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Cover Feature

Entoto Kategna

Betlembosa Studio
Article: Medhanit Tadesse, Fikrie Abebe
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If you haven’t yet visited Entoto park, trust me, you have to, as all the wonders await you. Enclosed by three main gates, Entoto park accommodates both the introvert and the extrovert adequately. For those seeking their solitude, the walkways edged by a series of long eucalyptus trees are perfect for cleansing the troubled soul. If not a walk, a bicycle ride would definitely do the marvels of a solo time within the natural park.

However, suppose you are a person who looks out for the city buzz within the uphills of the Entoto mountain. In that case, you will be glad to find the mainstream city restaurants and entertainment spots within the park – Kategna restaurant being one of them.

Walking from the southern gate of Entoto Natural Park, one will face the new addition of Kategna’s restaurant to the city, placing itself elegantly along the sloppy terraces of Entoto mountain. The building is equipped with a well-designed landscape and outdoor activities that people don’t stop to flock towards.

Lucky enough Kategna is placed close to the ‘Addisu Gebeya Gate’ which makes it easily accessible within a short walk from the entry. For those who made it through the other gates, however, Kategna shall be the reward of their long walk through the park.

Located across the street within the Food Zone of the park, separated from the other recreational centers, Kategna conquers the viewer’s attention all for itself unapologetically with its striking design. Originally a plot of only 300m2 was allocated for the restaurant; posing a challenge for the Architects of Bet Lembosa in coming up with an efficient, functional recreational space. However, later on, the restaurant was authorized to incorporate the immediate surrounding of the plot for landscaping which enabled the architects for much more flexible and better design outcomes.

Starting from the color choice, Kategna is designed with unusual architectural techniques which trigger viewers’ curiosity to linger around and finally make their call to walk in. Dark it is, the color of the slim steel structures ironically juxtaposed with the transparent glass facades in the back. The transparent glass facades have been well placed and designed in order to suit one’s best experience of the outdoor forest from the comfort of the indoor space. The building is the result of a conscious design thinking approach toward the natural environment, as one of the leading instructions was to preserve the trees of the park as much as possible. Having the possible minimal impact on the plot area protecting the endemic trees, the design is successful in creating harmony between the building and the environment.

Constructed out of repurposed containers, undoubtedly, one facing the restaurant will be taken away by the characteristic long, slim, dark colonnades of the building which create an attractive arcade. As the building faces southwest, the harsh sun would have been discomforting for one to enjoy the best of the arcade in the afternoons; however, thanks to the colonnades, the spot is one of the marvels of the building that one shouldn’t miss to experience. These dark collonades function as sun breaker elements while they bring a decorative effect to the building through their resemblance to the building styles commonly found in Piassa and Biherawi areas in central Addis Ababa.

Reclaimed shipping containers were the main construction elements for the building. The design makes use of three 40 feet containers and two 20 feet containers in an arrangement to create intermediate space while using them to balance the steep terrain of the area. The containers are arranged to get a better view of the surrounding area while also creating intimate well-scaled indoor spaces. Additional Steel structures were used to combine the containers and to create a vertical stair that is used to access the roof-top to enjoy the horizon of the city beyond the forest.

The architects have also recycled windows and building parts from old demolished houses in the city to create the typical feel of residential houses which were constructed in the 20th Century in Addis Ababa.

The functional flow of the building is designed to have a separate service area for staff while designating major indoor and outdoor spaces for customer use. The plot, having a considerable slope, enabled the architects to implement a well-curated functional flow where the lower slope area is used for service areas such as storage, kitchen, and staff room. This is visible heading to the back of the building, as one will experience the steep slope which posed both a challenge and an opportunity for the design team in curating service movement within the building.

The outdoor building is well designed and equipped with the necessary fixtures such as benches, dustbins, lighting, and artistic facades that many choose to enjoy their time outdoors. Activities are well dispersed both within the interiors and the outsides of the restaurant that people are seen engaging in different ones. As William H. Whyte puts it, “What attracts people most, it would appear, is other people ”, Kategna unmistakably seems to be successful in doing so through this design.

The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating areas with injera making traditional tukul placed as a central attraction in the midst of the landscape. People approach the restaurant for numerous reasons other than to have a meal such as to engage themselves in baking Injera, taking pictures against the artistic facade, enjoying a campfire, or simply lingering on the greenery.

Though the landscape design plays an imminent role in keeping the outdoor of Kategna lively, the excellent introduction of a well-known Ethiopian cultural activity to the outdoors makes all the difference: ‘make your injera’ corner. With a well-curated design approach, here at Entoto, Kategna has been successful in presenting its foundational motto – to introduce Ethiopian traditional cuisine – in an unusual, bold and fascinating approach.

‘Make your injera’ corner is a circular space constructed in the vernacular Ethiopian tukul houses format where the roof and wall structures are well crafted to remind us of the rural side of the country. Located just adjacent to the restaurant’s entrance, this traditional-seeming structure seems to capture the attention of many who visit Kategna. Far more, the success of the activity is assured as people flock to Kategna only to experience the feeling of making their own Injera, posing the activity as a challenge with their companions. This intern has implanted Kategna as one of the favorite spots within the park that people don’t want to miss to experience.
PM Abiy Ahmed, (Ph.D.), has visited the tukul to make his own injera at the inauguration of the park where he challenged the conventional ways of performing the task by starting his injera from the center-out. Quite interesting is that it raises the question ‘why not?’. *(Injera is made by pouring the dough from the edges to the center)

The interior of the building is no less mesmerizing than the outside. Well-lit and spacious, the interior is relaxing and visually transparent. one is able to enjoy the natural forest outside along with the interior’s Ethiopian coffee aroma and good music.

Constructed out of steel containers, the G+1 building is the composition of five containers to make up one large space with the central space unifying both floors. The containers are well designed to create intimate and compact spaces within the large volume which many refer to as ‘cozy’. Even more so, as one of the corners is sided with an old window framework bought off from a residential house in Addis, the compact corners feel relatable to the central city residence. Embellished with Ethiopian traditional art pieces, the interior of the restaurant is even more accentuated with modified traditional furniture.

Last but not least, a rectangular wooden panel adds to the peculiarities of the building: a wooden panel at the entrance, crediting the architectural firm who labored to bring up this splendid design to life. After all, a building is a piece of art for those who dared to imagine. Isn’t it? //

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© June, 2024 Ketema Journal

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