|Thursday, 25 October 2012 00:00|
Dr. Heyaw Terefe (PhD)
Chair of Theory and History of Architecture and Urbanism
Architectural history of Ethiopia is an area on which there is very scarce literature. There have not been many significant attempts to produce a comprehensive material on the issue since Lindhal (1972)’s Architectural History of Ethiopia in Pictures. There have, however, been some efforts made by staff teaching the course at the department of Architecture, Addis Ababa University, the same university where Lindhal was teaching when he wrote his book.
This effort has been strengthened after the campus in which the department was located was transformed into an Institute: the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC), and a separate Chair of Theory and History of Architecture and Urbanism was established.
One of the results of this deve-lopment is the plan to publish studies made by students for the course so that information that are found scattered in different sources are brought together in one journal and used as a primary source for students as well as readers. Accordingly, this first journal presents papers on architectural history of Ethiopia produced by students of the course at EiABC in 2011.
The essays have dealt with architectural history of Ethiopia from the ancient period up to the present. Obviously, Ethiopia’s geography has been changing historically as it is the case with many countries. The focus of the papers are on architectural outputs found in the current geography of the country. Since the papers are semester papers, their source of information was mainly the literature. There were limitations of time and financial resource to conduct field study on the buildings which are found in different parts of the country.
Ethiopia is one of the countries that have made significant contribution to world architec-ture. While the contribution of many of the sub-Saharan African countries is limited to traditional architecture, Ethiopia’s contribution includes monumental architecture as well. Since architecture is one of the major elements by which national identity is represented, these contributions are also serving as markers of the country’s identity.
Identity is highly valued today not only for social reasons but also for economic reasons. Place identity is one of the targets of international tourists and, therefore, one of the sources of foreign currency, a scarce resource and a key input for national development in countries like Ethiopia. However, place identity is under threat of destruction world-wide by globalization which is connecting the world through global flow of capital, technology, labor and information in an unprecedented scale. Although this flow may have advantages, it is also erasing identity and homogenizing the world.The fact that the typical glass and curtain wall building is rapidly becoming a common urban form element in Ethiopian urban centers, including the small ones, is one very good example of this trend.
Ethiopian history shows that Ethiopians place great value on their identity. They have been paying heavy price to maintain their identity and there is still a strong interest in it. Architecture, therefore, must play its historical role in serving this public interest in addition to contributing to national development. It can, however, do so only when teaching, research and practice in the field are focused on that objective. Study of histo-rical precedents can produce findings that can inform current architecture to play that role. Regardless of the significance of their findings this in particular was the major objec-tive of the student papers published in this journal.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 08 November 2012 08:51|