Mebratu Beyene – President, AEA

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Architect Addis Mebratu Beyene, 39, is the current President of the Association of Ethiopian Architects. He got his first Bachelors of Science Degree in Architecture and Town Planning at Addis Ababa University in 1996 followed by a Masters in Urban Design and Planning from the same institution. After practicing architecture with National Consultants a leading firm of architects in Ethiopia for three years Mr Mebratu joined MIDROC Construction company where he worked for the next 7 years enabling him to gain valuable experience in construction to enable him better his design skills.

Ruth Girma of Construction Review recently met up with Arch. Mebratu and interviewed him on the goals and aspirations of the Association of Ethiopian Architects an association he has led since 2011.

How did you get involved with the AEA?

When I was a second year student at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development [EIABC], the university was closed for three month due to some problems. During that break six of my friends and I set out to organise an architectural exhibition this was because there was a general lack of awareness of architecture as a profession.

Even in my high school years at a school called Saint Joseph, I hardly heard the term architect brought mentioned. So I believed that awareness creation should be carried out. We prepared a well-organized Architectural Exhibition with a number of works exhibited by both students and professionals. The event was a success and from that point on my passion and keenness to contribute to this field and profession was cast.

We didn’t stop there, after we finished school we formed an Arc Club, a club set out to give architecture the attention it deserves where lectures were given by some of the great personalities, every fifteen days.

When the club came to an end after three years, I was chosen to become a member of the AEA as a secretary and in 2011, at the age of 37, I was selected president.

What is the main objective the Association strives to achieve?

The primary objective of the Association is to promote the profession and increase the quality of the work in the field.

What are the challenges you have encountered while aiming for these objectives?

The biggest obstacle the association faces would be institutional capacity, both financially and manpower. The source of income for the Association is membership fees which is very low and results in the costs of conferences or publications having to be covered by sponsors and well wishers.

What problems does an architect face?

On a scale of 1 to 10 what the Association has achieved in alleviating the existing problems would be somewhere around one; we have a long way to go. The challenges are many starting from public education on the need for an architect to the need for architectural advice. The association recently approved a policy on Registration of Architects revolving around the appropriate requirements for Architectural Registration.

The current practice for registration as an Architect is basic and lacks any evaluation of qualification exams. Implementing the policy would result in selection and recruiting of qualified architects to carry out projects with the results that the quality of the building environment would improve. working at the scale of Architectural Buildings and Urban Design

Architectural fees has become the other problem. The dysfunctional working market means that fees vary greatly ranging from millions to ten of thousands. This results in customers going for the least bidder, neglecting a quality based selection.

What is the association doing about these problems?

With regards to that, the association is toiling to promote a quality and cost based selection system where we estimate activities like design competitions; evaluating outcomes rather than just papers thus making architecture output measurable.

Clients need to realize that less pay will only degrade the devoted man-hours committed to the project which can have negative and more costly remedial action. The association has approved a professional architect’s fee scale and is advocating with the government, private developers and architects.

We also want to organize Award programs, planned to start next year, in order to acknowledge and initiate good works that endorse quality.

These are some of the strategic areas we want to work towards achieving better quality in urban environment and buildings.