Ugly steel-and-glass buildings pollute Addis Ababa

The Economist points out that office and residential buildings that are currently being built in Addis Ababa contribute to pollution and are vulnerable to earthquakes. Most of these buildings are constructed by Woyanne-affiliated companies such as Sunshine Construction with little or no  quality inspection.

(The Economist) — AMHARIC has no precise word for architecture, but it needs one. Ethiopia’s capital, founded by Emperor Menelik II in 1886, now has 4.6m people but that figure may well double by 2020. Dirk Hebel of Addis Ababa’s revamped architecture school says that “the first thing we do is to sit down with the students for a day and explain what [it] is”.

According to the UN, Addis has one of the higher densities of slum dwellers in the world. But their geographical pattern is unusual. Most African cities separate fairly neatly into poor and rich areas “like a sunny-side-up egg”, with slums spreading out from the rim, says Mr Hebel. But Addis is “more of a scrambled egg”. A lack of crime and a tradition whereby the rich seem to tolerate the poor living among them mean that Addis’s slums often lie in the seams between office buildings and flats in the more affluent parts of the city.

Some cash for the overhaul of the architecture school has come from a technical institute in Zurich, known by its initials ETH. Mr Hebel and Marc Angélil, head of ETH’s architecture school, have co-written a book that explores the city’s many architectural styles. Ministries built in Ethiopia’s Marxist period (1974-91) were kit models from the Soviet Union. Fascist-style buildings built during the Italian occupation (1935-41) have often proved more suitable. Messrs Hebel and Angélil think African architects could learn from the way the Italians allowed streets to radiate out from grand central buildings.

What the architects call this “mixity” of styles may offer a chance to tackle the scourges of traffic gridlock and pollution. The city still has some open spaces that could be artfully filled in if public transport and the water supply were improved, along with the planting of indigenous trees and grasses.

The needs for good planning and appropriate architecture outside Addis are just as big. If projections of population growth come true, Ethiopia may need 20 new cities of 5m people each by 2050. Pilot projects, including one by another Swiss architect, Franz Oswald, are in the offing.

But a recent building boom in Addis has not improved the prospects for a well-planned, pleasant city. Speculators with government connections have put up ugly steel-and-glass tower blocks with glass façades that increase the need for polluting air conditioning. The cement and steel have to be imported and the buildings may be more vulnerable to earthquakes. Smaller ones in local stone with traditional guttering that collects rainwater would be a better bet, Mr Hebel reckons. Among other things, the use of local materials might cut building costs by more than a third.

19 thoughts on “Ugly steel-and-glass buildings pollute Addis Ababa

  1. The Sins of Covetousness and Pride

    Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil upon their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields, and seize them; and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance. Therefore thus says the LORD: Behold, against this family I am devising evil, from which you cannot remove your necks; and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be an evil time. In that day they shall take up a taunt song against you, and wail with bitter lamentation, and say, “We are utterly ruined; he changes the portion of my people; how he removes it from me! Among our captors he divides our fields.” Therefore you will have none to cast the line by lot in the assembly of the LORD. “Do not preach” — thus they preach — “one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.” Should this be said, O house of Jacob? Is the Spirit of the LORD impatient? Are these his doings? Do not my words do good to him who walks uprightly? But you rise against my people as an enemy; you strip the robe from the peaceful, from those who pass by trustingly with no thought of war. The women of my people you drive out from their pleasant houses; from their young children you take away my glory forever. Arise and go, for this is no place to rest; because of uncleanness that destroys with a grievous destruction. If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people! I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob, I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. He who opens the breach will go up before them; they will break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king will pass on before them, the LORD at their head. – Micah

  2. once upon a time in DC on


    I though you had guts. If you have it, please post what I commented so that people can see and judge for themselves.

  3. Anonymous on

    ትንቢተ ሚክያስ

    1፤ በመኝታቸው ላይ በደልን ለሚያስቡ ክፋትንም ለሚያደርጉ ወዮላቸው! ኃይል በእጃቸው ነውና ሲነጋ ይፈጽሙታል።

    2፤ በእርሻው ላይ ይመኛሉ፥ በግዴታም ይይዙታል፤ በቤቶችም ላይ ይመኛሉ፥ ይወስዱአቸውማል፤ ሰውንና ቤቱን፥ ሰውንና ርስቱንም ይነጥቃሉ።

    3፤ ስለዚህ እግዚአብሔር እንዲህ ይላል። እነሆ፥ በዚህ ወገን ላይ በክፉ አስባለሁ፥ ከዚያም አንገታችሁን አታነሡም፤ ዘመኑም ክፉ ነውና ቀጥ ብላችሁ አትሄዱም።

