The Ethiopian branch of Australian multi-disciplinary design practice Conrad Gargett has been engaged to design the modernisation of the iconic Africa Hall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) recently signed a partnership agreement with the contractor Africa Hall Projects FZE for the $28-million project, which will see the complete renovation and refurbishment of Africa Hall.

Conrad Gargett’s Ethiopian studio team participated in the formal signing ceremony between the ECA and Africa Hall Projects FZE.

Built in 1961, Africa Hall – located at the UNECA headquarters in Addis Ababa – was the venue for the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963.

The plan for the preservation, restoration and modernisation of the iconic building was set in motion in 2008 by United Nations Member States to commemorate the UNECA’s 50th anniversary.

Conrad Gargett has been working on the conservation, restoration and activation of Africa Hall since 2013. The design firm was formally appointed as the principal consultant in 2014 to deliver architectural and engineering services for the modernisation project.

David Gole, principal of Conrad Gargett with expertise in heritage architecture, said, “The project will deliver state-of-the-art conference spaces and a permanent exhibition space to host diplomatic meetings, cultural performances and art exhibitions from across Africa.

It will also deliver a visitor’s centre enabling the public to access the building for the first time. The precinct will be beautifully landscaped to further enhance the place as a major international tourist attraction for Ethiopia.”

According to Conrad Gargett senior associate architect Luke Pendergast, who leads the studio in Ethiopia, the Africa Hall building designed by Italian architect Arturo Mezzedimi is modernist in style and constructed primarily in reinforced concrete.

The deterioration of the concrete structure over time requires remediation in the form of invasive structural works to ensure the building resists seismic activity, can be safely occupied and provides equitable access to all.

“The focus of the Africa Hall project is conservation, safety, accessibility and modernisation. All upgrades to the buildings and site have been detailed to be sympathetic with the original design, integrate and enhance site infrastructure, be cost effective and align with current international best practices design guidelines and construction codes,” explained Pendergast.

Conrad Gargett’s managing director Lawrence Toaldo says, “Our practice has expertise with the empathetic and thorough restoration, preservation and adaptive repurposing of heritage and cultural buildings and sites of significance in Australia and offshore."

"Conrad Gargett is proud to contribute towards making Africa Hall an enduring cultural and community precinct for the people of Africa and foster international tourism,” he says.