HomeAmbiance as a key issue in the contemporary Mediterranean public space

HomeAmbiance as a key issue in the contemporary Mediterranean public space

Ambiance as a key issue in the contemporary Mediterranean public space

L’ambiance comme enjeu de l’espace public méditerranéen contemporain

International Conference, International Ambiances Network

Conférence internationale, Réseau International Ambiances

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Published on Thursday, October 10, 2013


Taking Tunisia — a tiny yet dense country — as a case study, this international conference addresses the possibility of sharing contemporary public spaces in the Mediterranean. It addresses the role played by architecture and urban forms in the sharing process itself and also invites to think of future forms and ambiences in a context of hyper-plurality in which the notion of neighborhood is put into question and the notion of space marking is more than ever re-explored.



Since the fall of Ben Ali’s regime on January 14th 2011, Tunisia and precisely its public spaces have witnessed what cannot be called a “return of the inhabitant” but rather an “arrival of the inhabitant”. Tunisians today live in the public space, the common space, the shared space.

After destroying or significantly altering the relics which symbolized dictatorship (villas and properties of people close to the regime, police stations and various administrative buildings), people are appropriating the public areas by spraying graffiti on the walls and invading squares and avenues through more or less long sit-ins and protest demonstrations. But beyond this obvious re-appropriation, that can be considered “revolutionary”, is there a less visible re-appropriation under a more or less conscience criticism of the public space, henceforth measured relatively to the shared space?

This question will be treated in a series of demonstrations and meetings on the ambiences of contemporary Mediterranean public spaces. A first conference initiated by the ERA/ENAU (Research Team on the Ambiences of the National School of Architecture and Urbanism of Tunis) will be held on the 24, 25 and 26 February, 2014 at the Tunis Science City. Organized in the framework of the annual seminars and conferences of the International Ambiances Network, it will aim at setting the problematic and at launching a Mediterranean work network on these questions.


The revolution, a revealer…

“Now, on the contrary, we are at home. But home does not preexist…”[1]

The fall of Ben Ali’s dictatorship lifted the veil on a divided and fragmented Tunisia where identities collide, social models crash into each other and socioeconomic disparities are more than ever exposed. The Tunisians, sharing a territory of 163 610 km2 (Tunisia is the smallest North African country), a common history and a same geographical climate, are a heteroclite population with opposite and sometimes contradictory aspirations, and confronted to demonstrating their perception of a common reality given the extremely politicized situation (because future rules are in effect now) they confirm Tunisia’s extreme plurality.

This intense and abrupt arrival of Inhabitants (all inhabitants) led us to wonder about the plural habitability of the Tunisian public space, i.e. how can it be shared? Can the Tunisian public space, in its current forms (sensitive conformation and forms), be shared? Does it still hold any remnants of the dictatorship demands that were taken over by architects who in turn were not sensitive enough to public spaces concerns?

Tunisia, a miniature of the Mediterranean…

Starting from Tunisia’s both miniature and dense situation, we intend to explore the Mediterranean ambiences.

In fact, the Tunisian situation reveals the obsolescence of classical notion of the neighborhood. We are sharing the same territory but there is not/no more that “mimetic contagion through which a modus vivendi, a way to draw and to ensure that the vital space spreads among a population”[2]and which, according to P. Sloterdijk, characterizes neighbors. But the question concerning neighborhood is raised in each Mediterranean country and at the Mediterranean level as a supposed neighborhood place.

The Tunisian situation demonstrates that the collective perception of reality is not / no more structured by the only one place (same history, geography and climate) but also by a virtual world of different networks. But this situation is not proper to Tunisia’s case, it is a worldwide feature.

Considering this endogenous hyper-plurality (which no more affects a foreigner who does not expect to feel at ease in the country he/she visits, but also affects whom we may call endogenous), which shapes should be given to the public space, necessarily unique and local?  What should be done so that it contains all the necessary markings, that same thing again and again mentioned by Deleuze and Guattari: “Now, on the contrary, we are at home. But home does not preexist: it was necessary to draw a circle around that fragile and uncertain center, to organize a limited space. Many and very diverse components intervene, landmarks and marks of all kinds. (…) The forces of chaos are kept outside as much as possible, and the interior space protects the calendar forces of a task to fulfill or a deed to do. This involves an activity of selection, elimination and extraction, in order to prevent the earth interior forces from being submerged, to enable them to resist or even to take something from chaos across the filter or sieve of the drawn space.”[3]

If the hyper-plurality’s “endogeneity” characterizes more the countries located on the southern of the Mediterranean, it does also affect the countries on the north shore attracting for a good number of years multiple immigrant populations. In a less or more long term, these countries may have to deal with the impact of public space forms on the feeling of sharing and the possibility of living in a harmonious side by side of obviously mixed race populations.