    4፤ በዚያ ቀን በምሳሌ ይመስሉባችኋል፥ በጽኑ ልቅሶም ያለቅሱላችኋል፤ እነርሱም። ፈጽመን ጠፍተናል፤ የሕዝቤን እድል ፈንታ ይሰፍራል፥ እርሱንም የሚከለክል የለም፤ እርሻችንን ለዓመፀኞች ይከፍላል ይላሉ።

    5፤ ስለዚህ በእግዚአብሔር ጉባኤ መካከል በዕጣ ገመድ የሚጥል አይኖርህም።

    6፤ ትንቢት አትናገሩ ብለው ይናገራሉ፤ በእነዚህ ላይ ትንቢት አይናገሩም፥ ስድብም አይርቅም።

    7፤ የያዕቆብ ቤት የተባልህ ሆይ፥ በውኑ የእግዚአብሔር መንፈስ የማይታገሥ ነውን? ወይስ ሥራው እንደዚች ናትን? ቃሌስ በቅን ለሚሄድ በጎነት አያደርግምን?

    8፤ ነገር ግን ከቅርብ ጊዜ ጀምሮ ሕዝቤ እንደ ጠላት ሆኖ ተነሥቶአል፤ ቀሚስንና መጐናጸፊያን ገፈፋችሁ፤ ሳይፈሩም፤ የሚያልፉትን ከሰልፍ እንደሚመለሱ አደረጋችኋቸው።

    9፤ የሕዝቤንም ሴቶች ከተሸለሙ ቤቶቻቸው አሳደዳችኋቸው፤ ከሕፃናቶቻቸውም ክብሬን ለዘላለም ወሰዳችሁ።

    10፤ በዚህ ዕረፍት የላችሁምና ተነሥታችሁ ሂዱ፤ በርኵሰት ምክንያት ክፉ ጥፋት ታጠፋችኋለች።

    11፤ ነፋስንም ተከትሎ። ስለ ወይን ጠጅና ስለ ስካር ትንቢት እናገርልሃለሁ ብሎ ሐሰትን የሚናገር ሰው ቢኖር እርሱ ለዚህ ሕዝብ ነቢይ ይሆናል።

    12፤ ያዕቆብ ሆይ፥ ሁለንተናህን ፈጽሞ እሰበስባለሁ፥ የእስራኤልንም ቅሬታ ፈጽሞ አከማቻለሁ፤ እንደ ባሶራ በጎችና እንደ መንጋ በማሰማርያቸው ውስጥ በአንድነት አኖራቸዋለሁ፤ ከሰው ብዛት የተነሣ ድምፃቸውን ያሰማሉ።

    13፤ ሰባሪው በፊታቸው ወጥቶአል፤ እነርሱም ሰብረው ወደ በሩ አልፈዋል፥ በእርሱም በኩል ወጥተዋል፤ ንጉሣቸውም በፊታቸው አልፎአል፥ እግዚአብሔርም በራሳቸው ላይ ነው።

  4. Abebe Belaye, PHD SE, PE on

    This is very garbage statement from an architect who is ignorant about the theory of seismic resistant buildings. As a structural engineer and expert in seismic resistant, I agree with you our building code (Ethiopian building code) may not reflect the current state of the art as that of the USA. But I bet you have no experience working with buildings in seismic prone regions. Being in the institute in Zurich, I don’t think you have equivalent experience as that of ours working and living California. I agree with you we have to update our building code. We are working to improve our building code, but it is hard to secure money from the government of Ethiopia and abroad.

  5. Mengesha on

    The author in the first place is a white trash who has bias towards Africa in a condescending way. We are tired of being told what to do and what not. It is non of his/her business whether it pollutes the city or not. It is none of their business if the buildings are earthquake prone or not. LEAVE US ALONE!! WE WILL MAKE IT WORK IN OUR OWN WAY!!WE WILL LEARN FROM UOR MISTAKES! YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LECTURE US! Dear Ethiopian, highly recommend the following link. visiting the following link

    • Bete on

      Mengesha, arrogance shows much more than the little you know. Better to keep quite than posting you non-sense to a global audience. Shame on you!

  6. eyaasu on

    It looks , the woyanne cadres invade the ethiopianreview comment area.
    What happen Elias? why you let them to open their stinky mouth on your website?

  7. Tik Tik on

    Whip the stonewalls with a rod.For much of their lives Zinawianrobbers lived in the wild and came into Ethiopia with a lot of hatred and guns and bullets.Just look at what they built,they all have weird shapes and distorted forms,they look like haloween masks.You just can not find a chinese wife in Addis Ababa.

  8. Dawit on

    Elias you will not get the chance to visit Addis.But if you are lacky and get the chance in the next 5 years ,let me tell you this,you will not recognise it. i am sure You will say this, am i in Franckfurt Germany or in Addis? You will ask this question yourself.


