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This blog is a first person account of the construction of the SUDU – the Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – as offered by the construction manager and visiting expert in the area of thin-shell tile vaulting.
The construction of the SUDU prototype was the primary goal of the ETHiopia Urban Laboratory summer school workshop, run in June and July of 2010, in conjunction with experts at the ETH Zürich and the EiABC (Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development). The SUDU is an applied research project meant to culminate in a low-income and sustainable dwelling unit built with local materials and local labor. As the masonry vaulting expert representing the Faculty of Architecture at the ETH, specifically the research group of Prof. Philippe Block, my task has been to oversee the construction of the first floor catenary masonry vault and to train students from the ETH, students from the EiABC, and Ethiopian daily laborers in timbrel vault technology. Therefore – beyond the clear goal of the final prototype – the primary application of my research is towards the dissemination of skills and knowledge, including technical skill, knowledge of structural principles and clear understanding of the behavior of vaults at the full scale. This BLOG is intended to focus on the problem of training – or capacity building – of so called ‘appropriate building technologies’ in Ethiopia.
This work could not have been accomplished without the support of the following people:
Prof. Dr. Philippe Block (Chair of building structure at the ETH), Dirk Hebel (Scientific Director EiABC), Dr. Christine Bratrich (Director ETH Sustainability), Dr. Barbara Becker (Director ETH North-South Centre), Prof. Dr. Marc Angélil (Dean D-ARCH ETH), Dr. Elias Yitbarek (Housing Chair and Research Directer EiABC) , Zegeye Cherenet (Deputy Director EiABC), Fasil Giorghis.
And my primary team on the ground for running all at once an international summer school and a full scale applied research construction: Catherine Lippuner (Workshop coordinator from ETH Sustainability), Astrid Smitham (Assistant for ETH Sustainability), Tibebu Daniel (Workshop coordinator from EiABC), Herbert Schmitz (Lecturer for Appropriate Building Technology at the EiABC), Dejene Liramo (Consulting Structural Engineer), Josef Hennes and Melakeselam Moges.
Last, the Ethiopian daily laborers I worked with for five weeks, and the nature of our exchange, will be the focus of this BLOG. It is this group of people to whom I owe my greatest thanks for their impact on this research, especially Abinet, Abush, Chamba, Dibrou, Geri, Soloman, and Dawid.
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