As one of Africa’s largest and most successful airlines, Ethiopian Airlines‘ calls for a new headquarters was answered by the winning entry which addressed the needs of its growth and dynamic operations. The design was submitted by a collaboration between Ethiopian firm BET Architects in Addis Ababa, and Austria’s Söhne & Partner Architekten.
The planned new headquarters of Ethiopian will have four floors with a total area of 15,500 square meters, and will be situated adjacent to the airport in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
According to BET Architects‘ principal Tesfamariam Teshome, the design took into consideration both local and international contexts.
“Inspirations for the airlines’ HQ could have been sourced from traditional and historical places or from more obvious objects like aircraft shape and such. But more conscientiously we said carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines are better reflected with their core business of transporting goods and people. This movement is also a movement of culture and exchange; it’s a flow of people and culture.”
The winning ‘concept of flows’ led to a fragmented yet interconnected simple-single-forms to be organized like a village allowing the flow of people, air, light, and nature into and out of the building. The architects at Söhne & Partners thought about the airplanes flying over the ground and tried to mirror this feeling in the building. They wanted to give it that ‘floating over the ground’ touch.
The headquarters is designed as a number of departmentalized random blocks, with the semi-external/internal voids in between, allowing both human and natural elements to flow through, exposing and at the same time harbouring the internal circulation elements: the lobby, corridors, stairs, escalators, lifts, and bridges within the voids created among the blocks.
The lobby appears to be floating and rising, as the landscape integrates itself into the building. There are always connections from the inside to the outside, giving a sense of always being in nature. The gardens in between the office blocks are landscaped areas with trees, benches and art sculptures.
The sun shading for the grand lobby is done by symbolizing trees, made out of timber. The office blocks are located around it. This is the headquarters’ main communal space – where people meet, greet, and relax.
Much like traditional village housing, all the different blocks are placed around the square where all life is actually happening. This is the place where the major flow happens, and all important functional spaces like the conference center and central archive are placed there. According to Sergiu Borza, architect at Söhne & Partner Architekten:
”First of all we considered the typically village housing in Ethiopia. The housing typology was the concept for our office-buildings: you have the great centre-piece (in our case that is the grand lobby) and all the other buildings are arranged around that. So you can enter all office-buildings from that one middle space.”
Circulation throughout the blocks is achieved from the lobby which fulfills the role of the traditional communal space that inspired its design. The combination of extending the blocks and the possibility of building new block gives a maximum flexibility for future expansion.
The landscape, being an important part of the interior design, is flowing through and underneath the building. The office blocks are cantilevered above the street level as a floating form. It recalls the country’s mountains and canyons. The columns throughout the building display local patterns, playfully connecting the outside with the inside. The colours used were inspired by local topographies. Bridges are the connecting elements as a symbol of connecting cultures and nations.
This was not the first time for the airline to announce an architectural design contest for its headquarters design. Back in September 2009, the airline, which was not satisfied enough with submissions to select a first prize, had cancelled the first contest without selecting a winner.
All images are copyright and courtesy of Söhne & Partner Architekten.
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.
“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
Kutamba School, Uganda
Designers: Project H
Design nonprofit Project H, which concentrates on design initiatives for humanity, habitats, health, and happiness, completed the construction of their first Learning Landscape, a playground that teaches elementary math concepts using ten interactive games. Built from reclaimed tires in a simple sandbox structure, the pilot installation was built at the Kutamba AIDS Orphans School in southern Uganda.
Designed by a group of Project H volunteer designers, the Learning Landscape is a scalable grid-based system for elementary math education. Industrial designers Heleen de Goey, Dan Grossman, Kristina Drury, Neha Thatte, and Ilona de Jongh conceived of ten math games to be played within a grid. Because mathematics is universal, the system can be applied in any country, using any language for instruction, and can be tailored to a range of skill levels.
Images by Project H design
Part outdoor classroom, part spatially immersive lesson in arithmetic, the math playground gives students a place to study in at least two senses of the phrase. On the one hand, it’s simply a forum for learning; on the other, it is literally a place to study: the space itself, serves as a model for play-based education.
The Kutamba AIDS Orphans School, built by Matthew Miller in partnership with Architecture for Humanity, served as the case study and initial pilot installation of a playground-sized version of the system. The four-by-four grid was constructed using reclaimed tires, and a simple sand box structure. Each of the tires marks a point on the grid, and can also be used as outdoor classroom space when coupled with the integrated bench system. Numbers can be written directly onto the tires with chalk for game play.