  9. Kewle on

    Elias – You are indeed sick. Even radical extrimists acknowledge and appreciate a job well done. But you even go and change the title of the article to ridicule all of us. This was the exact title of the Economist article. “Make Addis prettier and cheaper”. It is indeed arguable that the few steel and glass buildings built in Addis recently are aglee. Notably, a claim that the airconditioner installed in this building pollute our beloved capital is absurd. Yes, the building code in Ethiopia should be revised. Yes, Ethiopia has a long way to go not only to have its own professional Architects, but also skilled workers. But, we should not have to sit and wait until the whites tell us you are now allowed to build this or that.
    Elias – I am not Woyanne or Hodam that you and your likes in this forum are labelling all of us who oppose your articles and postings. But, you have already out of your mind and you dont even seem woried whent your once most popular and source of reliable strories Ethiopian forum and sight become a source or gossip and wortheless debates. Please grow up Elias!!! Addis is indeed growing – it even seems to me that Woyannes are trying to learn from their mistakes – but the changes that I saw in this sight is worrisome.
    Let God bless Ethiopia and Ethiopians!

  10. tezibt on

    eyaasu says:
    It looks , the woyanne cadres invade the ethiopianreview comment area.
    What happen Elias? why you let them to open their stinky mouth on your website?

    The comment from eyaasu is wrong. First of all we have to be happy that Ethiopian review and Elias are showing maturity. You can only learn more by understanding other people’s language, means idea. Even if you consider weyane the worst enemy in the whole planet, the best way to attack and destroy is to know the psyche. Secondly, we are striving from democracy and your comment is wrong because you don’t want to be like woyane. If they write what ever it is not going to bite you. This is the 21st century and you can’t live in your own cocoon.

  11. nebey on

    I think that condominium building, they would be, in far or near future, massgrav
    and great tragedy in Ethiopia.

  12. Elena on

    In my last visit to Addis Ababa as I looked at constructions, many thoughts came to my mind. Due to clearly notable unsafe constrictions how many workers get injured or die per day was one that zoomed in and out of my thought more than other related things such as plumbing, lighting, earth quick, access, occupancy, cost benefit and many other aspects that seeing brings to a mind. I laughed out loud (not happy laughter) hearing that the some say city was improving, because the way I looked at it, it is improving for few/5,000,000 in a palace, 1000s/millions privileged, and few travelers who stay in 5 star hotels of few. On the other side millions/millions of children’s of Ethiopia survive with less than two dollars a day in unfit places. I dearly love my people and their city. I did not see people as prospering or the city comforting many, but as a city that comforts few at cost of discomforting many. It is a city that is growing without a blueprint to appease few, whoever those few may be. Think of who is making money out of this so-called construction boom and sources and liabilities of external credit. In comforted side is it the types of those who take hard currency out of country to build mansions in capitals of the world, while making future children of Ethiopia liable to external development loans. Becoming reach from loans and aid money Woyane style.

    After few days back home I started looking at it as a normal. I remembered relativity. It is possible to lower or adjust expectations to new normal. It is acceptance of grief. North Koreans did it and Ethiopians are doing it. Then I cannot help but remembered thousands of political prisoners may feel routine life in prison as a new normal. Woyane and it is financers normal that of 12% growth 99 % poverty. That is it for now. Thank you.

  13. Anonymous on

    Well done Eliase Great. You are always great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You know what? when I read complete opposite of this article from one of woyane affilated web site (ETHIOMEDIA by Mr Abraha)I instantly wrote him my protest for his misleading information but he declined to post it.

    But now and always I am ever happy with your trustworthy job to have seen the reality from the Economist posted on your website for Ethiopians know the truth.


  14. It would be one thing to construct high risers on uncontested lands, but to take away, confisticate, people’s inheritances in the name of development and forcefully dump the generational dwellers around the city for token compensation is a crime that you and your children would be responsible for forever. Read the above Micah and other prophecies and take it to heart.

    ከሁለት ሺህ በላይ ተፈናቃይ ነዋሪዎች ሃያ እና አስር ሺህ ብር ተጠየቁ
    Monday, 21 June 2010 07:18

    Ethiopia Zare (ሰኞ ሰኔ 14 ቀን 2002 ዓ.ም. June 21, 2010)፦ በአዲስ አበባ ከአራት ኪሎ ጀምሮ እስከ ሁለተኛ ፖሊስ ጣቢያ አካባቢ ያሉ ቤቶች እንዲፈርሱ ተወስኖ፤ መሬቱ ለግል ባለሀብቶች መሸጡ ታወቀ። ተፈናቃዮቹ ከአቅማቸው በላይ ገንዘብ ከፍለው ኮንደሚንየም ቤቶች ውስጥ እንዲገቡ ተጠየቁ።

