vernacular Architecture of Argobba, Ethiopia: The Case of Shonke Amba

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Addis Ababauniversity


Vernacular architecture is dwelling and other buildings of people and structures made by empirical builders without the intervention of professional architects. In other words it can be defined as the architectural languages of the people. It is designed based on local needs, availability of construction materials, reflecting local traditions and the highest form of sustainable building using the most available material. The main objective of this research was to document the spatial elements and heritages of the Argobba people found at the locality of Shonke Amba at settlement, compound and house level. The study basically aimed at documenting the formation of the settlement i.e., space used, methods of construction and existing house typologies. The origin of the name ‘Argobba’ has two assumptions. First the elders of Shonke Amba say that, Argobba means Areb gebba (Arabs have entered). The second is Har gubba which means silk that is seen on mountain. Argobba are people found in south eastern Wello and north- eastern of Shewa the current Amhara regional estate in Ethiopia. They are Muslim, self-sufficient agriculturists, traditional cloth weavers and merchants. Their home land stretches between north Oromia to south Wello on the ranges of mountain or escarpments. To achieve the objective, an integrated approach, which included anthropological, sociological, behavioral and architectural, research method, was used. The case study was conducted on 24 selected houses (local called dereb bet). The selection was conducted based on the type of dwellings and their compounds. A review from literature, questionnaire, interviews, maps, GPS and photographs were used to collect data. The collected data were analyzed using tables, maps, GIS, perception maps. The analysis result shows that the settlement is divided into three sub settlements (genda’s). The compound form is a polygon with an area size ranging from 21 – 236 m2. The major elements of the compound are the house, weret (animal domain) and Kara (the front yard). The house is classified into four types. Two row (local name self or jemb is a space created between two rows of column) three rows, four rows, and five rows house type. The roads within the settlement are organic grid system with road names and hierarchy. The entire house at Shonke Amba is very close to the narrow access road. The reasons behind this are 1) to utilize the maximum space for settlement at the Amba. 2) to mislead the location during aggression and 3) to protect themselves from invaders. The house and the Amba based settlement are the identities of Argobba people because the settlement has preserved the culture and religion of Argobba for the last 834 years. Currently this amazing heritage site has been demolished for the need for wooden columns, (local name bala) main wooden beam, (local name feres) and secondary wooden beam (local name gadim), to reconstruct the house around the farm area. The study recommends that all bodies concerned should take immediate action to preserve the site for tourist attraction by creating awareness among the Argobba people about the heritage and the social benefit. In addition to these improving basic needs such as developing clean v water source, providing clean communal toilets, having accommodation space for tourists, improving the road infrastructure for easy access should be considered. Moreover, the water proof flat roof and the load resistant wooden beam made of Olive tree or common name African wild Olive (local name woira) need further research which might contribute a lot for the future sustainable housing development



Argobba Ethiopia