“There exists ruralization of urban areas, as well as urbanization of rural areas. When people migrate from rural to urban areas, they carry their way of life with them. They cannot change instantly, over night. This involves their involvement into economic activities, the way they live or construct houses; all these are very much related to their way of life in rural areas.…On the other hand, if you have access to urban facilities and activities while residing in rural areas, you are basically urbanized.…So you don’t have to move from rural to urban areas to be urbanized, especially not in the academic meaning of urbanization. And you don’t have to go to rural areas to experience a rural lifestyle.”

—Heyaw Terefe

Ato Mengistu lives with his family in a traditional round tukul on the rim of Wenchi Crater Lake. The scenery is breathtaking, the country green and the lake turquoise. Mengistu and his wife have nine children; the oldest attends university, and the younger ones all go to school. Together, they all work on the family farm planting potatoes and enset (false banana), Ethiopia’s most important root crop.

Mengistu and his wife built their home by themselves. Construction of the tukul took six months and cost the family 60,000 birr (2,850 US dollars). The necessary Ethiopian hardwood and eucalyptus were sourced locally, and neighbours and friends all helped in the process – as is customary in both rural and informal settings. The circular room is bedroom, living room and kitchen in one, while an area in the back is fenced off for the family’s horse and some cattle. There are no sanitary provisions: freshwater comes directly from the lake; a latrine is dug behind the house and moved at regular intervals. Yet the members of the family have cell phones, and a neighbour recently installed solar cells on his roof. Communication and other aspects of an urban lifestyle have long since arrived in this scenic rural landscape. Mengistu has no desire to move to a city, yet he is one of few successful enough to be able to make such a statement.

Addis Ababa is a city of migrants. Its history reaches back only one century, and most of the inhabitants of its informal settlements come from rural areas. As such, the arrangement of the traditional tukul actually forms part of Addis Ababa’s understanding of space. Based on the claim that traditional and cultural habits, religious and social patterns and income-generating mechanisms should be the basis for new developments in Ethiopia’s capital, Originating Spaces attempts to uncover the origins of such conditions. Looking at one typical tukul over one day, similarities in understanding between rural and urban space become obvious. The film aims to understand the ruralization of urban centres as much as the urbanization of the rural.


Dr. Heyaw Terefe
Chair Holder at EiABC
Chair of Theory and History of Architecture and Urbanism

Dr. Elias Yitbarek
Chair Holder at EiABC
Chair of Housing

Ato Zegeye Cherenet
Former Chair Holder at EiABC
Chair of Architectural Design
Special Thanks to

Ato Mengistu Tujuba
and his family


research and movies by
Felix Heisel and Bisrat Kifle

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

produced by
next studio plc.
Josef Mayerhofer