    መንግሥት መሬቱን ሲሸጥ በአካባቢው በቀበሌም ይሁን በኪቤአድ ቤት ተከራይተው ይኖሩ ለነበሩ ሰዎች ተለዋጭ ቤት የመሥጠት ግዴታ አለበት። ይሁን እንጂ ”ፉሪ” የተባለ አካባቢ መንግሥት ወዳስገነባው ኮንደሚንየም ቤቶች የሚፈናቀሉት ነዋሪዎች እንዲገቡ ተነግሯቸዋል። ለዚህም ተፈናቃዮቹ ቅድሚያ ክፍያ 20 ሺህ ብር ተጠይቀዋል።

    ባለሁለት መኝታ ቤት ኮንደሚንየም ውስጥ ለሚገባ ሃያ ሺህ ብር፣ ባለአንድ መኝታ ቤት ውስጥ ለሚገባ ደግሞ አስር ሺህ ብር ቅድሚያ ክፍያ እንዲከፍሉ ተነግሯቸዋል። በዚህም ምክንያት በርካቶቹ የአካባቢው ነዋሪዎች የተጠየቁትን ክፍያ የመክፈል አቅም ስለሌላቸው ከፍተኛ ጭንቅ ውስጥ መሆናቸውን ለመረዳት ችለናል።

    የተጠየቁትን ገንዘብ ፈፅሞ ማግኘትም ሆነ መክፈል አንችልም ያሉ ወገኖች ደግሞ፤ በከተማይቱ በሚገኙ አንዳንድ መንግሥታዊ መጋዘኖች ውስጥ መቀመጥ እንደሚችሉ ተገልፆላቸዋል።

    ይህ የመንግሥት ውሳኔ ተግባራዊ የሚሆነው ከሰኔ 30 ቀን እስከ ሐምሌ 15 ሲሆን፣ የአካባቢው ነዋሪዎች ይህን መሰል እርምጃ ሲወሰድ ቢያንስ የአንድ ዓመት የዝግጅት ጊዜ መሰጠት ነበረበት ሲሉ እርምጃው ተገቢና ኢ-ሰብዓዊነት የጎደው ነው በማለት ድርጊቱን ኮንነዋል። –

  15. Nebiye Erimias: “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? You plant them, and they take root; they grow and bring forth fruit; You are near in their mouth and far from their heart… Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter. How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who dwell in it the beasts and the birds are swept away, because men said, “He will not see our latter end.”

    The Creator: “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you fall down, how will you do in the jungle of the Jordan? For even your brothers and the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; they are in full cry after you; believe them not, though they speak fair words to you. I have forsaken my house, I have abandoned my heritage; I have given the beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies. My heritage has become to me like a lion in the forest, she has lifted up her voice against me; therefore I hate her.
    Is my heritage to me like a speckled bird of prey (Hyena)? Are the birds of prey against her round about? Go, assemble all the wild beasts; bring them to devour. Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard, they have trampled down my portion, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it a desolation; desolate, it mourns to me. The whole land is made desolate, but no man lays it to heart.
    Upon all the bare heights in the desert
    destroyers have come; for the sword of the LORD devours from one end of the land to the other; no flesh has peace.
    They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns, they have tired themselves out but profit nothing. They shall be ashamed of their harvests because of the fierce anger of the LORD. Thus says the LORD concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage which I have given my people Israel to inherit:…” – Jeremiah’s Pleas and God’s Answers

    “… ከዚህ ቀጥሎ በጀምበር መጥለቂያ ጅቦች ኢትዮጵያን ሊበሉ በመሃል ከተማ ይሰበሰባሉ: የተሰበሰቡትን ሳይፈፆሙ ድንገት ከምስራቅ: ከፀሓይ ምውጫ ላይ ቀይ-ደም የመሰለች ፀሐይ ትወጣለች:: ለአርባ ሁለት ሃመት ኢትዮጵያ በቅዱሳን ትመራለች:: ከአርባ ሁለት ሃመት በዃላ የሃይማኖት ጦርነት ይሆናል: ብዙ ሰማዕታት ያልቃሉ: ኢትዮጵያ በነጭ ትገዛለች::” -ልሳነ ኢትዮጵያ

  16. You guys who write on this website have a very very very wrong attitude to wards Ethiopia and its people. The country is doing well without you and it is better if you just keep quite and live your life in foreign countries as second citizens and inferiors. Your sisters have been prostitutes and are constantly suffering from unhuman treatment by those backward Arabic people in UAE and Jordan and elsewhere, you are complaining about “ugly” buildings built by citizens in Addis Ababa. I am sure you all are a very jealous Eritreans claiming to Ethiopians and trying to stop the hardworking people of Ethiopia from the glimmers of hope for development we now see in this historic country.

    Shame on you “reporter”


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