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Realization Background

Constructing Alternatives in Housing for informal settlements in Addis Ababa

Hundreds of new settlements are emerging in Ethiopia every year, growing fast into urban conglomerates. The current state of Ethiopia’s urban centers can be characterized by the booming developments in the construction sector. Addis Ababa is one of the cities in Africa, which is heavily affected by extremely fast and unique Urbanization. It is one of those cities with a rapid increase in population, where by the cityscape is changing at a very fast pace. These changes leave permanent footprints in the city.

Concepts And Discussions

The first SICU concept was developed with a hypothetical Ethiopian urban site, program and incremental construction process in mind. Later, the initial concept was adapted to the conditions of the actual selected site and the clients with their corresponding public and private functions by researching and implementing innovative and low-cost constructions and materials for urban areas in Ethiopia to address the high demand for housing in the country.

The prototype, a showcase of integrative disciplinary research and experimentation, raises up new space arrangements and building methods to give the evidence for cost efficient implementation.

The research considers locally available material resources and the local mode of living, introducing innovative construction techniques. It also offers a parallel strategy to the existing governmental housing project in the city offering different options and possibilities in how to make dense urban settlements. It also serves the purpose of the government whilst realizing the design potentials of the students, researchers and the community.


SICU, has very open and conventional spaces that give room for further change and appropriation by users. There is an interface space, (the shaded space at the ground level and the terrace at the top level) which is to accommodate future needs of the inhabitants.

The public private transition is a very important aspect in traditional Ethiopian living domains. This cascade of spatial hierarchy is also visible in church architecture. This tradition is respected at SICU in multiple layering of spaces. Horizontally: both stories have a spatial buffer zone. Vertically: the stair and the ground space act as an intermediate private-public zone coming before the upper story which is more for private use.

The translation of a growing populace, growing families, growing communities, growing economy is vivid in the architectural spaces that foster and accommodate such changes. The physical structure is designed so as to support the incremental nature of situations in the Addis Ababa context.

The idea of incremental change and growth is not only planned on one single household unit. It is envisaged that SICU, as a piece of architecture is repeatable. It is designed in a way that it is possible to be planned and mass constructed in various urban scenarios. It should be clear here that SICU is not an all time modernist gesture of urban solutions. It is still an ongoing experiment but with great potential and a definite alternative for the context of Addis Ababa.


Design Para-metrical Concepts
  • Space = 5m x 5m, 25 m2 built up area with a construction grid dependent on later material properties (1.2 x 1.2 m)
  • Space = space should include transitory spaces (indoor / outdoor)
  • Program = open program but preferable residential housing for a low income family
  • Form = an urban box that has the potential to be vertically and horizontally extendable
  • Material = Wood (local eucalyptus tree) + Mud (as an infill material) + concrete
  • foundation [option open for further investigation.
  • Building Mass = A total of one truck (50 quintal /5 ton Isuzu) building mass

contemporary outlook

Construction Parametric Concepts
  • Construction and material concept = Considering local skills and adaptable techniques in contemporary circumstances as well as involvement of the society (skill upgrading).
  • Building components* = Pre-fab elements including concrete foundations and other construction systems.
  • Construction technique = wood / eucalyptus latticework structure
  • Structure* = A ground + zero (one storey) structure with the potential of increment at the roof level.
  • Implementation = A half ready construction with the potential to be used as it is. (incremental)