Ethiopian Architecture

An Ethiopian architect designs an innovative world class boarding school, building on the traditions of Ethiopian historical and vernacular styles

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When Ethiopia Education Initiatives (EEI) began the process of building The Haile-Manas Academy, a world class secondary school in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia, one of the first steps was to find the right architect.  With the Academy conceived as a model educational institution, Executive Director Rebecca Haile wanted the school buildings themselves to be equally innovative but also culturally appropriate. 

EEI found the right person for the project in architect Fasil Giorghis.   Known for designs that combine the use of local materials with sensitivity to Ethiopian design heritage, his notable projects in Addis Ababa include the Red Terror Martyrs Museum at Meskel Square, the new Library of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University, the restoration of the Addis Ababa City Museum, the Goethe Institute and the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences. 

As Giorghis wrote, “Architecture is a profession that is continuous, that has a past, a present and a future.”   In designing the campus buildings, he focused on using local materials and integrating traditional architectural idioms and design motifs.   Examples include the thatched roof entries seen in the region that Giorghis referenced in his dormitory entrance design and his reinterpretation of stone cladding on the administration building.

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According to Giorghis, “Standing now in the 21st century we have an enormous wealth of architectural heritage.  It’s not only what we create as new, we also have to learn from what our ancestors have built, how they built it and the knowledge that is imported in that.”   Giorghis’s philosophy is in perfect accord with The Haile-Manas Academy.   Both the architect and the Academy honor Ethiopia’s rich cultural past while embracing its exciting and dynamic future.

The Haile-Manas Academy, a project of Ethiopia Education Initiatives, will be a world-class co-educational secondary boarding school for students of promise recruited from across Ethiopia and admitted without regard to their financial circumstances.

Max Medina