Addis Abbeba

Contributions and Observations on Town Planning in Addis Ababa – A Bauhaus Dessau Foundation Project in Ethiopia

Since 2000, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation has been involved in a partnership in Ethiopia with the city of Addis Ababa and the Gesellschaft für technische Zusammenarbeit, a corporation for international cooperation that is owned by the German government.

The origins of this project go back to the year 1999, when the city of Addis Ababa set up the Master Plan Revision Project, the aim of which was to conduct a critical review of urban development in the past and to draw up new standards for the future of the capital.

Staff from the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation made a major contribution to the organisation of the Addis Ababa Forum and Exhibition project, which was staged in June 2000. More than 50,000 of the city´s inhabitants attended the exhibition and associated events to find out about the history of Addis Ababa and discuss some of the envisaged schemes for urban development in the Ethiopian capital.

The support that was initially provided for the exhibition on the city and its history has since evolved into a co-operation that poses a challenge to the Bauhaus in its dual capacity as both school and workshop. In 2001, a team of Ethiopian urban planners and Bauhaus architects drew up development plans and planning strategies for two of the city´s areas. The first of these was Merkato, one of the largest markets in Africa covering an area of 100 hectares and visited by a quarter of a million people each day, and the second was Asmara Road, a typical African street that is used at one and the same time for traffic, sales, production, rubbish and prayer.

Addis Ababa is for the most part a compact city with single-storey buildings that is constantly growing. For many people in the countrys post-socialist society, in which a planned economy is a thing of the past, the concept of "planning" is a little unnerving.

The task facing the joint team of urban developers and architects from the city of Addis Ababa and the Bauhaus is to plan on the basis of things as they are. With regard to Merkato that means not just the existing fabric, but also the masses of studies, expert reports and pipe dreams. The design strategy they are pursuing is not to begin with the largest unit and move down to the smallest, as is common practice, but rather to start with the smallest unit, i.e. individual market stalls, and work up from there.

The outcome is to be in keeping with the present character of Merkato. The market will be held at the roadside and on the streets and the buildings will be open structures without façades. This will enable the products on display to give the streets their special character and atmosphere and not so much the buildings. || The plans for Merkato establish a framework for the future development of the city from traffic planning to proposals for new market buildings.