The ten games teach concepts including addition, subtraction, multiplicaiton, and division, as well as spatial and logical reasoning through individual and team-based competition. In Match Me, for example, students form two teams. The teacher calls out a math equation, and one student from each team compete against each other to solve the equation, then locate the tire with that number on it, sitting atop the correct tire. The team member who finds the tire first returns to the team’s line. The team with whose players remain in the line the longest wins.
The Learning Landscape, though realized as a playground in its pilot installation, is a universal system that can be used at a variety of scales. Project H has continued its adaptation of the system, developing a product-sized version for in-classroom tabletop use based on the same grid games. The systems-approach, rather than object-approach, lends itself to a solution that is both universal and adaptable for specific contexts.
Based on the success of the the Uganda project, Project H has gone on to build another similar landscape in North Carolina. According to Project H founder Emiliy Pilloton:
“So in bringing something like this to the U.S., we obviously still want to serve the developing world and design for the other 90%, but at the same time, this is a very rural school district, incredibly underperforming, over three-quarters African American, extremely poor. And we forget that the developing world is, in a way, in our own backyard. The demographics were slightly different, but in a lot of ways the same. So we wanted to use the Learning Landscape in Africa and also in our own backyard to draw those parallels.”
Project H hopes to build at least 5 more in Africa and in the US. To find out how you can support the philanthropic construction of future Learning Landscapes elsewhere please visit the Project H donation page.
See the whole research, design, and installation process through their Flickr sets.
The Royal Netherlands Embassy complex lies amidst the urban sprawl on the southern outskirts of Addis Ababa, occupying a five-hectare steeply sloping site, enclosed within a dense eucalyptus grove. The guiding principle of this architectural collaboration between Ethiopian and Dutch designers was to preserve and respect the topography of the surrounding landscape while addressing the functional requirements of a working embassy. They took care to maintain existing contour lines and leave the vegetation and wildlife undisturbed.
Located at the centre of the site are the chancery and ambassador’s residence. The landscape cuts through the building and separates the two functions. At this point the road sunk into the landscape intersects the building and descends to the covered visitor entrance to the ambassador’s residence.
The main building, an elongated horizontal volume, cuts across the sloping terrain on an east– west axis. Walls, floors and ceilings are pigmented the same red-ochre as the Ethiopian earth and are uniformly composed of concrete, creating the effect of a cave-like space, reminiscent of the rock-hewn architecture of Lalibela, Ethiopia. By contrast, the roof garden with its network of shallow pools alludes to a Dutch water landscape.
An unashamedly contemporary and simple organization of spaces the Dutch Embassy in Addis Ababa overcomes the complexities of security and surveillance normally associated with the design of embassy compounds, intersecting with the landscape to create new and unexpected relationships with the host site — a walled eucalyptus grove in the city. The massif architecture, at once archaic and modern, belongs as much to the Muslims, Christians and the indigenous tribes of Ethiopia as it does to its Dutch homeland.
In its conception and daily operation, the building responds to its social and physical context with inventive design and poetic sensibility. This is an architecture that works with its environment, reducing the use of mechanical services and relying instead on natural ventilation and high insulation. The project’s sensitivity to process has left its mark in the raw character of its formation – another delicate reminder of how buildings, as formations of material culture, can register and enhance spaces of encounter.
A new European embassy in Africa is often an imposed (or at least imported) affair, using materials and human resources brought from outside. The Dutch Embassy in Addis Ababa is different. It was realised entirely by local contractors, using the only widely available local construction material, concrete, coupled with Ethiopian stone and timber for the interior finishes. The brief required new buildings for the ambassador’s residence, chancellery and staff housing, and the renovation of the existing deputy ambassador’s house. Along the way (the project took eight years to realise) a small school was added to the programme.
Kampala Serena Hotel
Client: Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development
Architect: Symbion Architects
Interior Design: Symbion Architects, Paul Smith
Landscape Design: Glenn Wagner-Landmark Studios
Almost 100 years ago, in 1908, a young Winston Churchill dubbed Uganda “The Pearl of Africa.” And it was. With its fertile soil and natural resources, it was a Garden of Eden in the heart of the continent.
