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The African Building Platform

Cover Feature

Red Door Apartments

Rahel Shawl / RASS Team
Architectural Design Team: Rahel Shawl Melat Asrat Elnathan Bizuneh Wubet Teklewold Client: Ato Salahadin Khalifa Structural Design: AEE/GTCE Sanitary Mechanical: SanMech Consult Electrical Design: Fastek Consult Contractor: Mafer Plc
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The dense and socially active neighborhoods of Addis Ababa are melting pots for multitudes of buildings which are reflecting the culture, art, and social trends of the society. One can see different types of architecture in the neighborhoods or “sefers” constructed in different types, styles, and building materials reflecting also the position of the residents’ social status in society. This makes the city’s “sefers” very distinctly diverse from place to place but also brings a heterogeneous and eclectic mix to the city’s urban fabric.

The Red Door is one such addition to the fabric of the city, a project located in Kirkos Kifle Ketema where previously single story but high-density residential building typologies are found. The new building code and development strategy with the goal to have density and mixed-use residences in the inner city required that the project had to be a minimum of 6 floors with a certain floor area ratio allowed. This meant that as the first mid-rise building in this area it also had in a way responsibility for paving the way for new such investors in this location; hopefully, a quality building that would then serve as inspiration to the future developments. Situated on a 750m2 plot of land, the RED DOOR building was to be constructed on a plot of land a few hundred meters inwards from the recently unveiled road stretching from Washington roundabout to Bulgaria junction.

Image: Solan Kifle

The Red Door Apartment and Gallery was primarily a heartfelt project launched by the Client Ato Salahadin Khalifa on land that was his family home, a special place that his family thrived and his kids grew up on. Even though Ato Salahadin is heard describing it jokingly as an effect of “empty nest syndrome” it allowed him to create a project where he injected his energy and time to collect resources and work closely with the selected design and building team.

With this goal of placing a “special” project on the family land, the client set out to look for the right partners to realize his goals and dreams. The journey and collaboration thus began; the client respecting his memories of the place; the design team crafting this space of memory where families will continue to thrive and the contractors to build a bespoke project that spoke of quality in construction. A professional team was selected: RAAS Architects as lead design in collaboration with their engineering consultants and eventually Mafer as the construction partner.

The architects took into consideration the location of the building and with the wishes and desires of the Client, set out to help define the terms of reference. It took the client and the architects team considerable time to study and develop the design brief, making sure that the Client had time to understand what his needs and desires were. Meetings after meetings were held before any concept was developed as the team understood early on the necessity of this “coming to a mutual understanding” phase of the design process until ideas were well refined. The concept design was then developed by the architects in close consultation with the Client.

Image: Bemnet Teklemariam

The idea of the interlocking stack of blocks was developed to best connect the indoor spaces with the outdoors taking advantage of the site being located at a road corner junction. Even though the narrow streets seemed a constraint at first, in the end, this became the basis of the design thought for the architects. The juxtaposition of the exteriors allowed plenty of light and ventilation to come through the continuous balconies from these street fronts to most of the building interiors. In addition to the functional idea, the use of interlocking boxes of intruding-extruding forms defines the individuality of the spaces within creating excitement to all areas, while also enjoying a playful façade in the exterior.

The Red Door Building is a B+G+7 story development comprising 13 units of apartments with different One, Two and Three Bedroom Typologies, including a generous Penthouse. It has allowed for a spacious lobby space on the ground floor with a small spa facility for the residents in the back and some space for parking. The basement floor is presently used for the Red Door Gallery including some storage spaces. The rooftop terrace serves as a communal area where the residents of the building gather for a peaceful contemplation space and get-togethers. Enveloped in green areas and vertical gardens, this floor is suspended over the neighborhood and gives a beautiful vista over the city and the mountains beyond.

As the architects’ driving philosophy portrays…
We design excellence because We Care!

The interior spaces are carefully designed in a way that no apartments face each other for the purpose of privacy while getting the maximum amount of daylight resulting in an interesting floor layout. The extensions of the living rooms to the narrow verandas on each side allow the spaces for greenery to connect with nature and the beautiful vistas, while canopies are used for protection of the interiors from harsh sunlight. Together with the open plan concept of the interior living spaces, the apartments give a light feeling with contemporary simplicity. The interior is rendered with white, pastels, and cement-colored pigments, which gives it a unique touch of simplicity and softness combined. Light furnishing and decorative materials together with carefully selected artwork and greenery complete the beauty of the internal spaces. The placement and proportion of the windows renders a beautiful effect on both the exterior and the interior of the building. Residents can experience the views from their homes on different scales; windows with smaller fenestrations and openings allow for a “framed vista” while larger and distinctive openings allow for an open and vast outlook towards the surrounding.

Since the apartments are combinations of “with balcony” and “without balcony” options, the rooftop is dedicated as a communal space for the residents. The generous layout of the terrace features panoramic 180-degree views of skylines and the cityscape around them. Covering approximately the whole roof area, this terrace delivers not only views but also a great space to accommodate a vibrant social lifestyle. The terrace features a wall of vertical garden populated by succulents, cactus, and flowering species which significantly softens the strong wall of the elevator shaft adding a distinct character to a space that encourages social interactions.

The finishing materials were carefully chosen by the professional team together with the Client and sourced from within the country while most finishing products were imported from abroad. Quality of material was important to set the standard in all respects of architecture, MEP, interior design, and furnishing. The architectural design is experienced by mixing the use of local materials including exposed concrete finishes for internal wall areas, floor finishes as well as window sills and decorative wall renders. The use of concrete mixed with other elements gives spaces a most pleasing fresh perspective and materiality while showing the potential and power of raw concrete as a finishing material. All window frames are made from imported aluminum profiles while flooring is mostly made from imported tiles of porcelain and laminated wood. Waterproofing solutions from local sources were used for roof and balcony exposed areas while a water repellent solution was applied to the external rendered facade to prevent penetration of water to the interiors.

As a building recently completed in the city, the Red Door has successfully combined elements of contemporary architecture with place; simplicity, beauty, and lightness. With its bold colors mixed with nature and greens, it has integrated contemporary living with Ethiopian palettes to be a striking landmark in its neighborhood. A Clients’ dream with a design and construction team dedicated to creating excellence can be taken as a testimony of how architecture can have the power to lead change. The whole process took around 5 years to complete, but hard work, dedication, and the resilience to stay focused on creativity and excellence can be considered as the primary success of the project.

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© July, 2024 Ketema Journal

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