The Western Sahara is a country located at the western edge of the African continent. Formerly a Spanish colonial territory, and since 1975 occupied by Morocco, it has been called the world’s last remaining colony. With the beginning of a guerrilla war against Morocco, most of the Western Saharan population – the Sahrawis – had to flee across the border into Algeria where it settled in refugee camps, today housing approximately 160.000 Sahrawis. Even though the Sahrawis do not have control over their own country, they proclaimed independence of the Western Sahara on February 27, 1976. Its sovereignty is recognized today by approximately 40 countries, though its status remains unresolved.
Having lived for 40 years in refugee camps in the border zone of south-western Algeria, the Sahrawi population has developed a unique set of urban and architectural tools, as well as design methodologies to deal with the condition of transience and liminality. The buildings address topics such as permanence and temporality, modesty and decoration, tradition and modernity. These terms are not understood as opposites, but they always co-exist simultaneously in the architecture of the camps.