15th Annual Conference

The 15th Annual Conference of the Association of Ethiopian Architects (AEA) will promote excellence in the profession of architecture and realise the massive hidden potential of Ethiopia’s construction industry

Few would dispute that the creativity manifested in the architecture of the growing number of infrastructure developments adorning Ethiopia’s landscape is awe-inspiring. It is on par with the best the world can offer, thanks to the hard work, dedication and focus of the architects involved.

And to safeguard the benchmark of excellence its devoted members have painstakingly established, the Association of Ethiopian Architects (AEA) holds a conference annually. Through the forum, the contribution of architects to Ethiopia’s construction sector is assessed and possible ways in which it can be enhanced broached.

Of all conferences held in recent years, there has been massive interest in the 2013 version, dubbed 15th Annual AEA, due to the landmark decisions that were reached as the AEA sought to uphold the profession’s integrity.

Zero tolerance for mediocrity

During the conference, while acknowledging the selflessness its members displayed, the AEA lamented the prevalence of unethical practices that threatened to tarnish the profession’s hard-earned reputation. With grave concern, it had noted bizarre instances where some corrupt individuals rented out their licences to unqualified third parties.

“As a sector whose performance is invariably defined by the excellence of its work, we do not tolerate mediocrity at all costs,” Addis Mebratu, President of the AEA tells Construction Review in a review of the 15th annual conference.

As the director of Addis Mebratu Architecture and Engineering Consulting, a firm behind the intriguing design of some of Ethiopia’s most enduring infrastructure developments, Mebratu is well-informed on trends, and his counsel on various matters relating to is authoritative.

“Architecture is the foundation of the construction sector. Once it is in a shaky state, the poor quality of work in the projects rendered will be cruelly exposed. And as professionals we have to ensure that we stand by the mandatory ethics.” He said.

Milestone resolutions

The publicity the 2013 conference has garnered has been far-reaching, with stakeholders anticipating its possible implications. Some landmark milestone resolutions were reached on registration/licensing/certification of the practice of architecture, recommended Architects’ Fee Scale and AEA Awards Program for celebrating excellence.

Policy on registration/Licensing/ Certification of the practice of Architecture

The AEA observed that the existing directives set out by the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction (MoUDC) had been overtaken by the developments in the construction industry. The main shortcomings that were highlighted were that it was out of scope with international practice for the registration of architects and had limitations in promoting the development of the profession.

So, the AEA suggested that it should be mandated to render its advice on matters relating to the registration and licensing of architects, through advocating and implementing its policy in collaboration with relevant public bodies.

Furthermore, the alignment of its registration policy with international practice would pave the way for the engagement of Ethiopian architects in international practice.

Worth mentioning, the AEA policy for the registration of architects is based on the International Union of Architects(UIA) accord on recommended international standards for professionalism in architectural practice, consideration of current local context and consultation with the advisory team of the association.

The AEA expressed hope that the policy would improve the quality of the built environment, over and above enforcing ethical architectural practice, in the long run.

Recommended Architects’ Fee Scale

The absence of an established architects’ fee standard has had a dismal impact on the ethical practice of architecture and had led to a dysfunction in the market for architectural practices, the AEA conference noted.

For this reason, the AEA believes the institution of a fee would achieve the following:

• Improve ethical practice, promote innovation and improve quality of architectural design services.

• Improve the working environment of architects

• Create a yardstick for negotiation rates for budgeting design costs for government projects.

The AEA suggested the adoption of a simplified and flexible architect’s fee structure based on the following:

• UIA accord on recommended international standards for professionalism in architectural practice

• Consideration of current local context

• Long term application by BDE, the biggest government led architecture and engineering consultant

• Consultation with the advisory team of the association who have ample experience in professional practice

The AEA said it was important to ensure that all members abide by this professional fee standard.

AEA Awards Program for celebrating excellence

The AEA suggested the introduction of a regulation on awards honouring excellence, which would encourage merit, talent and activities of national importance. Thus, it resolved to adopt the AEA awards regulation modeled on the UIA awards regulation, which would be implemented starting 2006 E.C.(Ethiopian calendar)

Enabling endorsement

While some might doubt the government’s commitment, the AEA is optimistic that the landmark resolutions passed will get the much needed endorsement to facilitate implementation.

“We do believe the MoUHC and other public sector stakeholders value the significance of the role of architects in the development of infrastructure and will wholeheartedly buy into the changes,” says Mebratu.

“One of the most practical ways of augmenting the built environment is to ensure that the profession of architecture is in a robust state.”

Authoritative and influential

Having clocked 20 years of existence, the AEA has evolved into an authoritative and influential unit capable of effectively carrying out some of the most challenging tasks facing Ethiopia’s construction sector. So far, it is meeting the following objectives it is mandated to achieve:

• To create a professional forum for the advancement of Architecture, to encourage and support architectural training, research and improve related cultural traditions,

• To advance the general professional interests of its members and devise means for their realisation

• To ensure that professional ethics are observed by its members.

On the right track

The 15th Conference was successfully hosted and the interest it has aroused proves that the organisation is on the right track, says Mebratu.

“We are pleased with the high esteem in which we are held, but in an industry where trends are changing at the bat of an eyelid, more hurdles lie ahead. We are under no illusions.

“The most pressing task is seeing to it that our conference’s recommendations are thoroughly implemented.”