20 July 2014

Ethiopia: Nearly Solo Bid Process Awards Consortium Br17 Million Parliament Design Contract

A consortium of architectural firms gets a successful solo ride to a 17 million Br government contract for the design of a parliament complex, after three other bidders were dropped very early in the process on grounds of creativity.

This was disclosed during the signing ceremony of the agreement at Jupiter Hotel, on Wednesday July 16, 2014. Only state media were formally invited to witness the event, and the signatories, Kassa Teklebirehan, speaker of the House of Federation, Abadula Gemeda, speaker of the House of Peoples' Representatives, would leave without taking any questions from attending media, leaving behind Addis Mebrehatu, representing the contractor, to deal with that.

The building of the complex, which could cost around two billion Birr, according to the winning consortium's estimate, had been in the planning since 2008, when the first announcement was made that the House of Peoples' Representatives and the House of Federation needed a replacement for the now 72-year old building. Degife Bula, then speaker of the House of Federation, had said at the time that the need was prompted by the shortage of space at the existing building.

That first parliament was designed and built in a space of five months by Italian builder Mario Buschi, the man who had come during the Italian occupation to uproot and take away the Axum obelisk to Rome, according to Angelo del Boca's book, THE NEGUS - The Life and Death of the Last King of Kings. Buschi was also the one who built the precarious Limalimo road, as well as entertaining a grand and wild idea to link Lake Tana to the Red Sea.

The winning consortium for the latest endeavour, which included Addis Mebrahtu Consulting Architects & Engineers, a firm owned by the president of the Ethiopian Architects Association, and Seven Studio Architects Plc, another local firm, also has two Dutch partners, Terurant Archituur and Michiel Clercx Archituura. The committee in charge of the selection process, called the building coordination committee, was composed of two people from MoUDC, one from HPR, one from HoF, one construction expert from the African Union (AU).

This committee rejected the three and took a month doing the technical evaluation of the one remaining design and four days over the financial evaluation, all of which ended with the approval of the offer, according to Tegegn Admassu, member of the committee from the HPR side. The four designs that were submitted following a public tender were in sharp contrast to other large projects, such as the tender for the design of the headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) which had attracted 21 competing designs.

The contract given to the winning consortium is for the winner to produce the detailed design for the building.

The preliminary design incorporates three units of drum-shaped edifices, which will have separate meeting halls for each house, as well as a joint meeting hall and other additional meeting halls and offices for MPs and staff, standing committee rooms, library, print shop, visitors centre, restaurant, parking and garage.

There was no information on the identities of the other three bidders, although they, too, included similar partnerships between local and international firms.

The complex, which was under plan since 2008, will rest on a four-hectare plot between the Lorenzo Tezaz and Colson Streets, across the road from the existing parliament building.

"The detailed design will be finalised in one year," said Addis Mebrahtu, general manger of Addis Mebrahtu Consulting Architects & Engineers.

A new project office will be established under the Ministry of Urban Development & Construction (MoUDC) for technical assistance and follow up of the detail design and the progress of the construction. But until the establishment of the office, a temporary committee from the HPR and HoF will handle the responsibility, according to Abadula, speaking after the signing.

"The new project office will have a steering committee that is composed of engineers, HPR members, HoF members, artists, architects, and MoUDC," said Tegegn Admassu,member of the committee from HPR side.

Phase two of the project, which is going to take place in the next round, will accommodate offices for the Ombudsman, Election Board, General Audit and Human Rights Comission, according to Tegegn. Additional four hectares is on process to be secured from the Addis Abeba Land Bank & Management Office.

"In addition to the traditional designs which show the culture of Ethiopia we made the design by aiming to reflect the concept of transparency and openness by avoiding big tower fences of the compound," said Addis. "The land is sloppy so we tried to make level in the design the complex."

There will be a tender to hire contractors for the construction after the design is completed. Construction is expected to take three years, with the supervision of the architects which designed it.

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