Disappearing Spaces

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A day in Addis Ababa’s informal city

Research and Movie by Felix Heisel / Bisrat Kifle
Assistance by Addisalem Feleke / Marta Wisniewska
EiABC / Addis Ababa / Ethiopia / 2011

Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, is in transformation. Currently the home of approximately four million inhabitants, the city might triple its size within the next 30 years due to the increasing rural to urban migration, as well as natural growth. Already today, Addis Ababa suffers from a housing shortage of estimated 300.000 units. And, according to UN-Habitat, 80% of the existing dwellings are in ‘sub-standard, slum like’ conditions. Thus, in 2004, the government launched a large-scale mass housing program with the ambitious plan to erect 200.000 condominium units within 5 years. To date, 100.000 units were built during the last 7 years, out of which nearly 70,000 are handed over to end users so far. In 2011, the Addis Ababa City Administration announced to redevelop all ‘informal’ and ‘unplanned’ parts of the city until 2020.

Addis Ababa, unlike many other African cities, has a history and city fabric to learn from. Even if the physical conditions of the informal settlements are very poor, the social networks, as well as spatial and cultural values developed and embedded in these areas are worth the preservation and study.

Due to the current redevelopments, these parts of the city will change for good within the next years. Hence, now is the right time to document a century old way of living in Addis Ababa. We believe that its informal sector can teach important lessons about the use of architecture and its social role.

This movie is an educational documentary on the use of space in the informal parts of Ethiopia’s capital. Looking at one typical house for the duration of 24 hours, one can notice how a single room can serve for most daily functions. Interviews with the inhabitants and experts give further insight into the topic.

“Disappearing Spaces” is the first of a series of documentaries on spatial developments in Addis Ababa.