Quo Vadis, Addis?

The design studio Quo Vadis, Addis? addresses the question of how to integrate manufacturing in the textile and garment sector within the socio-spatial fabric of Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa. The objective is to challenge the predominant tendency in the country to treat workplaces as monofunctional enclaves isolated from their context.

Ethiopia is currently considered the new frontier of the garment industry, with clothes “Made in Ethiopia” being the cheapest to produce globally. In fact, large-scale factories have been built all over the country, particularly around Addis Ababa, producing for foreign markets and global brands, while exploiting the young labor force seeking to make a living.

Taking its clues from a long tradition of craftsmanship in textile-making and that of artisans being organized in small-scale co-operatives, the studio sets out to explore modern-day alternatives to current low-wage, precarious production arrangements. In seeking to identify strategies for empowering people via locally embedded forms of economic development, solutions are sought for incorporating the labor force and the workplace into the civic realm – socially and spatially.

The studio asks how design could improve the quality of the habitats that inhabitants collectively inhabit – habitats that are equitable, sustainable, and spatially sound.