Addis Ababa National Stadium

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Client: Federal Sports Commission of Ethiopia
Architects: Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA), DESIGNSPORT, JDAW Consulting

In 2014, construction will commence on a new 60,000 seat stadium and sports village in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.  LAVA, the Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, and DESIGNSPORT, collaborated with local Ethiopian firm JDAW in 2012 to win the international architecture competition for the national stadium complex.

The extensive program included the main IOC-standard stadium for FIFA marches,  athletics events, concerts, religious and natural festivals; a sports village comprising indoor and outdoor aquatic centers, miscellaneous sporting halls and arena, residential complexes, and outdoor pitches, and the headquarters for Ethiopia’s Federal Sport Commission.  Hospitality, retail and commercial zones on the periphery of the complex were designed to ensure the precinct remains vibrant throughout the year.

This football and athletics loving country’s new stadium will fuse together the innovative engineering with aesthetics borrowed from the country’s ancient natural forms and traditions.

Tectonic structures and movement are the underlying concept for the masterplan with the design carefully mimicking the volcanic geology of the region, under the backdrop of the surrounding Entoto Hills.  Urban parkland is conceived as a continuous spatial experience balancing movement, climate, experience, and efficiency.  A central plaza forms the heart of the complex with a ridge connecting all zones.

The stadium façade is wrapped with material inspired by the Massob, an Ethiopian communal serving basket made from woven grass.  The façade patterns are digitally created through parametric modeling and are built with local materials.

Huge scolar powered umbrellas provide shade and shelter, whilst pedestrian activated light and water features appear as fissures in the ground surface, lighting the way and providing animated art works.

The roof of the stadium, an intelligent membrane, appears like a cloud on the horizon of the vast Ethiopian sky, a lightweight tensile structure floating over the formed-earth landscape.

Design Inspiration

“This design references Ethiopia’s world famous excavated architecture – centuries old rock churches, dwellings and cisterns.  We see the sports city as a natural extension to this heritage, one that will draw many more visitors to our beloved country, ” said Addis architect and JDAW director Daniel Assefa.  “The form of the stadium structure seen from the top view also recalls coffee beans, the main source of income in Ethiopia and the ‘Mother womb,’ the skeleton of one of the first humans, Lucy, which is about 3.2 million years old.”


LAVA’s Chris Bosse added: “We have gone back to the very origin of stadium design with a sunken arena surrounded by grandstands formed from excavated material.  This man-made crater is a clever remodeling of the existing terrain and generates efficient spaces, optimizes environmental performance, minimizes construction costs and integrates facilities within the existing landscapes.”

“We are excited at the prospect of taking our expertise and translating it though the cultural lens of Africa,” said DESIGNSPORT’s Samantha Cotterell referencing the culturally diverse team.

All images courtesy of LAVA

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