“The outside space is a working place, a meeting area; it is where most of life happens. The rooms inside are an extension of that, and vice versa. The spaces flow into each other; they are in a constant dialogue, in a continuous use for different purposes. Now, when you go to medium- or high-rise apartments, that kind of flow is interrupted. Then you suddenly deal with rooms as cubicles for people to live in, while work and social life might be cut out.”

—Ato Fasil Giorghis

Ato Wondante and W/ro Tigist used to live in a kebele house, which was demolished for redevelopment by the city. They are happy to have moved into their new home, an original one-bedroom condominium unit. Once settled, Wondante started remodelling the apartment: the kitchen was moved onto the balcony and the former kitchen became the living room, which was enclosed and divided to create two separate bedrooms. Now the family’s two daughters have their own private room. In his condominium block, Wondante assumes not a single unit still has the original layout.

Life has changed significantly as a result of the move. Each room in the apartment has a clearly defined, single function – and income generation takes place outside the apartment. Through the lottery system, the family was assigned a unit on the first floor, disconnected from the ground. Wondante is in the fortunate situation to have a job as technician, and he leaves the house in the morning and returns in the evening. The children attend school during the day, when the apartment turns into the “modern” definition of a home. Unfortunately, most cannot afford to lose their house as income generator, or pay for the significantly higher costs of a mortgage.

The 48 families in his condominium block quickly re-established traditional safety mechanisms in their new neighbourhood, such as women’s and men’s iddirs. Through small monthly payments, these self-organized insurance systems provide help for individuals in situations of need. The neighbourhood, over time, has retied its connections – however, some of the interviewees still miss their former networks in the informal settlements, which were mostly lost in the move.

At the time of filming (2012), the Addis Ababa Housing Development Project Office had completed around 100,000 units on more than 120 different sites – about two thirds in expansion areas. The Integrated Housing Development Programme has increased density in several parts of the city, at a loss of traditional social ground-floor networks. Emerging Spaces documents the use of space in the redeveloped parts of Addis Ababa. Looking at a typical condominium over the course of one day, one can observe to what extent its inhabitants have adapted the spaces according to their needs and traditions.


Ato Fasil Giorghis
Chair Holder
Chair of Conservation of Urban and Architectural Heritage, EiABC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Ato Abraham Workeneh
Chair of Urban Design, EiABC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Ato Berhanu Gebrewold
Chair of Architecture and Design I, EiABC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Special Thanks to

Ato Wondante Yaye
Wro Tigist Tibebu
and family

Ato Kiros Moltot
Wro Etenesh Legesse


research and movies by
Felix Heisel and Bisrat Kifle

supported and financed by
Ethiopian Institute for Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC)

produced by
next studio plc.
Josef Mayerhofer