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The African Building Platform

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Africa CDC

CCECC
Article: Nahom Atakilt
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Three years back, the Haile Garment area in the bustling capital city was a rather unremarkable sight. It mainly served as a passageway for commuters venturing out of the city. The surrounding vacant plots of land lay dormant, sadly serving as nothing more than a dumping ground. However, in December 2020, an awe-inspiring building complex was unveiled, showcasing a sleek and futuristic design characterized by elegant white curtain-like features that gracefully swayed with the breeze. While they may initially capture one’s attention, the concept behind the CDC Africa headquarters goes far beyond its striking appearance. This architectural marvel embodies the essence of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention it represents, symbolizing the vital role it plays in the field of biology and disease control.

If you are a biologist enthusiast, you might have been fascinated when your high school teacher introduced the concept of DNA, or you might have slept through the class. But little could you have guessed, that it would be the main inspiration behind this architectural marvel. The project takes on the shape of a double helix, with its twin towers standing proudly at the forefront, representing the two strands of the DNA molecule. These strands gracefully intertwine, forming a secondary building where they intersect, only to separate once again into distinct blocks. Phase I of this ambitious endeavor, completed two years later, revealed the first of the strands. It now proudly showcases the visible twin towers, seamlessly connected by a flyover bridge. Additionally, a separate and noteworthy biological laboratory is situated to the north of the main building, adding a unique dimension to the overall picture.

The inception of this remarkable project dates back to 2018 when it was first announced during the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation held in Beijing. However, it wasn’t until late 2020 that the groundbreaking ceremony took place, marking the official commencement of construction. This timing, unfortunately, coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting significant challenges to the progress of the work. Despite the obstacles faced, the dedicated team persevered, and after 25 months of relentless effort, phase one of the building project was completed and handed over to the African side.

The Africa CDC, a specialized technical institution of the African Union, was established with the primary objective of bolstering public health initiatives of its member states. The new headquarters, covering nearly 40,000 square meters of land on a 90,000 square meter site, is expected to enhance emergency response and benefit the African people.

Let us now explore the building firsthand! Upon entering, your eyes are immediately drawn to the striking silhouette of two towering structures, gracefully connected by a soaring flyover bridge. Passing underneath, an expansive courtyard unfolds before you, furnished with a flight of stairs that lead you to the main building’s entrance. The courtyard acts as a vibrant hub, bringing scientists, researchers, and healthcare professionals together to share ideas, engage in discussions, and foster valuable connections. It also doubles as the perfect spot for media briefings, where important information can be shared with the public and the press.

Ascending the grand staircase, a testament to the building’s grandeur, you enter the heart of the main building. The interior spaces are characterized by their fluidity, seamlessness, and functionality. You are now at the part of the building that encircles the towers and that flyover bridge you passed underneath earlier. The flyover bridge, an architectural feature in its own right, serves as a unifying element, seamlessly connecting the two towers. While crossing this elevated path, you not only move between spaces but also have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of both the courtyard and the outside environment.

Throughout the building, natural light cascades through expansive windows, illuminating the spaces within. This deliberate design choice, combined with the mesmerizing perforated metal facade, creates a unique interplay between light and shadow. The undulating pattern of the facade allows diffused light to filter into the interior, creating a dynamic and ever-changing atmosphere. The play of light adds depth, texture, and visual interest, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the interior spaces.

Progressing to the towers, to the left side we find Tower 1, standing tall and commanding attention, which offers a wealth of functionalities across its various floors. On the first floor, an impressive auditorium awaits, ready to host conferences and events that foster knowledge-sharing and collaboration. You will also find a well-equipped training room, ensuring that the headquarters serves as a hub for continuous learning and professional development. Moving upward through floors two to six, Tower 1 houses an array of offices, serving as bustling workspaces where dedicated professionals carry out their vital research and administrative tasks.

These floors are thoughtfully designed to promote productivity and facilitate seamless communication among teams, enabling the exchange of ideas and the fast-paced advancement of disease control efforts. On the seventh floor, you’ll discover the logistics, planning, and operation sections. Here, experts work diligently to optimize logistics, plan interventions, and oversee the smooth operation of programs aimed at safeguarding public health. As you ascend to the eighth and ninth floors of Tower 1, you will encounter a space dedicated to VIP meetings and a dormitory. These floors provide a haven for high-level discussions, hosting important gatherings where key stakeholders and influential figures convene to shape policies, drive impactful initiatives, and forge alliances in the battle against diseases.

Now, directing our attention to Tower 2, situated to the right and slightly shorter in stature, its ground floor unveils a vibrant food plaza and restaurant. This welcoming space invites occupants and visitors to savor delectable meals and engage in informal conversations in a cozy atmosphere. The food plaza serves as a social hub, fostering a sense of community among the CDC Africa community. The upper floors of Tower 2 mirror the functionality of their counterpart in Tower 1. From the second to the seventh floor, offices within Tower 2 provide dedicated spaces for professionals to carry out their vital work. These floors are designed to facilitate collaboration and synergy, ensuring that the teams housed within can work seamlessly together to tackle the complex challenges of disease control and prevention.

Throughout every level of the CDC Africa Headquarters, the perforated metal facade remains a prominent and captivating feature. Its presence is felt as natural light filters through the perforations, creating varying levels of illumination that add a touch of enchantment to every space within the building. Whether in the communal areas, offices, or even the corridors, the interplay of light and shadow brought about by the perforated metal facade is a constant reminder of the building’s artistic touch and its ability to infuse the interior with a dynamic and visually engaging atmosphere.

In addition to its captivating presence during the day, the CDC Africa Headquarters becomes an enchanting and distinctive landmark as night falls. The perforated metal facade, which mesmerizes with its play of light and shadow during daylight hours, takes on a new dimension as it comes alive with a vibrant array of colors. Illuminated from within, the building transforms into a stunning visual spectacle, casting a radiant glow that can be seen from afar. This captivating display not only enhances the building’s aesthetic appeal but also serves as a striking symbol of innovation and progress in disease control. As visitors enter Addis Ababa, the illuminated CDC Africa Headquarters stands out as an iconic and memorable architectural feature, leaving a lasting impression.

To the north of the main building of the CDC Africa Headquarters lies a distinguished structure known as the “Dr. Wu Lien-teh” Laboratory. This reference laboratory serves as a hub for advanced scientific research and is fully enveloped by the mesmerizing perforated metal facade, seamlessly blending with the architectural aesthetics of the rest of the complex with a small courtyard nestled in the center. Furthermore, the headquarters also houses six second-level laboratories. These laboratories play a crucial role in supporting medical research efforts across the continent, providing cutting-edge facilities and equipment for scientists to conduct experiments, analyze data, and make significant contributions to the field of public health.

In summary, the CDC Africa Headquarters is a remarkable example of architecture’s transformative power, breathing new life into a once-neglected space and elevating it to a distinguished landmark. Drawing inspiration from the DNA concept, the completed first strands of the project have brought the vision to life. The twin towers not only serve their functional purposes but also serve as a prominent and recognizable landmark. From the inside, these structures, along with their accompanying counterparts, create a harmonious and intuitive experience for those working within, while also making a lasting impression on passersby.

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© July, 2024 Ketema Journal

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