Studio Low, Borders as producer of design / 2











Ismaël G. Rifaï / Studio Low








Contents: Ismaël G. Rifaï
Arrangement: Claudine Garcia
Design layout: Good Sessions Studio










 ©Ismaël G. Rifaï. View of the the Industrial area El Tarajal , 2019.




“ I believe that the act of creation can help people from different horizon to understand each other in spite of the barrier between them.

It will be interesting to see which kind of design can product the border between Hong-Kong and Shenzen or the production of the border between Gaza and Israel. The observations I’ve made on the site led me to reconsider my role as a designer. Instead of a problem solver, the informality taking place in Ceuta drove me
to work with pre existing systems, put in place by the workers themselves.

Indeed from the designer’s prospective it’s interesting to see how the price of an object can change due to an external element like a border. Developing my research around this cross working trade make me interrogate my own practice and the value of what I’m producing.

Transposing pre existing systems in my own work led me ultimately through my design project, to incorporate randomness as a trace of a situation.

The border has its own rule. When an object crossed the border it’s impacted by it. It is in this element, in the impossibility to control the final aspect of an object, that the bor- der has a producer of design as a potential to challenge common conceptions on what a product is and what a producer is.”

Ismael G. Rifaï


The specific context generated by the items exported from Spain and China and the way of carrying this object depend from the law in place from Spain to Morocco, make of those object a particularity of Ceuta’s border.

Indeed a couple of blanket tie between each other, designed for the Spanish Market, produced in China and carried by a Moroccan woman on their back make of this artefact a ‘speciality’ of Ceuta’s border.

In that sense realize the importance of this alleged simple blanket can actually be looked at as a metaphor of the relationship between Spain and Morocco.




The work system created at the border, the solution to achieve it, the techniques created to circumvent rules are also a feature of Ceuta’s workers.

Out of necessity they have built a design process and tools to carry.

Out of a sort of chaotic situation where are entangled politics, policies, economies, has for example been developed an industry of trans- port trolleys and the informality of the situation and its precocity does not entail the material result.

Especially because in these types of creation, are reflected spanish rules, to carry by foot, and necessity, to bring back a lot of cheap goods. In that sense in craftsmanship products like trolley and the one who carry it’s the conflicted area situation that is reminded and together, these objects highlight ingenuity as well as the sociopolitical and economic forces that inform design.

At the same time, this design of urgency and necessity as an efficient character which illustrate the power of context creation by people from this context.

The precarity economic situation of the workers force them to use material they have at disposition like tape, chord, metal and their body.

Following the circular movement of the atypical trade between Spain and Morocco, the serie of object i’d like to develop would embody the changing economic and formal aspects of an object when confronted with the border.






Barrada Yto, 2009, The Belt, Step 1 to 9

Crossdressing, photography by Simona Schneider, 2009





One example can be found in the packaging phase that object go through before leaving the Spanish territory, the purpose of this step being a gain of space so the object is easily carried.

This structure, half furniture half trolley, will then be carried into Ceuta’s industrial area where it will be filled with some of the items that are usually carried by transnational workers. Finally, the last step would be to cross back the border with an object on wheels, that went through all the step of the trade.

The operation will be repeated several times, in order to testify of how the process of creation by the border evolve in time. Indeed, the finality of each object will be intrinsically linked to the items imported at the moment. In that sense each object will represent a specific economic moment, in relation to importation.

At the same time, the final object will also be shaped by the political rules in place at the moment. These conditions can have an impact on the weight of it, its size, its appearance.

Trolley made by a Moroccan iron worker, 2019


©Ismaël G. Rifaï. Left: Cabinet, Right: Armchair.



While these economic and political factors are independent of my intention they will be reflected in the objects themselves that through their aesthetic, composition, embody the changing rules of the border.





©Ismaël G. Rifaï. Global view.




©Ismaël G. Rifaï. Bench.



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