The proposal provided has yearned to express the cultural nature of the context at hand. While researching about Ethiopia as a context, it was certainly evident that the Ethiopian nation is proud it was never colonized. For 3 brief years, the Italians tried to colonize Ethiopia, drawing master plans and treating Ethiopia as a total Tabula Rasa (such as the master plan provided by Le Corbusier to the Italian colony)- totally neglecting the cultural and urban dimensions of the context. In order to refrain from tainting the chastity of the Ethiopian lands, and to facilitate the design process of the embassy complex, the proposal provided a grid that is derived from the Ethiopian heritage.
The grid used in the proposal is a 12x12m grid, inspired by the Churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia. Those churches are masses of 12x12x12, and they have been carved from those initial masses into the churches that are present now. The proposal treats the embassy complex in the same manner- a whole mass with subtraction actions causing the resulted masses to appear. For a more delicate approach for an easier maneuvering, sub-grids were derived from the initial grid, breaking the grid into 6x6, 3x3, and 1.5x1.5 in order to maintain the same proportions. As a pleasant coincidence, the 6x6 grid has been proven to be the most efficient plantation grid. It has been used all around the embassy complex to provide for an outdoor experience and to provide a plantation concept for the representative outdoor areas.
The churches of Lalibela also have subtractions all around their perimeters. Those subtractions are filled with water, and they have been made to bathe women trying to get pregnant. As a reference to this ritualistic act, and to make use of the excess rain all around the embassy complex, water subtractions all around the site are provided and used for aesthetic pleasure.
Tackling many aspects of functionality, aesthetic, representation and energy efficiency, the most challenging aspect remains in the very dense and detailed space program, along with the variations in typology. Following the site regulations provided, and the current state of the site itself, the different typologies have been placed in the most suitable manner, providing privacy when needed, being public when necessary, and providing connections between related functions.
Each separate building will be handled in detail:
1. The official embassy building is divided into 2 floors:
a. The ground floor is the representative space, providing access to invited parties. They can access the assembly hall, dining hall and the lounges
b. The ground floor also holds the storage and the technical rooms.
c. The first floor is the private space, holding space for the 4 office sections, overlooking a courtyard.
2. The visa and consular building is divided into two parts to accommodate the two functions respectively.
a. The visa section is a more public area, containing a waiting room and cubicles with windows to interview the applicants to the visa
b. The consular section is a more private section, with offices and meeting rooms provided for the staff.
3. The ambassador’s residence is divided into 2 floors. It is divided into two parts horizontally.
a. The section closer to the visa and consular building is the representative space, containing a lounge and a dining room
b. The other section is the residence itself, providing a more private space for the ambassador’s family.
c. Both overlook a representative garden
4. The staff residence is divided into two buildings, both holding almost the same flat types.
a. There are 2+1 flats, 3+1flats, 4+1flats, and courier rooms provided for the staff.
b. Each entity is individually accessed.
c. All overlook a garden specifically present for their use.
5. The local workforce is divided similarly to the staff residence, with each flat being individually accessed.
The materials used in the elevation of the embassy complex respect the genius loci. The elevations are all exposed concrete. Concrete is one of the most abundant materials in Ethiopia, commonly used in the construction industry. Concrete is also used for safety in the extreme rare case of an attack on the embassy buildings and its facilities. The concrete, being exposed, allures to the genuinity of intentions. The concrete has vertical engraves in order to compliment the verticality of the wooden louvers used. They also help reinstate the verticality in the official embassy complex which is affected by the horizontality of the buildings.
The louvers in the design are made of wood. Wood is also quite abundant in Ethiopia, having large forests of Eucalyptus trees in its natural geography. The wooden louvers are mainly used to provide privacy for the official embassy users in their different typologies. They are quite long to break the horizontality due to the official embassy complex being wide spread on a large site, along with the offset required, and the large concrete wall that circulates the whole complex. The wooden louvers could be rotated manually in order to provide total privacy.
The windows themselves are all made of safety glass. The windows are all very long, around 4 meters in height, also to reinstate the verticality in the embassy complex lost by the horizontal spread of all the different functions and typologies. This large height provides a sense of monumentality all around the site, suitable for an embassy complex.
The proposal is an individual graduation project by: Salma Elbasty.
It has been submitted under the guidance of:
Staff at the German University in Cairo
1. Professor Thomass Loeffler.
2. Teaching Assistant Mostafa Atwa.