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Zoma Museum: A Role Model of Connecting Art and Sustainability
Source: GFHS | Author: gfhsforum | Publish time: 2020-07-01 | 204 Views | Share:

Abstract: Zoma Museum located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is seen as a regenerative effort characterized by a wonderful combination between art and sustainability. Built on reclaimed land that was previously the site of an informal dumping ground, the compound includes an exhibition gallery, a library, a children center, an edible organic garden, a kindergarten, an art and vernacular architecture school, an amphitheater, a restaurant, a barn with a biogas facility and a museum shop. Sustainable construction methods like wattle and daub, cob and drystone walls come together to create a unique and futuristic landscape, complemented by a beautifully lush and organically cultivated vegetable garden. In line with a participatory approach, the inhabitants of the neighborhood are employed in the facility. In short, it represents an excellent practice that fosters local innovation, promotes economic growth, strengthens social inclusion, safeguards ecological environment, and protects traditional arts and culture.

Keywords: Zoma Museum, art and culture, vernacular architecture, sustainability, organic farming, innovation


GFHS delegation visited the Zoma Museum, September 2019, Addis Ababa

Photo credit by @ GFHS


Introduction

Zoma Museum is a dream inspired 25 years ago by the timeless grace of vernacular architecture of Ethiopia and other parts of the world. Located in Mekanisa, Addis Ababa, the museum was built on reclaimed land that was previously the site of an informal dumping ground.

Zoma Museum includes an exhibition gallery, a library, a children center, an edible garden, a kindergarten, an art and vernacular architecture school, an amphitheater, a restaurant, a barn with a biogas facility and a museum shop.

The Museum’s mission centers on bringing traditional construction techniques into the present by demonstrating their ability to withstand time and weathering while maintaining their grace and beauty. The museum’s aim is to showcase innovative and cutting-edge art and architecture in a vernacular museum where the old and the new merge.

A key aspect of the significance of Zoma Museum for the discourse on sustainable cities and human settlements is that it offers an alternative model to current urban development trends that involve the use of construction techniques with a heavy environmental footprint.

As an environmentally conscious art institution, Zoma Museum wants to be an inspiration for our society in envisioning a more sustainable future.


The Architect art in ZOMA Museum, Addis Ababa, 2019   Photo credit by @ GFHS

Innovative, sustainable planning and design

Traditional building techniques have been applied throughout the space, including drystone walls, wattle and daub and cob. They come together to create a unique and futuristic landscape, complemented by a beautifully lush and organically cultivated vegetable garden. These building techniques have been chosen for their beauty, low environmental impact, durability and versatility, in addition to being particularly suited to local climatic conditions.

The garden landscaping, entirely planned by Meskerem Assegued and Elias Sime, preserved the hilly terrain’s natural slope and the windy cobblestone walkways crossing through it were designed to follow the natural trails that existed prior to purchasing the land.

The vegetable gardens, set on terraces, are fenced with a variety of herbs. Irrigation channels separate the different sections’ retaining walls, exposing the water to the sun to help eliminate the pathogens.

The most innovative aspect of Zoma Museum’s design and planning is represented by the modern esthetics that traditional construction techniques find in the different buildings around the compound.

At the heart of Zoma Museum is also the concept of cross-cultural collaboration: the garden includes more than 40 small bridges crossing over irrigation channels. These temporary bridges, constructed with scrap eucalyptus poles, will eventually be replaced by artistic architectural projects by international artists from around the world. These bridges will be symbols of a long-lasting relationship between cultures of different nations and artists will be selected through one of Zoma Museum’s residency programs.

Sustainability measures

The museum’s core structures have been built using sustainable construction materials such as mud, organic fibrous materials, gravel and stones. The compound is almost 90% cement-free, cement being used only for the construction of the wheelchair access ramp and as the basis of the wattle and daub buildings (due to the unwillingness of the local administration to issue a construction permit for these buildings foundations).

Interiors are also decorated using recycled materials. Floors are layered in wood recycled from shipping pallet and door handles have been created with the creative use of common objects like cutlery and hammers.
     
Zoma Museum includes a biogas facility where manure is collected through a system from the barn and processed for the production of biogas. The milk is produced in Zoma Museum’s barn, which is also connected to a biogas facility.

The garden and biogas facility of ZOMA Museum, 2019  Photo credit by @ GFHS


The landscaping has respected the natural slope and shape of the area. The Museum’s garden is an incredible example of urban farming, including Ethiopian endemic vegetables and herbs, cultivated without the use of pesticides and fertilizers. The restaurant kitchen sources all of the vegetables from the garden. A cultivation technique called companion planting was adopted, which involves cultivating different crops in proximity to each other to combine their intrinsic properties of pest control, pollination and providing a habitat for beneficial creatures. Also, the compound includes a section dedicated to indigenous endangered trees.

The garden is crossed by a number of canals that collect water from a nearby river, creating a natural, self-gravitation irrigation system. The water is purified with a system of plants and sandbags. The mortar free terraces on which cultivation is carried out are adjacent to these canals so that any excess water and rain water is collected again in these streams, which ultimately bring the water back to the Akaki river.

     In line with a participatory approach, the inhabitants of the neighborhood are employed in the facility. The proximity to the river Akaki made Mekanisa an area of urban farming even before Zoma Museum was built, and farmers in the area now work in the museum’s garden and have access to surplus agricultural production that is not used within Zoma. The museum is also generating economic activities in an otherwise neglected neighborhood of Addis Ababa.


The organic garden and restaurant of ZOMA Museum, 2019   Photo credit by @ GFHS


Outcomes and benefits

Zoma Museum is the result of a long process of land regeneration. The site was previously an informal landfill, which has been completely cleared from solid waste and where new fertile soil has taken the place of soil damaged by chemical waste. The landscaping work followed and resulted in a large vegetable garden, organically cultivated through the use of a natural self-gravitational irrigation system of channels separated by dry stone retaining walls. Sand bags and sun exposure contribute to the system of water purification and all excess water is then channeled towards the river.



The art and vernacular architecture school and kindergarten of ZOMA Museum, 2019  
Photo credit by @ GFHS


Zoma Museum, however, is much more than a regeneration project and its impact reaches far into the future: the museum aims to promote intergenerational sustainability, investing in the education of young children as well as new generations of architects.

Society must recognize the importance of investing in education and the promotion of values of environmental sustainability from an early age. Real sustainability can only be achieved through an intergenerational effort, where the younger generations are involved in the discourse, both as moral subjects, to be protected from environmental degradation, and as active participants in the search for solutions and the creation of values.

The museum in itself is a demonstration that building sustainably and mindfully within our growing urban centers is possible, and it hopes to inspire others to follow its footsteps. Zoma Museum believes that artists and children are the visionaries that can realize a sustainable future. As a garden and laboratory for creativity, Zoma Museum nurtures these precious citizens with its organic farm, school, exhibition spaces and studios. 

This is why Zoma Museum is building within its compound a vernacular architecture school, where architecture students will be able to learn about these traditional sustainable building techniques. The museum’s mission is not simply to showcase examples of these construction methods, but also to contribute to the preservation of this knowledge by teaching these methods and their viable applications.

Conclusion

As a public space and cultural institution, Zoma Museum has been fostering a positive societal change through the promotion of a more conscious environmental ethics, the preservation of Ethiopia’s cultural heritage, and the demonstration of arts and culture. In the meantime, the Museum is dedicated to cultivating an inspiring oasis where artists will innovate, children will flourish, and people from around the world will find inspiration and hope.

This article was compiled based on the application submitted by Zoma Museum for the Sustainable Cities And Human Settlements Awards 2019.