15 Places to visit in Addis Abeba for the Travelling Architect


15 Places to visit in Addis Abeba for the Travelling Architect

Addis Abeba is the capital of Ethiopia and the diplomatic capital of Africa. The city was founded in 1886 by Emperor Minilik II and Empress Taitu. Founded in a military dignitary settlement pattern, the city remains to showcase diverse architectural styles from indigenous ways of design-building to the contemporary application of modernist architectural buildings. 

Here below, we will try to see the 15 architectural masterpieces of Addis Abeba. The list of masterpieces in Addis Abeba is not based on hierarchies. 

1. Addis Abeba Municipality (Addis Abeba City Hall)

Year: 1961-1964
Architect: Arturo Mezzedimi
Status: Completed
Type: Government, Municipality 

Important Link: https://journals.openedition.org/abe/3159?lang=en 



The Addis Abeba city hall is one of the most important architectural buildings in Addis Abeba. The building is juxtapositioned on a hilltop in the distance towards the old station that sits at the southern end of Addis Abeba’s only historic avenue, Churchill avenue, with a view all the way to Legare. The building critically re-defined the urban nature of the city through being one of the built structures at the heart and most historic part of the city.

Addis Abeba City Hall aerial dronshot_©The Mentalyst
Addis Abeba City Hall 1960s_©pinterest.com

2. Jate Kidane Mihiret Church

Year: 2001-2009
Architect: Wossen Awoke
Status: Completed
Type: Church, Cathedral 

The Jate Kidanemihiret cathedral was awarded the architectural design excellence prize by the association of Ethiopian architects. The building has seen the unique most periphery of the city Addis Abeba. The building resembles a genuine and astonishing formal appearance that has been referred to by many as a building experiment that has successfully challenged the status quo of the culture of designing Ethiopian church buildings. The building has multi-sided extrusions and folded forms that let a way for glass tinted religious painting windows that welcomes the natural light o tranquile the spiritual and beautifully organized inner space.

Jate Kindanemihiret Church_©Yonas Nigussie

3. Stairs

Year: 2009 onwards
Architect: Zeleke Belay Architects
Status: Completed
Type: Office 

Important Link: https://ketemajournal.com/story/cubocta-bridge/ 



The elegantly positioned Stairs building is one of the finest architectural implementations of an architectural principle of an esteemed Ethiopian master architect who is well known for his designs that present an astonishing satire of circulation, form, and openings. The building has a very minimal plot on which the architect has successfully managed in coming up with a playful function-form game through carving, extruding, recessing, and managing the spacial interface of the building.  

North-East view of Stairs building_©Zeleke Belay
Stairs building and the Cubocta Bridge Connection_©ketemajournal
The Cubocta Bridge_©pinterest
Cubocta Bridge Connection_©ketemajournal
Interior of Stairs building_©Zeleke Belay
Front view of Stairs building_©Zeleke Belay

4. Holy Trinity Cathedral

Year: 1931-1943
Architect: Slaviša Petrović.
Reconstruction and extension works: Ž. Dragojlović
Status: Completed
Type: Church, Cathedral
Important Link: http://ageshatours.com/caravanaddis.com/index.php/component/k2/item/10-the-holy-trinity-cathedral 

The holy trinity cathedral was built to commemorate Ethiopia’s liberation from Italian occupation and is the most important place of worship in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Abeba. The cathedral is well known for its details and angelic sculptures. The cathedral has tombs of Emperor Haile Selassie I and Empress Menen Asfaw, and other members of the Imperial Family. The churchyard of the cathedral has also a famous cemetery complex that has the body of prominent and important figures in Ethiopia including the late prime minister Meles Zenawi, Ethiopian legendary musician Tilaghun Gessee and late Patriarchs, Abune Tekle Haimanot and Abune Paulos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  

Holy Trinity Cathedral_©Sailko
Holy Trinity Cathedral Rear View_©Gerhard Huber
Holy Trinity Cathedral_©httpageshatours.com

5. Bereket Tesfaye Consulting Architects and Engineers Office 

Year: 2018
Architect: Bereket Tesfaye
Status: Completed
Type: Office 

Important Link: https://ketemajournal.com/story/btcae/  

The building can be said a successful experiment of an emerging young Ethiopian architect who has worked for and mentored by Zeleke Belay, an Ethiopian master architect. The building has leveraged the formal quality of the already existing pre-installed structure through presenting an eye catchy form and appearance that has successfully merged to the surrounding and the preexisting structure at the plot. The building has a dramatic formal and functional pleasence in combining the modernist and contemporary design principles in today’s architecture and space planning. The building has the so-called “monkey heads“, a recessed mini wooden support series for beams found in ancient northern Ethiopian built structures. 

