Drystone Walling:
an exploration of vernacular architecture through material culture.
4 to 11 November, 2018

Field School
1 to 9 November, 2018

Historical studies on architecture often focus on buildings intended for gods, kings or the dead. Yet, the vast majority of constructions on earth are meant for everyday life and work of ordinary people. These constructions are known as ‘vernacular’ architecture. They are not the work of professionals familiar with 'the great architecture' of their time and its fashionable materials, technologies and techniques. Rather, they result from the labour of John and Jane Doe, who used available materials and perfected the most simple constructions.

Among their techniques is ‘drystone walling', an ancient method to build stone structures without any mortar to bind them together. Its basic principle is corbelling: overlapping horizontal layers of stone upon stone ultimately create a false dome. The drystone method is still used today and the Maltese islands provide us with plenty of examples of this technique, both contemporary and historically.

The study of this technique not only shows us the basic principles of architectural construction, it also helps us understand the relation between humans and their environment. Understanding drystone offers insight in the foundations of architecture, anthropology and ethnography, as well as about a contemporary, sustainable way of life, close to nature.

The workshop consists of a theoretical and a practical part, in close contact with the environment and local culture. Through a series of trips around the Island of Gozo and Malta participants will discover megalithic temples, different objects of vernacular architecture and quarries, and experience building techniques that are used on an island where most of the built environment is made of stone.
Increasingly, anthropologists and other social scientists are regaining interest in the practice of drawing. The recent popularity boost of graphic novels and graphic journalism has shown anthropologists new means of representation and paved the way for a wider rediscovery of graphics in ethnographic investigation. If the use of sketches and drawings to transfer ethnographic knowledge takes us back to the early beginnings of the discipline, new purposes for graphics are now being invented.

This workshop aims to explore graphic anthropology’s limits of possibility: what uses can be imagined in the field? Can a comic book replace a scientific article? In what way can drawing strengthen our observational skills? What uses exist for graphics in conversations and interviews? How can maps tell us more than mere locations?

We shy away from one-directional lectures and presentations, but focus on collective experiential learning. Through field trips, targeted exercises and debate sessions, participants share experiences and explore the possibilities of drawing throughout the ethnographic process.

The workshop aims to attract a wide range of amateurs, from the experienced artist with an interest in ethnographic research or the scholar hoping to rediscover her own inner Picasso lost so long ago, to seasoned graphic anthropologists willing to share and exchange experiences with passionate colleagues.

Both programs are hosted by Expeditions, a non profit organization specialized in ‘off the beaten track’ ethnographic fieldwork and research training. Year-long experience of bringing together aficionados of all trades to collaborate on shared research interests, taught us the value of interdisciplinary collaboration and exchange. Apart from an in-depth and hands-on engagement with one of both thematic foci, the programs also seek to set off a scientific cross-pollination.

Both workshops take place simultaneously on the Island of Gozo, Malta. The premisses of the renowned Expeditions’ Summer School for Anthropology and Ethnography, Xlendi Gardens, will serve as a basecamp for all participants as well as the workshop leaders. All take part in the co-creation of communal spaces for learning and eating, with the aim of generating a creative surplus and exploring the connections between vernacular architecture and graphics in methods and representation.

Some Remarks

  • For these programs we don't have scholarships or grants available.
  • Each session is limited to 8 participants only, so don't leave your application lingering if you are interested. We accept applications on a rolling basis, and close registrations when all 8 slots are filled.