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Nava, C. & Quattrone, G., 2009. Cultural arguments on local settlement and construction typologies for regionalist technological innovation in Nefta (Tunisia).

S. M. Fortea & J. Al-Qawasmi, eds. Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development. Amman: CSAAR Press

In the hypothesis of Tunisian oasis towns preservation, the paradigm of innovation goes beyond the mere couple innovation-evolution and relates to "rehabilitation and transmission of traditional construction techniques", "local practices and widespread sustainable actions", "adaptability of natural systems to man's use, behaviours and operation modes". Nefta, an oasis town of South Tunisia, has been investigated as a case-study in relation to: 1) the hypothesis of starting innovative management processes of local urban and landscape structures.These are seen as highly recognizable and rooted living places, able to improve their accommodation capacity and economy; 2) the potential of disseminating innovative design practices through use of building systems made of clay. This is a locally available resource thought of as still being able to orient low-impact environmental design and construction, so that local communities can still pass on tradition, while adapting it to new demands.

The innovation of the local technical culture through an environmental, technological and typomorphological-regionalist approach can guarantee a new way of addressing design, from landscape to detail, in oasis towns that still live on their people's strong resistance to the harsh and inhospitable desert environment. Experiences carried out in other geographic contexts show that it is possible to export a "qualifying model and process", rather than a design theory, to deeply rooted settings, such as Nefta, through a technical culture that is renewed by the reinvention of traditional materials and techniques.

Keywords: regionalism, innovation and tradition, vernacular architecture, settlement and dwelling patterns, built environment and human behaviour.

Author(s)Consuelo Nava, Giamila Quattrone
SubjectSouth-Tunisian vernacular architecture and technologies
Area coveredTunisia
PublisherCSAAR Press
Publication dateNovember 2009
TypeConference paper


Corbeille and palmeraie, Nefta
Corbeille and palmeraie, Nefta.
Photo: Consuelo Nava, 2007

Handmade clay bricks
Handmade clay bricks, Nefta.
Photo: Consuelo Nava, 2007

Traditional decorative brick masonry pattern
Traditional decorative brick masonry pattern, Tozeur.
Photo: Giamila Quattrone, 2008