Facade View_©Solan Kifle
Side View of the building_©Nahom Teklu
Side View of the building_©Nahom Teklu
Interior View of the building_©Nahom Teklu
The Concave Stair_©Nahom Teklu
Interior View of the building_©Nahom Teklu
Bereket Tesfaye consulting architects and engineers office_©Solan Kifle

6. Ba’eta Mariam Church And The Mausoleum Of Menelik II 

Year: 1910-1920
Architect: Carl Haertel
Status: Completed
Type: Church, Mausoleum

Important Link: https://www.slideshare.net/michaelasanda/addis-ababa-the-mausoleum-of-menelik-ii 

The church was built by Empress Zewditu and it was part of the old imperial palace (King Menelik’s II palace) complex. The church is also known as a mausoleum as it houses the remains of highly regarded figures in the royal family including Empress Zewditu, her father, King Menelik II, and  Empress Taitu Bitul. The stone-built church-mausoleum is one of the royal-built structure’s legacy of Addis Abeba that has an important historic and religious relevance for city residents. The church-mausoleum contains an impressive and precise masonry construction in line with resembling the grandest theme of royalty, honour, and pride. The interior space consists of three rectangular concentric of an Ethiopian church design origin. The most outer rectangular corridor lines all the way around the second most inner space on which ordinary participants of religious ceremonies present. For all historic, architectural, and construction precision qualities, the building is well celebrated by Ethiopians and became an urban touristic hub. 

Bronze Lion Sculptures of the Church-mausoleum_©Nahom Teklu
Interior of the Church-mausoleum_©Nahom Teklu
Bell Tower of the Church-mausoleum_©Nahom Teklu
Isometric View of the Baeta Church-mausoleum_©Nahom Teklu

7. Commercial Bank Of Ethiopia Headquarter

Year: 2015-2021
Architect: Henn Gmbh
Status: Completed
Type: Bank Headquarter
Important Link: https://www.designboom.com/architecture/henn-architekten-cbe-headquarters-in-ethopia/ 

Even if the building is less percepted for its socio-economic and urban relevance by many architects, town planners, and urbanists in Ethiopia, it still remains to be one of the leading structures that are live-seen redefining the skyline and building-high cultures of the African diplomatic capital. The building has an interesting facade scenery and curtain systems that aimed to withstand the climatic condition of the area in addition to providing elegance and beauty to the building. 

CBE Headquarter building CAD Model_©china.org.cn
CBE Headquarter building CAD Model_©skyscrapercenter

8. Adwa Center (Project 0.00KM) 

Year: 2019- Present
Architect: Yosef Bereded, Abba Architects
Status: Under construction
Type: Multipurpose Center  

Important link: https://borkena.com/2019/07/17/adwa-center-construction-in-the-capital-addis-ababa-kicks-off/ 

The Adwa Center building project also known as Project 0.00kilometer is planned at the heart of the city Addis Abeba to commemorate the victory of Adwa, regarded as an African and black peoples victory, and the patriots. Adwa center was initiated by the Addis Abeba City Administration with an aim of projecting a function-complex project that would consist of a museum, a meeting hall with a total capacity of over 2000 people, three smaller auditoriums with a capacity of 400 people, a 600 car capacity parking space, a cinema theater, a library, a gym, cafeterias and a childcare center among other leisure facilities. The building design is criticized for adopting the letter ‘’A’’ even if Ethiopia has its own indigenous alphabet system. Watch the video in the link below for visual purposes. 

