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Fountainhead Talk Series

A talk series focused on art, architecture, and urbanism curated by Addis Mebratu (architect) and presented by Kebena House
Addis Mebratu / Wondyerad Mamo
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Fountainhead is a talk series focused on art, architecture, and urbanism curated by Addis Mebratu (architect) and presented by Kebena House. Kebena House is an Art, Architecture & Urbanism platform with event spaces located on Yeka Mountain overlooking Kebena River.

The first of the talk series, Ahadu Abayneh shared his unique experiences working
with reclaimed and natural materials through his projects in Addis Ababa, Konso and other places in Ethiopia. He also shaded light on how dismantled buildings in the redevelopment of Addis may be reclaimed and how to handle the dismantled comunities in the process.

Sometimes what you need is just walking. And by walking, I mean walking up. Up to the mountains; into the layers of dense air. It was at the middle of the day that my colleague forwarded me a poster of an event titled “Fountainhead: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Recover”. The poster reads “Ahadu Abayneh, architect talks about his architectural work with reclaimed materials.” There provided the map view of the event venue with two different paths approaching “Kebena House” at the middle of mount Yeka. I leaned back
for a moment. Looked for the place on google map and found nothing. Hmmm! Nothing seems familiar. Not the place, the presenter nor the contact details. However, I’m intrigued by the witty title and of course the offgrid location. So, what do you think I did? Yeah! You are right I walked up.

After dozens of turns and tons of breathing I reached at a bright engaging building, Kebena House. This is a fascinating place by itself with breathtaking views and most importantly abundance of accessibility.

Plenty of discussion rooms it had with sound office set up for the upper most stories and a living flat for dwelling beneath it. You love the well detailed stairs, rails, openings and spectacular terrace view. Elegance is born at the heart of openness.

Sipping my black coffee quite enjoyed the place. The combinatorics of generous openings and open spaces with a calm choice of paint, tiling, and light fixtures has created a stunning composition.

After almost an hour the event started and a bold sturdy guy presented himself. Addis Mebratu curator of Fountainhead and owner of Kebena House noted that the talk series is intended to shed light on some of the Architects’ that push beyond the commercial and passive rituals of modern architecture in Ethiopia. He said, perhaps not as much as the Fountainhead we know and idealize, but the Fountainhead among us; those who try a bit harder and or dare to experiment on their respective effort is for whom this talk is all about.

And the first talk series commenced with Ahadu Abayneh by sharing his one of a kind reclaimed and nature-centric working experiences.

This man has some next level commitment that he showed his works on the prior antithesis that redevelopment of Addis is highly creating disintegration of many societally valuable ecosystem. Interestingly he does not happen to be one of the change blamers as senior folks usually used to do so. Rather he showed one of the many ways to give second chance for materials upon understanding the context and reality of our status quo. He managed to develop an alternative designer to client relationship that pushes the commitment level of the work to family level engagement. This enables him the freedom to entertain that the materials and details from dismantling Addis could be used for brand new developers’ residence. Imagine having your door lock and living room girder beam being revived from some 60years Fitawrari’s ranch.

In addition to the reuse of existing materials Ahadu has also shown the possibility and pros of utilizing the construction site as a manufacturing place for wooden, steel, stone elements. He also intended to be free spirited and vigilant I dare say, that he had the experience of socializing and living out with the workers at the construction site.

The last but not the least is that through all this adventurous journey from Addis to Konso his projects were reportedly as an educational place for various emerging Architects. It takes guts and patience to let have students with you on experimental work of piece.

That concluded the lecture and time to walk down. Kudos to Addis, Ahadu and of course for the mighty volcano that folded Kebena’s plateau my walking has paid back.

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© November, 2020 Ketema Journal

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