ONA Fokushalle E7

Refugee Camps on the Western SaharaManuel Herz

The Sahrawi refugee camps, located in southern Algeria close to the border with the Western Sahara give us an opportunity to question the predominant notions connected to refugee camps. An urbanistic and architectural reading of these camps—established forty years in the middle of the Sahara—shows how these spaces have developed into a political project of the refugees. Instead of seeing the camps as a spatial manifestation of the state of exception, the Sahrawi camps, governed by the refugees themselves, not only allow for a process of social emancipation, but also prefigure the state still denied to them. The camps in fact, act as a laboratory for how the concept of the nation-state can be reformulated in the twenty-first century. The lecture will be followed by a conversation with Samia Henni.

Manuel Herz studied at the RWTH Aachen, and the Architectural Association in London. After teaching at the Bartlett School of Architecture, London, the Berlage Institute, Rotterdam and Harvard Graduate School of Design he was head of the teaching and research at ETH Studio Basel – Institute of the Contemporary City. After a visiting professorship at ETH Zurich 2012–14, he has been appointed professor of architecural and urban design at the University of Basel. Besides his work as a practicing architect he researches and publishes on the relationship between architecture and nation building, and on refugee camps. His books include From Camp to City: The Refugee Camps of the Western Sahara (Lars Müller Publishers) and African Modernism: Architecture of Independence (Park Books Publishers).

Samia Henni was born in Algiers, Algeria. She graduated from the Academy of Architecture, Università della Svizzera Italiana, Mendrisio, Switzerland. She has also studied at the Ecole Polytechnique d’Architecture et d’Urbanisme, Algiers, Algeria and the ex-Berlage Institute, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In 2014, she was a Guest Researcher at Curatorial Knowledge, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom. Currently, she is a Ph.D. fellow at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta), Department of Architecture (D-ARCH), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland. Her doctoral dissertation explores French military spatial operations (territorial/architectural) and psychological actions (textual/visual) in Algeria during the Algerian War of Independence (1954–62).