9. The Red Terror Martyrs Museum

Year: 2010
Architect: Fasil Giorgis Architects
Status: Completed
Type: Martyrs Museum 

Important Link: https://archnet.org/sites/7011/media_contents/80166 


The red terror martyrs museum is a masterpiece of a celebrated Ethiopian architectural historian, educator, and design guru Fail Ghiorgis. The building is planned to commemorate the martyrs of the communist regime in Ethiopia and it was aimed to serve as a standing memorial to those who died during the red terror under the Derg government. The architect has played an important role in maintaining the calmness and horizontal scenery of the Meskel square, the building’s immediate context, in projecting a museum design that dramatically melts and purely transfigures to the existing urban nature. The museum is also referred to by many as a complex yet hazardous embodiment of learning, ‘shame’ and hope which is presented for generations to serve as a living testimony and unpacked book of what has relentlessly and brutally happened in the past. The entrance area of the museum has an important memorial sculpture with a brief message underneath, ‘NEVER EVER AGAIN’. For this and other important works, the architect Fasil will remain celebrated.

The memorial Sculpture near the gate of the Museum_©TravelCoordinator
The zigzag form for functions attached to the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum_©Archnet
View of the roof of the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum_©Archnet
Interior of the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum_©Adam Jones
Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum_©Soman
Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum_©Ninaras

10. National Bank Of Ethiopia  

Year: 1963
Architect: Henri Chomette in collaboration with architect Romain de Seela
Status: CompletedType: Bank
Important Link: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325489651_Henri_Chomette_et_l’architecture_des_lieux_de_pouvoir_en_Afrique_subsaharienne 


The circular-shaped building was designed by one of the major architects of the Postwar Boom in sub-Saharan Africa and modernist Henri Chomette in collaboration with architect Romain de Seela. Facing the national theatre and the huge Lion of Judah, the building was inaugurated by Emperor Haile Selassie. The building houses the National Bank of Ethiopia and consists of two volumes, one vertical, which houses the administration, the other, hemispherical, which accommodates the hall. The whole, designed according to the golden ratio, is made of concrete armed, aluminum frames, and marble floors.

Interior View of the rotunda structure of the National Bank of Ethiopia_©alu._g
Front View of the National Bank_©VBzi

11. Ethiopia National Theatre 

Year: 1956/57
Architect: Antoine Laget and others
Status: Completed
Type: Theatre, Cinema  

Important Link:https://thetheatretimes.com/ethiopian-theater-a-brief-introduction/ 

The “Haile Selassie I Theater” that was developed from a cinema built by the Italians during the occupation (1936-1941), the Marconi cinema, today “Ethiopian National Theater”, with the statue of the Lion of Judah, work by French artist Maurice Calka was designed by Antoine Laget who was the director in Abidjan of the Bureau d’Etudes Henri Chomette (BEHC). The building was commissioned and designed with an aim to commemorate the Jubilee marking the 50th anniversary of Emperor Haile Selassie’s succession to the throne. Interestingly the architect was successful in designing an ‘imperial opera’ of many legacies to date from the big work of a large unfinished cinema that was abandoned for years. 

The urban corriddor of the Ethiopia National Theater_©LuckyInWaco
The interior and the performance stage of the Ethiopia National Theater_©Helena Miscioscia
Ethiopia National Theater_©Henrik Berger Jørgensen
The colorful facade and the Urban space near the Ethiopia National Theater_©theredbird.org
The monumental lion sculpture by NMorris Calka near the Ethiopia National Theater_©ttnotes

12. Dutch Embassy Ethiopia

Year: 2005
Architect: Bjarne Mastenbroek, and Dick Van Gameren\
Local collaborator: RAAS Architects
Status: Completed
Type: Embassy  

Important Link: https://www.archdaily.com/198254/embassy-ethiopia-bjarne-mastenbroek-and-dick-van-gameren 


The embassy is located on a steeply sloped area towards the city Addis Abeba. The design team has purely enhanced the quality of the site’s steeply landscape by prescribing a strict horizontal volume of the main building that cuts and transfigures to the hill part with the sloping terrain naturally dividing the building into two programmatic units; the ambassador’s residence and the chancellery. The Embassy roof is a shallow pool, an element that combines Dutch tradition in water management and landscape technology, with the natural craggy countryside of Ethiopia. As in the Netherlands, everyone lives and works underwater. The building is visible at both ends and as the landscape slopes gradually upwards it disappears temporarily, transforming into a pool among the eucalyptus trees.

