TUNISIAN NIGHTSCAPES: Nocturnal Landscapes in the Medina of Tunis

The studio will reimagine six public spaces in the Medina of Tunis, Tunisia. Taking a long-term view over a 5 to 50–year timespan, the studio will ask how three interrelated areas of focus—housing, health, and changing climates—intersect with the urban landscape. The project will especially consider the design of nocturnal landscapes as one response to the rising temperatures associated with climate change.

The six sites are centered on the Madrassa Chammaia, Madrassa El Mouradia, Fondok Henna, 26 rue de Andalous, Rue Mfarej Hafsia, and Rue des Juges. We will ask how these sites can be reimagined in ways that can act as catalysts for the reshaping of the entire Medina. Affiliated with the Critical Landscapes Design Lab, the studio takes an approach to the design of urban spaces, deeply grounded in the environmental, economic, human, and political ecologies of Tunis.

Through a grounded research method called “landscape fieldwork,” students will engage with the Medina and its residents to gain a deep understanding of everyday life and spatial patterns that do not show up in official statistics, documents, or records. The landscape fieldwork approach combines landscape architects’ projective skills and tools for site analysis (drawing, measuring, photographing, remote sensing) with the ethnographic methods of anthropologists (participant observation, unstructured interviews, and writing reflexive fieldnotes), all as an integral part of a design process.

Students will work alone or in pairs on one of the given sites. Proposals may range in scale from the renovation and reuse of existing public spaces and the structures that frame them, to urban design guidelines, as a prelude to reimagining the Medina itself. The feasibility of projects will be tested in workshops with residents, property owners, and students. A reimagined Medina needs common design guidelines and policies that, through an aggregation of smaller, catalytic, developments, will provide a coherent spatial approach that respects and works with the Medina’s UNESCO world heritage status.