Tunisia, a miniature… or a tessera?

Each Mediterranean country has also its own history including its own architectural and urban planning history along with its own geographical and political climate. Each country has also its own “neighborhood units” what we can call these national groups who hold common perceptions and similar strategies derived from both places and networks.

The questions raised by our country concern mainly the public space and are accentuated in reality by the current political situation as overexposed. The contemporary Mediterranean public space — a political and scenic space — raises the issue of the notion of sharing, in consequence leading to the notion of neighborhood, alienation, familiarity, porosity and accessibility. The studies on Libya and Egypt’s, close to their present political situations, and different from the historical point of view, or of Morocco and Algeria’s situations, countries that didn’t witness Arab revolutions, and which adopted different patrimonial policies, will serve into drafting the responses’ major outlines. The studies and thoughts on the countries north of the Mediterranean will allow us to identify the differences and similarities existing between both shores and to consider the possibility of building common strategies towards harmonious hyper-plural societies.

Rethink the public space

This reflection led us to various interrogations:

  1. What structures perception of the perceiving person and more precisely the perception of his/her country public spaces or his/her place of living? Is this structured perception linked to a geographical and political climate or socio-economic needs? Do we perceive according to our well-being or ill-being? Do we perceive a space according to what we expect? How much does the place weigh in this process within the ubiquity of the virtual networks to the Inhabitant?
  2. Being shared places, are contemporary public spaces in the Mediterranean necessarily sites for sharing? Can we classify them according to their degree of “sharibility”? What stimulates this “sharibility”? Do we measure it according to familiarity vs alienation? Or rather according to accessibility or hospitality if we may describe one’s ability at welcoming the Other, his/her body and entities in their co-presence and interactions? Isn’t this ability at welcoming all markings, at including them or avoiding them that defines this “sharability”? Isn’t that what Jacques Ferrier wrote about in A Town’s Possibility: “A town’s porosity depending on one’s time, on day and night, through seasons, on climates, on usage…”[4]?
  3. To what extend does the architecture of public spaces and the urban forms condition the sensitive sharing of these spaces? Which architectural and urban forms can today incite to share ambiences? Do they relate to the urban layout, the architectural style, the size of buildings, rearrangements (factors of quarrels), etc.?
  4. If architecture, to the extent that it contributes into shaping the urban, is a factor of sharing in public spaces, which architecture should we conceive? Does the solution lie on the side of a new international style more focused on, for example, the issue of durability (with all the necessary local adjustments) or on the contrary, on the side of an environment shaped by local specificities? Is the consensual public space to be considered neutral, “cleared” of all affiliations or a space that carries contemporary bits and fragments chosen from a common architectural and urban history? Does the public space have to be a space for a sensorial object in motion — a sensual town as described by Jacques Ferrier — or a space for a sensitive object? Do identities in public space have to dissolve, juxtapose or be created?
  5. Which lessons could we learn from the past experiences? It is to that extent that ambient studies about architectural and urban experiences (alternative or hybrid), become interesting (in Tunisia, we can list, for example, the Palaces that where transformed before and through the Protectorate, reconstructions and other post-modernist attempts), but we can also mention the ones due to more modernist operations (the Olympic City, Sidi El Béchir, Sfax etc.). To what extent, can the architectural experiences — more numerous than the urban ones — hybridizing heritage and modernity, nourish a reflection on public spaces conception?

Call for Papers

Submission of proposals

You are invited to submit proposals for papers to Olfa Meziou

before November 25th, 2013.

Email address: olfa.meziou2014@gmail.com

Proposals should include 2500 to 3000 characters. they can be written in French or English and need to include:

  • · the identity or affiliation of the author/authors,
  • · the title of the proposed paper,
  • · the theme or themes of the paper,
  • · the summary of the paper.

