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Architects in Political Discourse

With Yohannes Mekonnen
Session 30 Summary by Eyob Biruk Regassa
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Greetings, friends and colleagues, the 30th architects ወርሃዊ session was held virtually just like last time due to the rapid spread of Covid-19 pandemic. The virtual session was the 6th of its kind. The discussion was about the influence of the political discourse on architecture, How the political dimension affects designs and how architects should respond to policies towards the discipline’s promising future. We would like to thank Yohannes Mekonnen: Architect, lecturer at EiABC on Conservation and Heritage restoration, and a political nominee in the 6th National election for the brief discussion on the topic.

Semawit Ayele commenced the discussion by introducing Yohannes Mekonnen. He mentioned that he had his first degree in Architecture and Urban Planning from Addis Ababa University EiABC, did his masters on Conservation of Architecture and Urban Heritage and currently pursuing his PhD. He later on added that currently he is serving as a lecturer at EiABC and directly engaging in the ongoing political election. Yohannes proceeded by thanking his fellow architects, the audience and his friends for inviting him to be a guest in the selected topic of discussion.

He further pursued the discussion by noting out that every individual has several perspectives and dimensions through which he or she expresses themselves. He pointed out that architects are not that fond of the policy making process and don’t take an active role towards it. The Majority of architects after graduation enroll in design studios and shift their focus towards their specific designs on their computers making them forget about the crucial policies that shape designs, at times. Despite their unique understanding of the everyday struggles and wins of society, he added that architects are trained to know something about everything.

Regarding the communication skills of the discipline, Yohannes mentioned that professionals in the industry are always in negotiation with either fellow architects or clients and contractors. He noted out that politics has a repeatable behavior regarding negotiations and decision making. A brief claim mentioned was that the direct involvement in the decision making actually impacts the architecture industry/profession. Studying the life style of residents specific to the profession aids in understanding the political as well as their economic needs.

An interesting inclination towards the politics by him developed naturally through progressive as well as proactive practices in the media. As outlined by Yohannes, the policy making process shall be practiced by professionals in the profession. This in turn facilitates a harmonious flow of the housing and development policy. Direct involvement on politics, enhances a much better exposure to the policy making process and getting a chance to criticize and improve the defects in decision making.

Another insightful idea that was procured was he supports the idea of politics nurturing architecture rather than devaluing it. Implementing the disciplinary designs makes an idea appreciated. A descriptive example mentioned was “If the mountain can’t come to you, you yourself must go to the mountain”. So, to further participate in implementing our architectural ideas and innovations, going to the politics and being actively involved in the policy making is a rather better approach.

Planning and design shall act as a guiding principle since Ethiopia’s Urban Development in the next 10 years is expected to double. Further analysis and research on the work opportunity, Material Trading and societal inclusiveness must take place in order to oversee a promising future regarding the discipline.

In conclusion, Yohannes responded to the question of the Association’s role in going forward of the political discourse was, an active effort and demand to the political parties regarding their respective policies about the architectural discipline and other relevant questions.

Yohannes appreciating the sacrifice and compensation made by the Association and its members, reminded all interested and affected members as well as the association to take the opportunity and further participate and curate conversations as major stake holding professionals to inquire what the political arena envisions for the future of the built environment.

The session was concluded by encouraging all architects to further push on policy demands and pro-actively participate in the policy making process as affected stakeholders in the architecture profession. We would like to acknowledge moderators Semawit Ayele and Brook Tefera for hosting such a successful virtual session.

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© July, 2024 Ketema Journal

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