Construction Aspects in Ethiopia's Architectural Traditions: A Comparative View


Comparative research
Architectural typologies
Vernacular architecture
Sub-Saharan architecture
Traditional building

How to Cite

Gruber, P., & Datta, K. (2021). Construction Aspects in Ethiopia’s Architectural Traditions: A Comparative View. Journal of Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism, (2), 318–332.


The traditional architecture of Ethiopia is manifold and spreads over a wide range of climatic zones and topographies, serving a diversity of societies. Within these contexts, the architectural traditions that have emerged show extraordinary quality and adaptability. All basic kinds of building construction can be found in diverse Ethiopian building cultures and types. In this paper, selected examples of this rich heritage, from massive stone buildings to nomadic tents, are presented and analyzed as regards their tectonic aspects and materials, and cultural interpretations are proposed. Our methodology is a comparison of building features, sizes, and spans together with materials, details, and resulting structural performance, based on documented traditional types. Comparison of building cultures that are similar even though ostensibly unrelated can highlight aspects of convergent development; alternatively, they may suggest unknown or underappreciated historical cultural exchanges and influence.


Assegued, Meskerem; and Sime, Elias. 2002. Zoma Museum. (consulted on 12/7/2021).

Breton, Jean-François. 2015. Les bâtisseurs des deux rives de la mer Rouge. Addis Ababa: Centre français des études éthiopiennes.

Domenig, Gaudenz. 1980. Tektonik im Primitiven Dachbau. Zurich: ETH Zürich.

Ferng, Jennifer. 2015. Elemental Vernacular: Designing Beyond Human Authorship. Architectural Theory Review, vol. 20, 3: 291-295. DOI: 10.1080/13264826.2015.1195479

Friedlander, María-José; and Friedlander, Bob. 2015. Hidden treasures of Ethiopia. London: I.B.Tauris.

Gruber, Petra; and Eissa, Mahmoud. 2014. Old town of Jeddah. Results of the building survey of the Al-Nawar house. Architectura, 1: 1-16.

Last, Jill. 1981. Ethiopians and the Houses they live in. Addis Ababa: Ethiopian Tourism Commission.

Rieger-Jandl, Andrea. 2013. Tradition in transition: reflections on the architecture of Ethiopia; with a special focus on the Afar region. Vienna: IVA-ICRA.

Schefold, Reimar; Nas, Peter; and Domenig, Gaudenz. 2004. Indonesian houses: Tradition and Transformation in Vernacular Architecture. Singapore: Singapore University Press.

Sieghartsleitner, Alexander. 2010. Traditionelle Bauformen im Westen Saudi-Arabiens, Eine Gegenüberstellung der Altbauten von Jeddah und der Lehmbauten des Asir. Diploma Thesis. Vienna: Vienna University of Technology.

Shimizu, Nobuhiro. 2015. An Analysis of the Construction Method of Emperor Yohannes IV’s Buildings in Tigray Region, Ethiopia. In Naredra Bondla, James; G. C. Smidt, Wolbert; Furusaki, Yoko; and Bekerie, Ayele (eds.), Cultural Landscapes of Ethiopia: Conference Proceedings. Mekelle: Mekelle University Printing.

Weldekian, Garedew Mengesha. 2015. Transformation of Konso Vernacular Houses. Master Thesis. Addis Ababa: EiABC Addis Ababa University.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Download data is not yet available.