Building for the Gap – 1:1 Experimental Housing Units in Addis Ababa
The urban population of Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow by almost 70% by 2025. This heavy urbanization naturally evolves a boom in the construction sector. Obviously the current planning methods in building techniques, soft and hard infrastructures and economic cycles are not sufficient enough to lay strong foundations for a sustainable urban and social development. Within a strong academic environment a trilogy of 1:1 prototypal housing units has been fulfilled in the heart of hyper-urbanization: Ethiopia´s capital Addis Ababa.
In response to this situation, the development of fundamentally new concepts is the main duty for creating sufficient living spaces. The concepts must be socially robust, open and flexible in their spatial structure and usage. The introduction of innovative building techniques and the lowest maintenance requirement possible is a central point that planners have to focus on. Developing countries have to find their own modes of urbanization rather than relying on outdated or inappropriate models from the so-called ‘developed world’. It must re-invent its indigenous building methods, construction technologies, and material use.
As an academic collaboration between EiABC (Ethiopian Institute of Architecture Building Construction and City Development), Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and ETH Zürich, three different prototypical buildings were planned, built and tested as a potential model for housing in Africa: SECU, SICU & MACU. Each of the houses focuses on a possibly different core strategy:
SECU: the introduction of a new building material and corresponding working methods
SICU: the use of highly-prefabricated building elements to achieve short construction times
MACU: the provocative use of a CNC-driven production techniques using parametric planning systems
The three housing solutions are the product of a culturally and socially motivated design investigation and can respond to highly flexible occupation scenarios. The proposed way of building and the simple design promotes economic, cultural and social sustainability by respecting existing ways of living while introducing improved contemporary housing standards.
The inhabitants should contribute with their own skills, adaptable techniques in contemporary circumstances and financial means to complete the structure according to their needs and wishes. This creates a need for parallel strategies to the existing governmental housing programs, allowing homeowners to remain in their existing local environment where their families have resided for decades and where they have established income and supporting social structures.
A common basis for all the developed concepts is the digital planning support system as a major contributor to cost-efficient building. The planning system contains all quality and cost-relevant information for the respective different means of construction or the building system. Based on a set of defined spatial requirements (for example, number and size of rooms) and conditions (land use regulations, geometry of the site, existing materials and available cost budget, the system can help to develop an optimal solution.
The planning system was developed parallel to the building of the prototypes and the two processes informed one another, making it possible directly determine the results of a planning optimization.
Based on the collected experiences and the acquired know-how, young planners from all over the world can now develop complex and cost-effective multi-story housing that can adapt to individual needs and conditions and can offer a way of increasing urban density in African countries.
Project head: Prof. Dr. Ing. Dirk Donath
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Film: Olaf Kammler, Lukas Veltruský