Relationships and collaboration as key tenets of Ethiopian building community

In early November, I was privileged to provide 50-60 architecture, landscape architecture, and building construction students and faculty, plus locally practicing architects, a glimpse into professional practice in the United States at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction, and City Development (EiABC). The opportunity was made possible through connections between my wife, Linda Beal, and Nebiyu Sultan, International Relations Team Lead at the EiABC, during Linda’s previous visits to Ethiopia.

Three CTA projects — the Old Faithful Visitor Center at Yellowstone National Park, the Laramie County Community College Flex Tech Building, and Google’s office space in Austin — provided three different case studies to discuss: how work is acquired in the U.S, CTA’s approach to working with clients, and thoughts on managing a profitable design practice. Emphasis was placed on CTA’s goal of building long-term relationships by demonstrating the value of our collaborative approach to design, creating unique experiences with our clients, and ultimately being privileged to win work based on great relationships and trust.

Important issues brought forward during the discussion revealed some challenges Ethiopia’s architects currently face:

  • How can the architecture profession in Ethiopia move from the “old way” of merely creating functional government buildings to a “new way,” where architects are valued for the benefits they bring to communities and public environments?
  • How can Ethiopian architects overcome solicitation for their services based solely on cost, or the lowest bidder?
  • Does practice in the U.S. provide an example to help Ethiopian architects navigate legal issues?

The profession of architecture in Ethiopia is very young and already facing new, unique challenges and opportunities. Although Ethiopia has an ancient history, it currently has a very young population. Seventy percent of its 105 million people are 30 years old or younger, and 80% of its people live in rural areas. The land, however, is at capacity for the number of people it can support, so urban areas are experiencing an influx of 3-5 million people every year. The EiABC and the growing architecture profession are leading the country toward solutions for these unique urbanization challenges.

Internationally-recognized curricula in the field of architecture were not introduced in Ethiopia until 2005. From 1969 until that time, a four-year B. Sc. Degree in Building Engineering was offered at the Faculty of Technology under Addis Ababa University. Since 2005, additional schools of architecture have been created at other universities in the country. The EiABC was established in 2010.