Since its realization during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, Meskel square has been one of the prominent land marks of Addis; having been the site for public gatherings, demonstrations and festivities like Finding of the True Cross (Meskel) from which it got its most accept able name from the public as opposed to the name forced on it during the dergue regime.
Realizing the importance of the site and its heritage values, the refurbishment / renovation was planned nearly a decade ago. The project introduced the Red Terror Martyr’s Museum as an extension of the site and yet, when the building was complete, the rest of the site was neglected. Due to this, the museum and the Greek theatre “stairs” created an invisible boundary that disrupted the visual and functional flow and defined the two spaces as two separate entities.
Now, as part of the city-wide renovations, Meskel square takes the front seat. The plan is simple: make it the best it could ever be. Starting from the original plan that’ll see the stairs merge with the red terror museum roof to create an activity space such as a café, the project will move forward even more with an underground parking, street reallocation, public space designation and much more.
Monumental Stairs: The iconic feature of the site is the concentric set of stairs running along the entire square. The good news is none of space underneath the steps will become excavated for the parking function, making it one of the bold decisions taken by the design team. However, the iconic curve will no longer be defined by the original stones laid in when the construction was first conceived, rather it will be replaced with concrete curbs of the same heritage dimention on the exact geographic location of the path. Work has already began with surveying and cataloging the exact position of the path. The stepping stones will be repurposed for the construction of single storey shops on the periphery walls shared with juventus club and exhibition center. The Addis Ababa museum wall will be cleaned and presented with no extra addition on the surface.
Path Makeover: The access paths cutting across the stairs on three locations – Exhibition center entrance, Juventus Club entrance road and St. Joseph School entrance – will be properly defined and expanded. As an alternative route, the Juventus Club road will be widened and constructed as another entrance/exit point to the site, sharing the traffic burden specially during mass gatherings.
Public Spaces: Movable tree (planteres) will shade the plaza and create a conductive micro climate for walking and social activities. 6 digital 4K resolution screens will be provided to replace the haphazardly mounted billboards here and there. The space that has been used for parking and an interstate bus terminal will be reclaimed in favor of the public space expansion and with increased public safety and security, Meskel square will be open 24/7, creating a new dynamics to the capital city of Africa.
Underground Parking: One of the biggest additions would be the basement parking that’ll go two stories underground. This will be directly under the flat surface excluding the 350+m long stepped amphitheatre curve of the square. Naturally, we would all assume that these plethora of parking space will be dedicated to serve the torrent of visitors during an event or a holiday but quite contrary to that, the parking service will be temporarily suspended during public events for the obvious security reasons. The proposed plan opts for three entry/exit points which align to the corresponding roads towards Bole, Riche, and one directly onto the central road. This, coupled with an extensive use of high-tech equipment for management and security will make for a better parking than most places in the city.
Transport Station: The plan also entails a transport station in junction with the main road. Here bus, taxi and ride services will find refuge from the eight fast lanes of the motorway. This creates a unique opportunity for the parking service because car owners can securely park their cars and enjoy the variety of activities out on the plaza or get a short ride to their destination easily via this station The first public e-bikes to be provided at the square will also serve as inspiration to new mobility and social interaction in the city.
Financing after Construction: Now, the biggest challenge of the site will be the upkeeping and maintenance costs. Thus, a number of cross financing measures were taken like paid standard toilets found both on the ground and underground. Another one is the introduction of small commercial shops around the periphery walls shared with Juventus Club and St. Joseph School. These will be built protruding from the walls so as to alleviate the intimidating effect of the huge wall terminating the square. These shops will employ the stones repurposed from with in the site to keep the visual unity. However, these shops will be designed very small, almost as delivery points, that’ll house fast food stalls, small shops and the like. This will encourage the customers to use the site to the purpose it was made for, a public space.
The redevelopment of Meskel Square has been in the making for nearly a decade now. There were multiple collaborations between government and higher institutions at different time and places. The Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City development (EiABC) has done several studies on Churchill Avenue as private offices
have produced multiple options both for Churchill and Meskel square over the past years.
Based on the conceptual design produced by local volunteering groups of architects and planners, CCCC is now fully responsible for the design and construction of the project, with local consultants expected to review the designs. Accordingly BKW Consulting Architects, Planners and Engineers has been offically assigned to review and supervise the implementation of the ideas and visions of the proposal.
As a monument to the public, the project should always resonate with what the people want and deserve. The need for an open public dialogue is immensely important for making the project more inclusive of professional critics and/or.
The deadline, set for the 2013 Ethiopian New Year, puts forth the importance of the site as part of the national celebration of Meskel, UNESCO registered festivity.