The African Building Platform


Friendship Square

Betelhem A. Kidane
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Throughout our school days, me and my sister would take a taxi back and forth, day in day out looking at the vast, fenced land where our neighborhood used to be. We have been awaiting the colossus of buildings yet to be built, with a little grudge from the memories we’ve had there. So, you can imagine my closed-fisted approach to an article about that same area. As the day unfolded and my directional skills disappointed me as usual, I was too ready to get the ‘exclusive’ tour over and done with. We drove in after passing through the security at the gates. With no oriental introduction to the park we had the whole place to ourselves which we decided to cover by parts. I would take in the scenic beauty through my notes and my colleague through his camera. The park, which covers a total of 46.42 hectares, is sectioned into 6 major themed sites dedicating to celebrate culture, science and of course architecture (although the 6th site is well under construction). The park is juxtaposed in such a way, that each section exuberates the anterior. According to the map inside the park, Construction started on October 1, 2019 and the foundation was handed over and innaugurated on September 10, 2020. The square embodies the core value of ‘ethnic unity and harmonious coexistence’, and shows Ethiopia’s national image of opening up to the outside world. It is a key project to enhance people’s sense of happiness and belonging, as explained on the map. Saluted by the meticulously presented maps and the immensity of the places to explore, I abandoned my colleague at the visitor’s center and started wandering around with my notebook. Right away, I was inclined to notice the organic representation of this public realm and how it has achieved its resolution of tranquility. Although the park covers quite a space, it still has managed to play with space and curvilinearity. This is well in view to me as I approached the lake.

The Lake;
The vast fields of green plateauing over the man-made lake, arched along my walk, surprised by a picturesque lake rippling through its mechanics, with fountains erupting; time felt inconvenient and I was no longer skimming through. I made a mental note of how the people behind this project have truly thought not only of the architectural integrity of the park but also, the sense of calm and serenity parks are supposed to bestow upon their visitors. The white granite lined throughout the curved structure leading up to the lake, contribute to the picturesque view descending downwards. I stood and pictured a live orchestra playing on the floating oval stage above the water. Friends of the lake (ducks, water striders, frogs) seemed offended by my intrusion but the lily pads didn’t mind so much.
After my unwelcome visit to the ducks (who immediately swam away), I strolled around the curves of the lake to the next best thing this park had to offer.

Image Courtesy of Solan Kifle

The Flower-Belt;
All morning, dozens of gardeners have kept busy while I strolled around, distracting their work but even getting cat-called couldn’t ruin this traipse. I strolled around eventually finding gardeners who were truly interested in what I thought of their work. I couldn’t come up with words that would describe particularly, but I kept thinking of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Waltz of flowers’, Colors of orange, yellow, violet, pink, green, red, and many more sat in a hierarchy, displayed with such care as they complement the park while complimenting each other. The flowers extend all around the fields giving an afresh feeling of spring. But the main flower show stands to be on the hill ascending to our next stop.

The Anchored Ship;
As you gaze up from the lake, you have the scene arranged itself that a better, contemporary city on the verge of becoming. But when you turn around you see an anchored ship-like structure that is witnessing this gaze as well. This structure dubbed Ethiopia engulfs you with its enormity and its bespoken suit in piecing the park together. And the enormous amphitheater cascading to it is just overwhelming. (For a person who measures workouts by how many books I carry, this was the workout of the year!) As I reluctantly approached the stairs the sprinklers caught my eyes, as they danced with the classical music streaming throughout the park, and with that in my notebook, I started my hike to the top of the stairs with the sound of the mowers in the background of my thoughts.

After what seems like forever and beyond, I reached the ‘deck of the ship’. My gasping clearly alarmed the people around, and eventually I caught my breath somehow. There stands a huge monolithic white granite backdrop engraved with most, if not all of the Ethiopian traditional and or modern musical instruments, tools and of course coffee together with traditional meal settings. I waited till the people who were around left and I took my time with the mise-en-scene. With a considerable elevation in the middle of the capital, the ship gave a more vivid view of the lake and of course that contemporary city on the verge of becoming.

And as I was ending my visit, I looked around for a feeling of calm that surrounded me, accompanied by contemporary classical music I thought of why I decided to write for Ketema Journal. I decided to do so with my reason as erudition but came to realize; it seems like a good time for architecture.

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© May, 2023 Ketema Journal

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