The African Building Platform

Cover Feature

International Tennis Club Building

KEEN Consultants Plc
Mekbib Kassahun, Architect
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Owned by one of the founders and one-time president of the Ethiopian Tennis Federation, the late Ato Bezuayehu Tesfaye, and his family, International Tennis Club (ITC) has been active for decades at the project site – located near Bisrate Gebriel Church, around old Airport area, one block away from Laphto Mall, and well away from the main street to Sarbet. The club had four ground tennis courts that used to be attractive for the local residents – both nationals and foreigners. Apart from the tennis courts, there existed a single-storied, small, multipurpose building that accommodated basic facilities for tennis fans. The rapid urban development in the vicinity including the construction of mid-rise, high-end residential towers on nearby plots initiated the owners to conceive a new project.

The project was envisaged to have two major components: a residential tower (not yet constructed) and a multipurpose building accommodating sports and related commercial facilities. The project brief speculated the preservation of two of the existing four ground tennis courts and the construction had to be planned in a way that did not affect the daily tennis-related activities on the two courts. Additionally, a swimming pool (not yet constructed), squash courts, gym, sports shops, leisure facilities, etc were to be accommodated.

These requirements and other practical factors and business intentions carved the project to its final details.

Strictly adhering to the project brief, an architectural concept was created: a see-through building to the ground tennis courts continuing the decades-old local sports culture, where residents from the nearby and faraway parts of Addis Ababa meet there for sport and other social affairs on a regular manner.

Despite the high value of street-level commercial space, approving such a concept displayed the owners’ commitment and love for conserving the tennis sport alive in the locality.

Once the concept was approved, the design was further developed and rectified by dedicating the northern- main street side- facade as a facility-display-board, where visual interactions with the street are enhanced. These visual interactions increase the marketability of the rental spaces while giving character and variety to the facade.

In relation to the quality of spaces accommodated, relaxed ceiling height and variety of sizes in the area were minimum criteria but strictly defined by horizontal plates on the middle floor levels. However, different ceiling ‘geometry’ and altering ceiling heights were created on the top floor.

The irregular zigzag roof geometry in the section is coordinated with the size and function of spaces, creating mezzanine floors and providing large heights for large spaces. As the spaces were meant for unpredictable tenants, the design team had to imagine companies who can use the spaces to make their own interior worlds that convey their brands. This again needed an effort to get approval because of real estate markets that value spaces measured with the horizontal floor areas in which rental rates are fixed per square meter area.

The topographic elevation differences of the site was addressed with entrances at different levels, and exterior stairs are introduced that make the facade playful and render it an easily distinguishable character.

So the challenge was to temper creativity with practicality, and to balance, the architectural expressions and economical models envisaged, and to accommodate spaces for unpredictable types of facilities that are related to sports and leisure activities. Hence, the design is developed employing readily available materials on the local market, and considering common building techniques.

The intention of the design was to create a simply distinguishable architectural piece, that remotely symbolizes the dynamics of tennis sport, while at the same time displaying it for passers-by. //

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© May, 2023 Ketema Journal

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