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Uncovering Morocco: Materials and Finishes

  • Uncovering Morocco: Materials and Finishes

    In September 2019 two design lecturers from Australia (Nina Starkey and Michele Wake) took 32 design students on a journey in the foots steps of a Berbere to uncover the exotic materials and finishes of Morocco.

    Located at the intersection of the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea - Morocco is a country built on influences from various civilisations and cultures including the Arabians, Jewish, French and Spanish whose contribution has created what we know to be Morocco today.

    With the soft sounds of the call to prayer, the students found themselves travelling desert roads like the silk merchants of old to meet those who could show them the magic of Northern Africa through colours, materials, and finishes unique to the country.

    With the help of local connections, the students went on a backstreet tour of traditional landmarks including a myriad of medinas and ancient Fes. They immersed themselves in the arts and history of Moroccan craftsmanship, many of which originated from Japan and Persia.

    This visually stunning collection documents the cultural fusion of different styles of architecture and interior design, to inspire those who share the same passion or want to learn more about the magic of modern Morocco.

  • Dr Philip Whiting

    ‘Uncovering Morocco’ is an exploration of Moroccan culture through the creative imagery of colour, shape and form and construction material to provide a deeper understanding and appreciation of heritage, superstition and belief.


    Research Background

    A Torrens University Australia field trip to Morocco with a cohort of interior design students provides the foundation to discover how a culture evolves and presents itself through its use of colour, shape and form and construction material. Whilst much research of cultures or research into the use of colour, shape and form already exists, this particular research is quite unique in its approach to the study of Morocco using a range of key design elements. Design reference books tend to be a visual travelogue of snap shots where this research material is so much more in the way the content has been utilised for publication.


    Research Contribution

    The work is a significant contribution to the field of design on two levels. Firstly, the formal presentation of the images in terms of colour and cultural meaning. In addition, the format used for image layout provides a foundation that allows the reader to consider cultural heritage and its meaning, subsequently in terms of shape, form, pattern and material. The research provides a second level of meaning and understanding in relation to religion, belief, superstition and related cultural symbolism. This unique approach to the relationship between design and culture moves the research work from the superficial visual referencing of existing interior design research into a much deeper and more valuable level of understanding in relation to symbolism as form and meaning. Form and meaning are intricately related (Krippendorff, Spring 1989, p. 14) and Krippendorff believes that something must have form to be seen but must make sense to be understood and used. When designers introduce cultural elements and design signatures to their work this is especially important.


    Research Significance

    It is the innovative approach to presenting this research as much as the research itself that is particularly significant. The format and layout make optimum use of the research imagery available to provide a fascinating cultural insight. It is also important to remind ourselves that the origin of the research material came from a diverse range of design students and their lecturers, who equally possess a diverse range of perspectives, interests and observations. Therefore, this research has additional value as it can be seen as the result of travel focus group rather than an individual impression.

    Dr Philip Whiting FDIA MCSD



    Jasmin Midgley, MA

    Uncovering Morocco: Materials and Finishes is a coffee table book exploring some of the architectural elements and artisan crafts found and made in the major centres of Morocco, as seen through the eyes of interior designers.  



    Dr Hilde Heim

    ‘Uncovering Morocco: Materials and Finishes’ by researchers Nina Starkey and Michele Wake is a 192-page book, printed in square format that chronicles a design student field trip undertaken in 2019. The edition explores the surface design apparent on architecture and interiors in several locations in Morocco and is presented through curated, organised and rich photographic imagery. 



    Dr Petra Perolini 

    The photobook taps into popular aesthetics but emotionally engages the reader and moves the audience with the richness of moments, captured and collated to form a narrative of Morocco’s rich culture. The narrative is underpinned by a historical inquiry about the visual identity and culture of Morocco by examining the underlying stories, themes and ideas which expose the significance of a photobook as a genre. The book is of interest not only to designers to help formulate ideas and style but equally contributes to the greater understanding of how you visualise the world around you, and how to capture it in a way that reflects your personality as a photographer and documenter.