Meles Zenawi Memorial Park

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2013–21

The memorial park in Addis Ababa is dedicated to the life and ideals of the late prime minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi. The site, located on the northern edge of the city, is planned as a vast, landscaped garden mapped out by a long, continuous path. Along this path, visitors encounter a number of key features, including a series of pavilions devoted to Meles Zenawi’s political legacy and a campus housing the offices, workspaces, and conference facilities of the Meles Zenawi Foundation.

The park celebrates Meles Zenawi’s struggle against poverty in Ethiopia and his promotion of sustainable forms of development to overcome this barrier. The topography of the site alternates between meditative gathering points and stunning vistas. This design matches the two conceptual emphases of the project, namely, a contemplation of Ethiopia’s past, specifically within the context of Meles Zenawi’s leadership, and a celebration of the country’s future.

The campus of the Meles Zenawi Foundation includes five buildings: an outlook and reception area, a guesthouse, offices, a research centre, and a library. Each one exhibiting its own striking architectural concept, the buildings sculpt the spaces between and around them. Not only does this integrate the foundation’s presence into the landscaped park, but it also creates an inviting environment for visitors along the campus’ winding and shaded stone path.

The Park

Studio Other Spaces collaborated with Vogt Landscape Architecture to create curated gardens along the campus path and around the main buildings. The path follows the specific topography of the site and boasts flowers, trees, and stones gathered from all regions of the country, achieving a co-existence of naturally and regionally distinctive traits. In addition, the site features water prominently in a number of settings, a tactile gesture to the resource’s continued importance for the growth of the nation.

The Pavilions in the Park

Stretching along seven commemorative stations throughout the western side of the park, a memorial trail celebrates Meles Zenawi’s childhood, education, revolutionary efforts, service as prime minister, and political legacy. The path exhibits three distinct stages of physical development, each one corresponding to different stages in Meles Zenawi’s life and the rapid growth Ethiopia underwent during his tenure. 

The Outlook

This exhibition and reception area occupies the site’s most prominent panoramic point and is the campus landmark most visible from Addis Ababa proper. The structure, whose design abstractly recalls a tree, unites various conference and exhibition functions under one large roof. The Outlook’s expansive rooftop terrace offers sweeping views of both the city below and the neighbouring botanical gardens.

The Guest House

A collection of brightly painted, freestanding walls arrayed in concentric rings outline the perimeter of the Guest House. While they screen the individual residences from view, the segmented walls allow the park to flow through the communal spaces between them, imparting porosity to the building. The vivid colouration of the rough-plastered wall segments tints the spaces between and within the living spaces, creating different chromatic atmospheres according to the intensity of the sunlight.

The Office Building

As structurally dynamic as they are transparent, the Meles Zenawi Foundation offices are housed in an ascending spiral, with walkways wrapped around the Office Building’s interior and exterior, offering a variety of meeting spaces and adaptable work areas. The pervasive use of glass endows the building with a cross-sectional visibility. The building’s transparency and flowing sequence of spaces express the openness, introspection, and cooperation that drive the foundation’s work.

The Research Centre

Situated in a terraced landscape, the campus’ Research Centre hosts circular workspaces organised around a central meeting place, which allows for ease of communication among researchers.The building’s unorthodox design creates a striking presence within the landscape and, in a way comparable to how sculpture defines space, frames the public terraces cascading out from beneath it.

The Library

The Meles Zenawi Foundation Library is designed as an ascending and expanding spiral, a shape that gestures to the Library’s potential for growth as well as to the constant growth potential of human knowledge. The spiralling floor is sectioned into alternating collection and reading spaces; calmer zones are contrasted with common areas for exchange that are afforded by the spiral staircase at the centre of the structure. While the closed, solid exterior suggests the introverted nature of the building’s use for reading and study, a patio at the upper end of the spiral provides an expansive panorama and space for outdoor recreation.

Client: Meles Zenawi Foundation
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Date: 2013–20
Collaborators: Fasil Giorghis Architects, Vogt Landscape Architects