Since 1986, Uganda has found a new confidence and stability. Its luster has been restored and the capital, Kampala, now vibrates with optimism and energy. So it is no surprise that the prestigious Serena Group decided to transform the old 65-room government-run Nile hotel, built in 1975, into the region’s most sophisticated and stylish resort. Owned and operated by Tourism Promotion Services, an arm of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), Serena also owns and manages properties in Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Mozambique.
The company awarded the project to Symbion International, a Nairobi-based architectural and interior design firm with which it had collaborated on a number of hotel projects over the years.
Symbion architects Jon A. Cavanagh, Pius Muli and Michael Lord, along with interior designer Paul Smith, drew on the country’s cultural and natural heritage for inspiration. Says Cavanagh, “We have brought the colors of Africa—the lakes, rivers and fertile soils—to almost every aspect of the project.” These themes appear in both the exterior features of the hotel and in the room décor, where softly flowing fabrics, muted colours and organic themes prevail. The skills of numerous local artists were also called upon to create the stunning carved panels, mosaic pillars, beaten copper fretwork, sensational traditional jewellery, beaded wall hangings and hand-carved ‘bambara birds’, which bedeck the communal areas.
At the opening in 2006, Prince Amyn Aga Khan, a principal shareholder through AKFED, reiterated this concept. “We took the Nile as our theme,” he said, “the Nile as the place where different peoples met, different philosophies, cultures and aesthetics crossed each other and which, from this intermingling, produced a continuous swell of artistic creativity and originality.”
Says Cavanagh, “The building was positioned on the upper portion of the 17-acre site, which allowed the landscape to wrap around it.” All of the 152 guest rooms and suites have views of the city and surrounding hills and the lush garden.
Photo Credit: Tim Beddow
Boasting luscious grounds which provide shelter for a wide selection of indigenous trees; and protection for a beautiful array of flowers, birds and butterflies, the hotel’s extensive grounds provide a haven of calm in the centre of Uganda’s most cosmopolitan city. Water is a theme that appears throughout. A thin curtain of water falls from the top level of the reception area into a substantial pebble-lined basin at the bottom and from there magically sweeps out of the building into a man-made lake. Meandering paths link bridges over ponds and rocky outcroppings and lead to a giant cascade, created by Kenyan rockwork specialist Julius Mutungi, that falls into a serpentine swimming pool.
Nearby, in the Lakes Restaurant, the water theme continues. Columns are covered in a mosaic depicting Lake Victoria’s fish and aquatic plants. Fish motifs are also incorporated into the wrought iron balustrades, the beaten-copper frescoes and the organically carved mahogany columns throughout. And in some of the guest rooms, the carpets have a wave pattern.
Mist Bar acquires its jungle theme from Uganda’s forests and mountain gorillas. Giant plaster reliefs with jungle scenes adorn the walls, and the bar front has panels carved with a leaf motif by Ugandan artist Expedito Mwebe. Handcrafted artificial tree trunks, cane furniture and jungle fabrics help to establish an exotic atmosphere.
In the Explorer Restaurant, the designers took their cue from some of the region’s early explorers. It is filled with 19th-century safari memorabilia, reminiscent of a scene out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Woven-cane chairs are mixed with period pieces, adding to the safari ambience. “We wanted to evoke the romance and mystery of early explorations, that feeling of discovery,” Smith explains.
Cavanagh and his team at Symbion have, at the Kampala Serena, created what can only be described as an opulent, world-class hotel, one that is wholly appropriate for its site. Says Cavanagh, “The harmonious synchronization of the interior and exterior themes was certainly the most rewarding aspect of the project.” Also central to the hotel’s success are the attentiveness and efficiency of the staff. Here Ugandan hospitality shines through. This landmark hotel, like Uganda itself, truly is a Pearl of Africa.
Click here for an interactive Virtual Tour.
The Kampala Serena, A Celebration of African Culture
The architecture firm of Cottrell and Vermeulen claims diverse interests, from the built environment to landscape, exhibitions and new construction technologies and advocates a collaborative approach. The team has wide experience in education design. They have a reputation for innovation in early years and primary school design in particular. Their school work has gained acclaim throughout the United Kingdom. With African vernacular as inspiration, the firm prepared the Exemplar Schools Design report for the UK Department of Education and Skills in 2003.
In a June 2009 interview with Building Magazine’s Pamela Buxton, Partner Brian Vermeulen describes how the African Site of Great Zimbabwe, a major trading center until the 15th century, has influenced his work.
