Picturing Genius Loci

Picturing Genius Loci

July 2015


neo~local design


Two projects in Morocco and Palestine on local identities exploring visual design as a key to spark debate between planners, designers and local communities.


Genius loci, is the idea for which every place has a ‘spirit’ connected with a combination of perceptible factors. Either in natural phenomena; the weather, the light’s quality; or in anthropic demonstrations, such as in the shapes of architecture, design and of everyday things, often also in the interaction between the action of nature and humankind, such as in landscape, this spirit may pertain to a variety of tangible and intangible domains, that make that specific place unique.

Marrakesh's Architectural details in the opening of Artimed's film

The idea of embracing the ‘character of place’ as a way to explore cultural tangible and intangible heritage through the moving image guided two recent projects carried out at the animazionedesign research laboratory at the Alghero Department of Architecture, Design and Planning. In both cases our task was to develop audiovisual artifacts thought as ‘communication aids’ in activating a dialogue between planners, designers and local communities.

Both projects took place abroad, in contexts that differ from those we usually work with. People in both Morocco and Palestine use in fact the arabic  alphabet, write from right to left and structure their graphic lay-outs accordingly, and this clearly posed a challenge to our usual approach, based on graphic interpretation, typography and illustration. If we wanted to reach to the locals, and not only to the other designers involved in the projects, we needed to come up with a language that could work as a bridge between our different visual cultures, exploring visual identities that the local audience would acknowledge and feel familiar with.

Details in Marrakesh's visual landscape

We decided then to develop our visual discourse starting with elements from the local visual fabric, hoping to catch the ‘spirit of place’ of Marrakesh and Jericho, and engaging with the local visual jargon. The material, integrally shot on location, would then be combined through selective framing, and reinterpreted in compositions that make large use of fast cut editing and split-sceen.

Split-screen composition of Jericho's traditional water canals

Although coming form the reality of the local experience, in both projects the original visual material has been edited, either through contrast, justaxposition and the confrontation of the different images (Marrakesh), or ‘cut and pasted’ in mosaic-like compositions, to create a visual rhetoric based on repetitions, associations, contrasts (Jericho).

Agricolture in Jericho's Oasis



Nicolò Ceccarelli

Associate Professor, Alghero School of Design


Associate Professor in Design at the Alghero Department of Architecture, Design and Planning. Over the years he has oriented his research work towards the interactions between design and digital technology, exploring various research fields such as 3D modeling and design visualization, heritage valorization, the exploration of new languages for making information accessible, through visual design. In 2013 he organized and hosted the first edition of the international design conference 2CO_COmmunicating Complexity. More recently, in his research laboratory ‘animazionedesign’, he started exploring ways to develop a design approach aware of the local dimension, working abroad, in Morocco and Palestine, and in Sardinia, with a major research project at the 2015 Expo, a project about the dissemination of his University's historic scientific museum, and a multimedia installation for the PastFuture exhibit at Milan's Triennale.

After organizating and chairing the second edition of the international design conference 2CO_COmmunicating Complexity, Tenerife, Canary islands, Spain, November 2017, Nicolò is currently engaged in a new exciting project about visualizing the 'Statuti Sassaresi' a codex from the beginning of the 14th century