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International Competition Rockhewn Churches, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Restoring cultural heritage of Rockhewn Churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia

In 1999 FBW was involved in a closed international competition to safeguard eleven churches, dating back from the 13th century, from the effects of the weather and climate in general.

The churches, established by the king of Lalibela, were craved out of tuff stones and almost invisibly tucked away at three locations in the hills outside the city of Lalibela. Symbolical excess roads carved deep into the hills connect the churches. Around the churches several tombs can be found.

Despite the ingenious drainage system established by the king himself, the churches, being part of the UNESCO World Heritage list, suffer profound erosion. Together with ABT, engineering advisors, FBW sought for practical and affordable technological solutions. The terrain in which the churches have been built are hard to reach and efficient expertise within this field is lacking.

The solution that was proposed by FBW, triangular standard elements for the three-dimensional columns and 50-meter span rooftrusses, can be easily assembled and taken apart. A curved translucent polycarbonate roofing covers the structure. Thus the churches are protected as with a blanket against climatic assaults. In this sense the proposed lightweight construction will not unnecessarily burden any further churches and surroundings.

Project Details

Name International Competition Rockhewn Churches
Location Lalibela, Ethiopia
Date of Design 1999-2000
Area 120Ha
Client Ethiopian Government, financing through the EC