'Architecting Addis' in Eyes of Panellists

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Very recently, Association of Ethiopian Architects has held its 18th annual convention at Sheraton Addis. During this two-day long meeting, panel discussion entitled ‘Architecting Addis’ was conducted. Therefore, at the event, Ethiopian Press Journalists approached two panellists, Zeleke Belay and Dr. Zegeye Cherenet.

Responding to the existing legal framework of planning, lecturer of Architecture at Addis Ababa University and owner of Zeleke Belay Architect P.L.C Zeleke Belay said that on several occasions, Addis Ababa City Administration and the government have been enacting a number of urban planning laws in relation to the existing master plan. But, he added that as the urban planning laws are not observed in a more serious manner, there is inconsistent law implementation in this regard.

According to Zeleke, urban planning and design are crucial for a given city expansion plan and for owning beautiful and attractive city in the future. " If our city lacks plan, it is obvious that we will end up having the most disorganised city in the world. Therefore, our urban planning has to be implemented with a view to improving the housing plans in the future rather than completely replacing them with the new ones," he noted.

Moreover, Zeleke underlined that architects, urban planners and the public at large must actively participate in the process of urban planning, adding that, having reached a consensus on the city planning, every body has to abide by such plan, he reiterated.

Zeleke further said that every city of the country including Addis Ababa has a city plan that has been developed for many years, but some individuals knowingly or unknowingly have been building houses and other facilities violating the plan. “That is why we have recently begun to witness a number of disorganised cities in this country,” he says.

Therefore, Zeleke added that the government and the Association of Ethiopian Architects need to play a big role in effectively applying urban planning laws of the country.

It is true that by no means a city could be attractive and beautiful without a sustainable urban planning. As citizens become proud of their beautiful and attractive cities, they as well should care much for the proper implementation of the housing plans.

According to Zeleke, apart from supervising the construction works, the architects need to be fully engaged in both housing and the city plans.

Talking about the current improper trends in urban housing development, he said that it is acceptable to make some improvements on the architectural plan in consultation with the architect; but, so often the owner and the constructor get into housing construction projects making some modification by themselves.

Addis Ababa University Assistant Professor of Architecture and Design Dr. Zegeye Cherent told EPA that architecture makes life easier and comfortable; it as well develops with our ever- changing lifestyles. “Architecture has something to do with history, culture, civilization and science. That is why whenever archaeologists want to study human history, they dig in the ground to discover architectural artifacts and the like,” he said.

According to Zegeye, architecture is a multidisciplinary subject involving mathematics ,physics, philosophy, psychology and the like. He said, “When we talk about Ethiopia, we often mention about Lalibela, Axum and so on, for they were built by our forefathers in a classic and magnificent manner and they as well have historical accounts.”

Responding to question regarding the current status of architecture in Ethiopia, Zegeye said that though almost 80 percent of our citizens are still living in rural areas, the fastest urbanization is being taken place in this country. Moreover, he said that more than half of the world population lives in urban areas.

Apparently, Africa has lagged far behind the rest of the world in urbanization; the same is true to Ethiopia, he reiterated.

According to Zegeye, economic growth and development of a given country is determined by urbanization. Since the government has been demonstrating commitment to industrialization, there will be fast urban growth in industrial areas than any where else,he said. Therefore, he believed that the ongoing industrialization of Ethiopia would speed up urbanization in the country as a whole.

Thus, he said that urbanization in Ethiopia is in its transition period and so the government and the architects need to be more serious on quality and safety of buildings than never before.