One of the most classic buildings in Addis Ababa near completion

By Eden Habtamu, Ezega News

Ethiopian News Architectural View of the New Building

Addis Ababa, July5, 2009 ( -- Addis Ababa is a 122 years old city. For much of this time, the city has been essentially a sleepy town. However, the past decade has been different. Construction boom came to the city and is changing the landscape completely. One can notice big buildings everywhere: office towers, business buildings, residential complexes, ring roads, and all kinds of roads. Addis Ababa is indeed changing.

Driving around Bole and other places, one can site many impressive buildings. But one building in particular has been the talk of the town of late, a building like no other we have seen during the boom of the last ten years. This building doesn’t even have a name yet as it is not officially opened. People are talking about the material, context, and construction period of the building. Asham Plc’s new building began the construction in mid 2004, after the company bought the plot of land in Piassa (near Enricho pastry, at the juncture to Baro Hotel). Though the project is behind schedule by about two years due to technical challenges, it is now more than 90% complete.


The building adds grace and class for this relatively older part of the town. The building stands on 800 meter square plot of land a few hundred meters from Tayitu Hotel. Eden Habtamu of Ezega News interviewed the people who planned and built this property recently. The owner of the building, Ato Ashebir Wondem Sisha, delegated this interview to the Architect of the building, Ato Million Samuael. Million graduated from Addis Abba University seven years ago in the field of Architecture and Urban Planning. He is currently about to finish his second degree on Urban Design Planning, from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. Here is an excerpt of my interview with this promising young architect.


Ethiopian News - Million Welcome to the interview.

Million: I thank you. Whose inspiration was to build this classic building in this style and in Piassa?

Million: I can say it is the owner’s inspiration. Before I brought this design, Ato Ashebir and another architect were looking for a design and an appropriate place for a classic building. They looked at many places and found this spot to build this property in Piassa, which is one of the oldest places in Addis Ababa. There was another design of this same building by another architect. However, at some point, they could not go further with it because the designer was not available at the time. I graduated from Addis Ababa University around that time and started practicing architecture. I then got this offer from Ato Ashebir to design this building. What building materials did the building use as compared to other comparable buildings to give it this classic look?

Million: Among construction materials, we used concrete hollow block and brick, and we used selected stone, granite, and copper for finishing. And almost all are high standard and imported materials. Do people use copper in windows in any of the buildings in our city? How expensive is it compared to other window materials?

Million: Copper is not a common building material in our city. So far, I did not encounter any building or residence with copper made windows or doors. And it can cost up to four times as much as other common window materials. Is the purpose of the building decided yet?

Million: No, it is not yet decided, but we can say it could comprise offices and G+1 residence on the last two floors. So, it will likely be a mixed-use building. Can you tell me the construction and consulting companies, both local and international, that were involved in this building?

Million: I cannot mention any one company except that the finishing part was done by Malaysian professionals. Other design and construction tasks were performed by a collection of well-known and experienced professional individuals. Do you think working with various individuals made it difficult to run the project on schedule? Did this contribute to the extended construction time?

Million: It can be difficult and it may have contributed to wastage of quite large amount of time and money. Additional factor that can be mentioned for the two-year delay is the very close scrutiny and extensive demand of the owner to make every little detail perfect.


Ethiopian News - Building Near The cost of construction is going higher and higher these days. How much did the building cost so far, and roughly how much do you think it will need to finish?

Million: I am afraid that I cannot say this much at this time. The building is not yet opened and the official value of the building is not calculated. It is really difficult to estimate cost at this time. What was the motive of Ato Ashbir when he envisioned this project?

Million: Ato Ashebir is the owner of Asham Plc which runs different businesses under it. You can take Addis Décor Company, one of the pioneer decor houses in our city. I believe this artistic field of experience could have inspired him to come up with the idea of building this classical property. He is such a perfectionist and never satisfied easily. I can say that this project has been really challenging and the owner has been under pressure in delayed time and cost over-run from different directions. But finally people started liking it and appreciating the work. We really admire Ato Ashebir as he is someone who dared to bring this classic building to Addis Ababa. Though the cost of this building is really high, we have heard that Ato Ashebir did not take any financial support from any bank, is this right? If so what is the source of capital for this project?

Million: As far as I know he did not borrow any money from any bank, but as I told you Addis Décor is one of the biggest décor companies in Addis. I can say the capital came from other parts of his business. As an Architect how do you measure the impact of the building on the city and future buildings?

Million: I believe is has a big impact on our city building and architecture. It gave some identity to the place. However, I believe, we don’t have to have many buildings with classical styles out of context. There are many elements of manifestation of one’s society, including music, painting, language, religion, buildings, etc. Buildings are relatively permanent establishments lasting may be 100 years or so. People are judged by their cities. So, our city planners, engineers and investors should consider such buildings seriously.


I also believe that buildings should not be made just for the sake of financial profit, and they should not look like the same. We should be aware of what we are bringing to our city. The physical settings of a city are description of its people. So, it is important that we pay much attention to this. I thank you indeed, Million.

Million: You are welcome.


Eden Habtamu Ezega News 

This article was written by Eden Habtamu reporting for from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She can be reached by email at The article can be reprinted in full or in part elsewhere but only by giving full credit to Ezega.  If reprinted on a website, we ask that you place this active link: Ezega Ethiopian News, pointing to



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