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The making of ‘modern’ Addis: The role of the ‘addis’ myth
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Built Environment Analysis. (CAL)
2012 (English)In: The Myth of Tradition, Portland, OREGON, 2012Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The city of Addis Ababa being the only large African city without a colonial legacy is built on an indigenous settlement structure. This urban tissue which is typified by what could best be considered as ‘hetro-architecture’ creates an urbanity characterized by a “mixity” - as it is called in Addis Ababa - of social strata, functions, and economies. The close proximity of everything everywhere in the city makes crucial issues of survival for the large majority of poor inhabitants redundant, e.g. transport costs, ghettoization, etc. However, largely despised as “slum”, “old”, “unplanned” and “informal” in political and academic discourses this non-centralized, non-segregated, non-functionalist urban tissue of Addis Ababa, is extensively being replaced in recent years by government initiated large-scale condominium estates that strive not only to provide better serviced, affordable housing but to create a new image of modern Addis Ababa – “diplomatic capital of Africa”. While attempt is made in the design of the condominiums to accommodate certain socio-cultural requirements, a dominating feature of the practice exhibits a mix of liberal sympathies and the technocratic desire to rebuild ‘addis’ – as it means “new” in the local language – Addis Ababa, just as its name given by its ambitious founder Menelik II, in 1887. The re-“new”-al project thus largely tends to compromise traditional values and ways of life and undermine qualities in traditional settlements. However, ddespite its radical attitudes that disregard existing social and spatial qualities of the city, and the negative consequences thereof, the modernization project of Addis has earned high regard among the general public and majority of condominium residents. Primarily using historical narrative and ethnographic methods, the paper discusses the construction and role of the ‘addis’ myth in the making of ‘modern’ Addis. It shows how the ‘addis’ myth and an age old (but for long restrained) desire for the ‘modern’ facilitate residents’ tolerance to the challenges they face in trying to adapt to the new ways of life inscribed in condominium architecture. And somewhat contrary to the belief that assumes modernism as a top down imposition, the case of Addis Ababa demonstrates that modernist projects are co-inspired by popular penchant for the exotic – in the case of Addis , the “new” and the “modern”. ‘Modernity’ serves as a social force that coordinates the modernization project and the making of places. As key theoretical references, I refer works of Lefebvre, and Bourdieu in exploring the concepts of place, and making of places through everyday social practices.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Portland, OREGON, 2012.
National Category
History Architecture
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-107773OAI: diva2:578030
Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments, October 4-7, 2012, Portland, OR, USA

QC 20121218

Available from: 2012-12-17 Created: 2012-12-17 Last updated: 2012-12-18Bibliographically approved

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Ejigu, Alazar Gedamu
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