The call for proposals will be submitted to a scientific committee which will get back to the authors before the 20th of December 2013.

The accepted papers will be included in the conference program.


The summary of the lectures and papers will be published on the International Ambiances Network website. Certain elaborated articles can be submitted in Ambiances, the International Journal of Sensory Environment, Architecture and Urban Space.


Welcome of the participants

The conference will be held at the Tunis Science City on the 24th, 25th and 26th of February 2014. Registration will be free and the organizers will cover the meals of speakers during the conference.

Scientific officers

  • · Olfa Meziou, ERA, ENAU Tunis
  • · Alia Ben Ayed, ERA, ENAU Tunis

Organizing Committee

  • · Mohsen Bel Haj Salem, ERA, ENAU Tunis
  • · Alia Ben Ayed, ERA, ENAU Tunis
  • · Noha Saïd Gamal, CRESSON, ENSA Grenoble
  • · Faten Hussein, ERA, ENAU Tunis
  • · Hind Karoui, ERA, ENAU Tunis
  • · Olfa Meziou, ERA, ENAU Tunis
  • · Jean-Pierre Péneau, ERA Tunis and CERMA, ENSA Nantes
  • · Daniel Siret, CERMA, ENSA Nantes
  • · Jean-Paul Thibaud, CRESSON, CNRS, Grenoble

Scientific Committee

  • · Mohamed Afifi, University of Cairo
  • · Pascal Amphoux, ENSA Nantes and Contrepoint Projets urbains, Lausanne
  • · Azeddine Belakehal, School of Architecture of Byskra
  • · Samuel Bordreuil, LAMES, CNRS, Aix en Provence
  • · Nadir Boumaza, PACTE, Pierre Mendes France University, Grenoble
  • · Marc Breviglieri, EHESS, HES Geneva
  • · Chantal Jabeur, SEDET, Paris Diderot University
  • · Jean-Pierre Péneau, ERA Tunis and CERMA, Nantes
  • · Pascale Pichon, Jean Monnet University, Max Weber Center, Saint-Etienne
  • · Nora Semmoud, François Rabelais University, Tours
  • · Jean-Paul Thibaud, CRESSON, CNRS, Grenoble

Guest Discussants

  • · Pascal Amphoux, ENSA Nantes and Contrepoint Projets urbains, Lausanne
  • · Azeddine Belakehal, School of Architecture of Byskra
  • · Chantal Jabeur, SEDET, Paris Diderot University
  • · Nora Semmoud, François Rabelais University, Tours

Guest Speakers

  • · Mohamed Afifi, University of Cairo
  • · Marc Breviglieri, EHESS, HES Geneva

Guest Filmmakers

  • · Mahmoud Ismaïl, Egypt
  • · Hichem Ben Ammar, Tunisia


  • · International Ambiances Network
  • · Hanns Seidel Fondation
  • · ENAU, Tunis
  • · Ecole Doctorale SIA, Tunis

[1]. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Mille plateaux (11 – 1837, De la ritournelle), Paris, Les éditions de Minuit, 1980, 648 p.

[2]. P. Sloterdijk, Sphères III. Écumes. Sphérologie plurielle, traduit de l'allemand par Olivier Mannoni, Paris, M. Sell, 2005. p. 229-230

[3]. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, op. cit.

[4]. Jacques Ferrier, La Possibilité d’une ville. Les cinq sens et l’architecture, Paris, Arléa, 2012, 130 p.


  • Cité des Sciences de Tunis - Boulevard Mohamed Bouazizi 1082
    Tunis, Tunisia (1004)


  • Monday, November 25, 2013


  • ambiances, Méditerranée, espace public, architecture, aménagement urbain


  • Daniel Siret
    courriel : daniel [dot] siret [at] cerma [dot] archi [dot] fr
  • Olfa Meziou
    courriel : olfa [dot] meziou [at] hotmail [dot] fr

Information source

  • Daniel Siret
    courriel : daniel [dot] siret [at] cerma [dot] archi [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Ambiance as a key issue in the contemporary Mediterranean public space », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, October 10, 2013, https://calenda.org/261594

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