“I grew up in Zimbabwe, and when other architecture students were looking at Le Corbusier, my inspiration was more African.
I first saw Great Zimbabwe when I was about 11 or 12 — it was the only significant example of monumental architecture in southern Africa. At the time, I just saw very well put together stones and nice shapes and wasn’t aware of its political symbolism. Growing up in a white colonial state in the sixties and seventies I was politically naive and it was only when I went to Cape Town University to study architecture that I started getting interested in what I was doing in Africa.
It was a very strange political environment. South Africa was going through turmoil; Zimbabwe was going through a war. On my course, everyone else was looking at James Stirling who was the big thing at the time, but I decided to research African architecture and symbolism and I needed to get security clearance to go into archives to read banned documents on Great Zimbabwe. I got a shock when I realised that archaeologists had found out that it was built by Africans but had been banned from saying so because the regime was worried about encouraging black power. The documents had red stamps on them saying things like “confidential”, and “banned”. I slowly realised how censored society was — you become angry when you think you’ve been lied to. It changed me, and when I later moved to London I became involved in Architects Against Apartheid.
I went back to Great Zimbabwe as a student and again twice since. It’s the biggest sub-Saharan monumental building and is very well put together — some walls are 5m thick at the base and then taper upwards and there are very unusual organic shapes and corridors. The sacred part of the site is higher up, like an acropolis on a ridge; the space within the walled enclosure to the south is almost like the agora and is where the king may have lived. The space inbetween was where the people lived. The tall conical structure may be a symbolic grain silo.
There are things here that you can read into. On the top of the ridge were sacred stone birds that were taken off to museums by archaeologists. There’s a theory that they are Bataleur eagles. These are special — when I was a boy, people used to clap when they flew over. In the animist tradition of belief, the landscape, birds and animals were filled with powerful meanings and some of the trees on the site, such as the fig trees would have been highly symbolic. The landscape around it is very powerful — maybe that’s one of the reasons why there isn’t much monumental architecture in this part of Africa.
Photo Credit: Cottrell and Vermeulen
Unlike in Europe, a palace in Africa isn’t just the actual building. It’s the domain in which the building takes place — the space inside the retaining boundary wall and the temporary structures within it, which is quite a modern idea. You get an entire complex of buildings within the walls, sometimes incorporating trees and natural features. In some places in Africa, for example Mali, the people often sleep outside and put the animals inside so that the living space is the external room.
Great Zimbabwe influenced the way I see space, especially in our school buildings. In schools, outdoor space is just as important as internal space so the African palace is the perfect model — Cottrell & Vermeulen included it in some of the guidance we did for the government on Building Schools For the Future. The school becomes not just the building but a landscape for learning.
We’re currently building a Hindu school in Harrow — the Krishna-Avanti Primary School. We prompted our client to talk about the landscape in Hindu culture and we got another picture. In traditional Hindu villages they have one area of land which is spiritual (dharma), another area for wildlife, and another for prosperity (crops and livestock). In the school, we have a spiritual courtyard garden, vegetable gardens outside the classrooms and apple trees in the playground, as well as an undulating wildlife area around the perimeter.
At Westborough Primary School in Westcliff on Sea, where we previously designed a cardboard building, we’re now doing a zero-carbon refurbishment and this, by coincidence, has an African garden and recycled play structures. The school landscape is an extension of the classrooms and is a learning resource in itself.
After independence, Great Zimbabwe went a bit touristy for a while — the grass was cleared and curio sellers appeared. But now, after the turmoil of the last few years, the tourists have gone.
The grass grows very quickly and I’m hoping to go back again to rediscover the spaces that first inspired me.”
Inspiration: Great Zimbabwe
Built: 11th-15th centuries
Location: Masvingo, Zimbabwe
Formed of regular, rectangular granite stones, carefully placed one upon the other, Great Zimbabwe is the ruins of an amazing complex and a protected World Heritage Site. This major trading centre was built by the Bantu civilisation of the Shona between the 11th and 15th centuries and covered nearly 80ha. It had an estimated 18,000 inhabitants and controlled most of internal south-east Africa, with artefacts found there from as far away as China.
It consists of three areas: the hill complex, which was used as a temple and is the oldest part of the site dating back to 900AD; the valley complex, which was for the citizens; and the Great Enclosure or walled town, which was used by members of the elite classes.
