le fauteuil (kursî) sont des morceaux debois ajustés ou marches (montées en siège), pour que le souverain puisse s’asseoir au-dessus des courtisans et qu’il ne soit pas au même niveau. […] Mais les souverains ne montent sur un trône qu’une fois qu’ils sont devenus assez fastueux, par leur puissance et par leur luxe. Au début, les Bédouins n’y pensent même pas. 

Le premier musulman qui s’assit sur un trône fut Mu’âwiya : il argua de sa corpulence. Ses successeurs imitèrent sont exemple et l’usage du trône en vint à montrer une tendance à la pompe (royale)."


Ibn Khaldûn, Al – Muqaddima, Discours sur l’Histoire universelle, p405

Traduction Vincent Monteil, Ed Sindbad, 1967-1968


Model making in Dar Lasram

It’s not everyday that you get to be creative in the most beautiful houses of the medina. This workshop was an opportunity for the design students (ESSTED) to explore ideas around the the medina's public realm using a DIY approach. This group exercise was divided in two parts: observation and site survey and then 3D modeling. The objective was for the student to make critical observations while working in volume instead of plan.

Drawing the Medina

As part of our project: Tabnika fil Medina with the design students of Denden (ESSTED) I organised a series drawing sessions. This classical approach to site analysis was a productive way for the students to engage with the medina. This allowed them to make observations about the architectural quality of he place but gave them the opportunity to stick around in one place for long enough to see what was happening. For most students this was the first time ever they were sketching in the medina.

Private realm

On a tour with Zoubeir Mouhli (ASM) and the product design students (ESSTED) as part of our project:  Tabnika fil Medina. A project focused on public realm and craftsmanship in the medina.

The public realm in Tunisian dialect is called: amlak al-bey, property of the Bey. This term, still in use today might partly explain why traditionally there were no “public spaces” but only different type of private spaces with a gradation from one to the other.

The inward looking architecture of the medina is built to protect the intimacy and privacy of its inhabitants. The layout of Dar Lasram, now home to the ASM of Tunis, is a prime example. Everything revolves around a central open space and there are no windows looking out.

Inside the house a few generations might coexist, each wives and children are given a room around the central courtyard. The divide between genders is the most important one. The female form is hidden away and there are a number of codes to make sure there are no inappropriate encounters.

The journey from the main road to the house is a walk through a maze of alleyways, sometimes one feels a bit unease while getting deeper into the urban fabric. Traditionally a large door might have fenced off the alleyway, creating yet another protection. One can still feel as if entering a private domain even though it is now open. Eventually a neighbour will inquire about your destination making sure you don't get lost...

Once in front of the house there is an elaborated system of metal door knockers to signal your presence. Depending on the sound it makes the visitor might be greeted in different ways.

The first step after having been introduced inside is the lobby or driba, it is a dark room with built-in benches, a reception for the less important visitors. To get further in, one is then being led through a series of L shaped corridors or skifa, the number of detours before accessing the courtyard is also dependant on the degree of nobility of its inhabitants. One can only wonder where this never ending architectural journey might lead.

This extreme care for privacy contrasts with the constant scrutiny, however much people try to hide there is no anonymity in the medina, everyone is watching and being watched. A good spot to gaze out is the café Sidi Ben Arous, a prime location on the way to the Zitouna mosque.   


Premiere présentation du projet: Tabnika Fil Médina. Ce projet ayant pour objet les espaces publiques et l’artisanat de la médina de Tunis est une collaboration entre L’ ESSTED et L’ASM. L’objectif est de concevoir avec les étudiants en design un mobilier urbain inspiré du contexte social, culturel et des savoirs faire présent dans la médina.

Cette recherche-action s’articule en deux temps, une phase de prise de contact avec la médina puis une phase de conception et de réalisation.

La découverte de la médina est l’occasion pour les étudiants de se forger un point de vue qui leurs est personnel et de développer un scenario qui sera a l’origine de leurs réalisations. On leurs demande pour cette phase de documenter leurs recherches mais aussi de tester leurs idées au travers de prototypes in situ.  

La deuxième étape est une phase de conception et de réalisation, les étudiants devront apporter une réponse créative à la commande qu’ils ont fixés. Cela nécessite une connaissance approfondie du site d'intervention et un dialogue avec les artisans avec lesquels ils souhaitent travailler. Ce travail se terminera au printemps par une réalisation et installation du projet in situ.

Equipe ASM : Leila Ben Gacem, Marouan Zbidi, Benjamin Perrot

Equipe ESSTED : Nader Boukadi, Fathi Mhamdi