Rainwater performance hall for Ethiopia

  • Rainwater-based acoustics
  • Sound reflects on a fabric ceiling loaded with water
  • The site, Unesco-listed Lalibela, Ethiopia
  • The city forms the background of the theatrical performance
  • Foyer overlooking the mountains of Ethiopia
  • Paper model of the seating bowl
  • Paper model of the auditorium envelope
  • Auditorium plan
  • Auditorium cross-section
  • Timber model of the auditorium
  • Timber model of the auditorium
  • Foyer above the auditorium
  • An experiment, the curvature of fabric under water pressure
  • Aesthetic of the seating platforms in cast glass
  • Aesthetic of the seating platforms in cast glass

Rainwater performance hall for Ethiopia

A large hall with rainwater-based acoustics for Lalibela, Ethiopia

2008–09, AA 5th Year, Diploma 7 with tutors Simon Beames and Kenneth Fraser

Lalibela in the valleys of Ethiopia, population 20,000, altitude 2,500 m, is famous for its Unesco-listed rock-hewn churches dating from the twelfth century.  It attracts tourism and at Christmas, over 40,000 pilgrims, but its churches are small and dispersed.  It lacks a great hall for celebrations.

This vast new church is in fact designed as a concert hall which, in addition to Christian mass, would host countryside assemblies of the United Nations (the UN headquarters for Africa are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital) as well as performing arts festivals from all over north-east Africa, expanding on the town’s existing tourism facilities.

The hall addresses the town’s shortage of water by channelling the abundant summer rains and storing them in walls and ceilings clad in waterproof fabric.  Water is massive and as such, it reflects sound; with seasonal variations in the water level, the acoustics of the hall would vary from dry to reverberant.