The stone walls, up to 6meter thick and 12 meter high, are built of granite blocks without the use of mortar. Two high walls form the narrow parallel passage, 60 meter long, that allows direct access to the Conical Tower. Each layer of stones was laid on top of the other slightly more recessed than the last, to produce a stabilising inward slope. Early constructions used rough blocks and incorporated features of the landscapes such as boulders, while later walls were more refined.
The walls are thought to be indications of status, rather than purely defensive. The walls surrounded huts and linked them to form a series of courtyards. Some researchers claim the complex included an astronomy observatory.
The Great Enclosure is the largest single ancient structure south of the Sahara.
It is unclear why the city was abandoned. European explorers initially believed the city was the work of non-Africans — either the Phoenicians or Arabs. Archaeological excavations early in the 20th century found that the site was built by Africans but archaeologists were discouraged from suggesting that sub-Saharan Africans had instigated such a grand construction.
Eight carved soapstone birds measuring 30cm high were found in the ruins, combining human and bird features. After independence, the image of one of these birds became a symbol on the new Zimbabwe flag, with the country taking its name from the site.
A slide show of Great Zimbabwe images can be seen here.
Salvokp, South Africa
Client: Freedom Park Trust
Architects: GAPP Architects/ Urban Designers, MMA Architects, Mashabane Rose
Landscape Architects: Newton Lansdcape Architects, Mashabane Rose
Driven by the necessity for the diverse people of South Africa and the world to understand and appreciate the country’s struggle for liberation, The Freedom Park was born as a national and international icon of humanity and freedom.
The Freedom Park, with its Garden of Remembrance, is located on a 52-hectare site on Salvokop Hill at the entrance into Tshwane (Pretoria) from Johannesburg.
The uphill climbs and winding roads serve a very symbolic purpose at The Freedom Park: it stands as a testimony to the arduous road that South Africans had to travel to reach their destination of humanity and freedom.
Documentation issued by the Freedom Park Trust highlights the significance of high ground, rock, hills and mountains in African culture. “Essentially, the rock is our home… in the mountains African people listened to the voice of silence. Mountains and hills served as a seat of governance for many of the royal kraals. Mountains were considered sacred by some groups who used to go there to pray for rain, or to bury kings in the caves… believing that the ancestors reside there… a step to the heavens and to our humanity.”
The entire site – a natural indigenous garden – constitutes the Garden of Remembrance. It is intended to become “a national symbol for reparation, a symbol of healing, a symbol of cleansing, a place where the spirits of those who lost their lives for freedom can rest.”
The conceptual design for the Garden evolved as an iterative process between the design team – including the landscape architects and architects – and an advisory panel established by Freedom Park Trust. The panel included traditional healers, artists and academics specialising in African culture and indigenous knowledge systems, who provided information and guidance on cultural matters.
The Garden of Remembrance creates the context in which the various elements will be built and anticipates further development in the future, as South Africa’s story unfolds.
The Elements of the Park:
Situated on the eastern side of the hill is Isivivane – a sanctuary, the resting place for the spirits of those who died in the struggles for humanity and freedom. The concept of Isivivane is derived from the word ‘viva’, which means ‘to come together in a group’.
This consists of five areas:
Gallery of Leaders
Wall of Names
On the crest of Salvokop, subtly blending into the curves of the hill, nestles Sikhumbuto – The Freedom Park’s major memorial element. It stands as a testimony to the various conflicts that have shaped the South Africa of today and commemorates those who have sacrificed their lives for humanity and freedom.
The concept of Sikhumbuto is drawn from siSwati nomenclature and signifies a place of remembrance for those who have died and also a place for invoking their assistance in current and future affairs.
A high-level hospitality suite, which will be used for presidential and diplomatic functions, currently being used as a temporary exhibition space.
Mveledzo is a spiral path, which links all the elements of The Freedom Park together. It has been designed in such a way that visitors are taken on a contemplative journey in the serenity of the natural landscape as they walk between Isivivane and Sikhumbuto.
Uitspanplek is a peaceful place where families can spend the day together or where visitors to the Park can relax after a tour. The tranquility of this area, with its panoramic view over the city, makes for an ideal reflective space.
Earmarked for completion in late 2009, two of The Freedom Park’s elements, namely Isivivane and Sikhumbuto, have been opened for public visitation during 2007.
As time goes by, The Park will play a primary role in healing South Africa’s wounds by uniting her diverse people towards reconciliation and nation building.
*Winner: World Architecture Festival Awards 2008 – Nature Category