The reception space of the Dutch Embassy building_©Christian Richters
The grand stair of the Dutch Embassy building_©Christian Richters
The application of the Ethiopian landscape scheme on the roof structure of the Dutch Embassy building_©Christian Richters
The facacde of the Dutch Embassy building_©Christian Richters
The entrance access view of the Dutch Embassy building_©Christian Richters
The entrance access wide view of the Dutch Embassy building_©Christian Richters

13. United Nations Economic Commission For Africa (The African Hall) 

Year: 1959-1961
Architect: Arturo Mezzedimi
Status: Completed
Type: Office headquarter
Important Link: https://bec.studio/africa-hall/ 



Africa Hall is located at the UNECA headquarters in Addis Abeba and it was a landmark venue for the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. The building was designed by the Italian Modernist Arturo Mezzedimi. Currently, BE Collective has completed a developed design commission for the heritage preservation and additions to Africa Hall on which the design recently went before the United Nations in New York and, after considerations, has been approved. 

CAD model of the grand meeting hall of the UNECA building_©bec.studioafrica-hall
A stained glass art work by Laurate Afework Tekle inside the UNECA building_©Eric Koch Anefo
CAD model of the UNECA building_©bec.studioafrica-hall
CAD model of the UNECA building_©bec.studioafrica-hall

14. Unity Park Complex 

Year: First Construction dates back to1890 while the renovation is from 2018 onwards
Architect: Local and expat’s craftsmanship involved
Status: Under construction and renovation
Type: Palace, Park
Important Link: https://unitypark.et/ 

The palace park is part of the old and historic ‘imperial palace’ (King Menelik II’s palace) complex. The palace park is a complex collection of architectural masterpieces and other landscape elements. The complex includes the Banquet Hall, the “Throne Hall” or “Throne House”, Menelik II’s Palace Complex, the Ethiopian Regional States Pavilion, Traditional Garden, Black-maned Lion Zoo, and Unity Zoo. For its historic relevance, architectural mastery, and its prominent location, the palace park mainly known as ‘Unity Park’ is considered an important element of the current Addis Abeba. 

Menelik II’s Palace Complex _©Unity Park Ethiopia
Traditional Garden _©Unity Park Ethiopia
The Unity Zoo_©Anteneh Aklilu
The Ethiopian Regional States Pavilion _©Unity Park Ethiopia
The birds eye view of the Unity Park Complex_©worqambatour
The Banquet hall_©worqambatour
The interior view of the Banquet hall_©worqambatour
The throne hall_©ethiofresh.compark-of-unity

15. African Union Headquarters

Year: 2009-2012
Architect: China Architecture and Design group in collaboration with the Tongji University
Status: Completed
Type: Office Headquarter   

Important Link: https://www.skyscrapercenter.com/building/african-union-headquarters/13950 

The African Union Headquarters and Conference Complex is a landmark building complex in Addis Abeba that has both historic and architectural values. Completed in 2011, all the design works were completed by China Architecture and Design group in collaboration with the Tongji University whereas the construction was handled by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation. The Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China was in the project management role. The building has 117.7 meters in height and 22 floors. The building is the recipe for the 10 years award 2021 excellence, 2021 CTBUH awards. 

Africa Union headquarter building interior_©Tongji Architectural Design
Africa Union headquarter building interior_©Tongji Architectural Design
Africa Union headquarter main hall_©Tongji Architectural Design
Africa Union headquarter building_©Tongji Architectural Design
Africa Union headquarter building_©Unkowen
Africa Union headquarter building interior_©Tongji Architectural Design
Africa Union headquarter building interior_©Tongji Architectural Design

Nahom Teklu

Nahom is an interdiciplinary Architect and built environment practitioner who strives to use the untapped potential of architecture and experiential design for working on the holistic betterment of livelihoods. He has an initiative which works to build and re-build proactive urban community in Ethiopia.


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