When I see cityscapes with the silhouettes of skyscrapers, I often wonder: how do these massive buildings make you feel in a city? Urban? Contemporary? Modern? Proud? Chic? Rich? Poor? Small?
Addis downtown area and some other parts of the city are growing fast into the skies creating striking contrasts with older buildings that are still standing next to them. You can’t but wonder whether Addis is contaminated with what is known as “Dubai fever?” This syndrome, or Dubaiization manifests itself with the desire to copy an urban model lined with capital and power, and it gives you the impression of a city designed overnight. Buildings look as if they were imported from another location and planted to a new one without the original context. This cut and paste method leaves out local history altogether.
When I was strolling the streets of Addis I could still feel the historical identity of the city in some neighborhoods but at the same time I noticed that many buildings had simply disappeared since my last visit and had been replaced by massive gated construction sites. The city certainly has interesting and challenging times ahead! This really is the time to document the amazing transformation that is taking place in Addis. My humble contribution to this documentation will be visible in the upcoming exhibitions for Afropolis 2020.
If you would like to read more about the Dubai Fever, I recommend the article by Katriina Stoll: “Dubai Fever. The Dream of an Urban Model in Ethiopia” in Cities of Change: Addis Ababa by Mark Angélil and Dirk Hebel (Birkhäuser, Basel 2016).