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.