Passing by the street, it comes naturally to give an attentive glance to the building due to its unconventional form and surface elements. The directional widows scattered punched openings, asymmetrically placed monkey-heads and floating cubes are peculiar façade elements that capture visitor’s attention evoking curiosity to experience the spaces within.
Looking at the building, a striking contrast is felt right away; a contrast generated by the mere combination of dark corrugated sheet metal and a gray concrete wall. According to the architect, the material choice was inspired by the existing industrial settlement around the site.
The left side of the building displays rigidity, a hardly porous structure with right-angled connections while the view of the building from the right side reveals unusual connections created out of steel structure. Artistically speaking, the EGA sheet Cladding seems like finding its way to wrap the rigid concrete structure. Thus, the use of metal for the façade design integrated with concrete and wood is one of the core design approaches.
The planning and design of this building is to host the main architectural studio of Bereket Tefaye CAE; the top three floors, rentable offices; middle three floors, and a cafeteria on the ground floor. The design concept for this project revolves around multi-layered human experiences of space, form, material, and tectonic. The composition and organization of this building’s spaces and form are focused around the main vertical circulation system which gradually evolve from a ramp at the main entrance to a stair connecting the first three floors and then the architectural studio offices which are accessed and interconnected through an isolated vertical circulation systems.
For the architectural firm, the building boasts as a signature product with plenty of experimental details executed to perfection. The building itself, being of an experimental journey, reinforces the idea of daring to play with material and form using seemingly ordinary elements. The experiment with materials like wood, concrete, steel, and sheet metal shows how far an architect can exercise in the current construction industry of the city, which will serve as another layer for looking at the contemporary architectural practice in the city.
The ground floor, a few steps elevated from the street level, can be accessed by the stairs provided or a gentle ramp paved with polished granite slabs. Upon your choice, the steps lead to the restaurant corridor while the gentle ramp leads to the main elevator and staircase lobby to access the floors above. The restaurant, furnished with wooden seats and vegetation strip, harmoniously rhymes with the entrance which is accentuated with a wooden finish and beautiful greenery. The greenery along with the wooden finish of the entrance sets the mood for the natural feel of the building which grows even bolder while accessing the floors above.
Heading along the gentle slope entrance, the folds of the steel structure could be felt with sharp edges, varying ceiling height, and unusual openings. Accessing the stairs above, the visual experience grows as much. Large glass openings allow for both indoor and outdoor views creating transparency. The lamps, handrails, and vegetation pots unanimously replicate the sharp geometric expression of the steel cladding, leading to a customized feel of space.
Escalating through the staircase, one can find the first, second, and third floors stacked together, each with a restroom and a store. Even though the floor area is kept more or less similar on these floors, the space quality of each floor is complemented by the ever-changing openings which led to creating a variety of indoor spaces. This character comes in handy when the floors are set for rental services, in which case, flexible use of space to suit the client’s need is necessary.
Starting from the fourth floor, Bereket Tesfaye CAE occupies the building where the variety of mesmerizing spaces come to life. Entrance to the office is recorded using a fingerprint scanner while cameras along with digital connectivity of users’ desktops within the office prove adept use of technology in the building. Just behind the frameless entrance glass, an overwhelming two-storey amphitheater setting captures your attention. These wooden steps serve both as a circulation to upper stories as well as a lecture theatre space which gives the space a dual experience. Standing on the wooden steps, the large glass façade along with the double room height creates the feeling of lightness and freedom. Even more so, the bright color of the wood gives the feeling of a natural space during the daytime.
As the building is facing southwest, it is prone to harsh sunlight in the afternoons. However, the interior is well protected during the day time since the hot air is trapped inside the gap between the EGA sheet and the wooden finish which serves as an insulator to the interior spaces. The trapped heat is later released at night where it is expected to get cold creating an ideal weather comfort throughout the year. Long cotton curtains are also elements of the space used to diffuse the direct harsh sunlight entering the space. The rough sketches on these plain curtains offer an interesting view heading up to the upper floors.
Moving across the fourth floor, the building naturally unfolds as an exhibition space for the accomplishments of the firm. Models of buildings, magazines, and artifacts are placed on the amphitheater stairs and interior walls set as shelves. The placement of these elements, effortlessly, guides a guest through multiple projects the firm was engaged in. More so, these shelves add to the light and transparent feel of the space marked on the entrance of the fourth floor.
The interior space, behind the amphitheater steps, is saved for working space where workstation cubicles are lined up in a minimalist arrangement. Controlled light and sound reach this inner space, where employees perform their tasks with a negligible interruption from the street outside. Greeneries are placed by the side facing the residential area, where even on the fourth-floor one can enjoy the look of nature. Even more so, for those accustomed to Ethiopian garden aroma, they could easily identify the smell of ‘Tena Adam’, ‘Koseret’ and many other aromas filling the indoors.
The fifth floor is dedicated to the administrative staff where you can find meeting rooms, finance offices, human resources, and department head offices. The controlled setting of the workspace on the fourth floor is also kept here, leading to a limited light and sound penetration from the outside.
The last floor, but surely not the least, hosts the office of the Principal Architect. Here, one comes to experience the epic view of the city in all 360 degrees. Models of buildings, covered with glass boxes are carefully placed as one part of the space as the furniture customary to the office of Bereket Tesfaye. The wooden finish, the greenery, the skyline of the city, all together, lead to a fantastic indoor experience. On this floor, one can enjoy both magical happenings of any day; the sunrise and the sunset.