• British Council Building /Emma Vergette

Architects: Emma Vergette (In-House Architect)  
Location: Addis Ababa,  Ethiopia
Project Team: RAAS Architects, G.T. Consulting Engineers, San Mech Consult, Fastek Consult, CPMS (Ethiopia), Peter Deer Associates and Gleeds.
Project Year: 2009

As opposed to most Embassy and Embassy related compounds the British Council Building in Addis Ababa replaces the usually high solid walls with a rather porous design with open railings that maximise visibility of the building, a clear indication of the approachability and openness of the Council. 

Driven by the idea of creating an image of contemporary UK in the African Context the architect borrows heavily from the City of Addis Ababa yet manages to maintain the signature contemporary UK design. Emma Vergette, the in house Architect, specifically mentions the armophic crinkly tin roofed houses and shops that meander through the gaps between the modern buildings in the natural slopes of the city. According to her the units seem indistinguishable with almost continuous roofing membrane. This is referenced in the design by creating a free standing screen, set away from the main façade using randomly positioned, randomly shaped steel sheets meshed together that form a walkway to the car park. Security was one of the major influences in the design of the Council leading to narrow building with the shorter side facing the street and with minimal glazing. Historically the site of the capital city was chosen partly for its large natural resource of forests. The project

re-uses the eucalyptus and other hardwood trees that were felled as part of the site clearance. The roughly sawn and randomly cut sized planks are applied on the front façade giving the façade a highly textured wall that is often baked by both natural and artificial lights. The building is experienced through a series of planes. The first plane is experienced on the public highway on the front of the security gatehouse and is formed as if it is part of the front façade but pulled out from the main building. The main focal plane is the front façade of the building which is split into two solid elements by a central full height entrance-way. The third plane is a high wall that forms the boundary wall of the site, the back wall of the building and acts as a blank backdrop for the rest of the building in front. 

The British Council Building is naturally ventilated using wind-catchers set in the roof structure and the mass of the building’s envelope. The window design is such that maximizes on heat gain during cold seasons and encourages heat loss during overheating periods. Sun pipes have been installed in the roof that brings natural light to the heart of the building saving the need for artificial lighting in most part of the day.

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