Unity Park, Addis Ababa
Design, illustration and art direction for a ground breaking public space in the heart of Ethiopia's capital city.
Unity Park is a public space in the centre of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Opened in October 2019 the park, an initiative of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, is situated within the 100 acres of palace grounds. The park serves as a platform for education and history, aspiring to show unity in Ethiopia’s diverse cultures.
I was commissioned to design a number of pieces for the park, including a typographic sculpture, murals and a welcome gateway.
‘I Love Ethiopia’ sculpture
The project began with a typographic sculpture design. In collaboration with Shapes Art Services I art directed the typeface selection and layout for this sculpture that would greet visitors on entry to the park, and provide a key photographic opportunity.
A combination of Amharic and Roman typefaces that work together were required for the sculpture. Amharic letterforms are commonly script-like when used commercially but the design brief called for a modern typeface. By researching Ethiopian typographers, a match was found and developed into the final design.
Murals decorate the walkways through the park and its sculptures to the viewing platform, encouraging visitors to interact with the environment. Following discussions and proposals of various concepts, the decision was finalised on an illustrative style that would reflect the vibrance and diversity of the country and its culture. The total length of the murals is over 220 metres, reaching 3 metres high at their tallest point. Over 80 individual illustrations were created and combined to complete the layouts.
The illustrations depict Ethiopian culture, native wildlife and heritage in the colours of the national flag, in a style that was loose and approachable. The abstract backgrounds across the artwork are derived from the Amharic characters spelling Ethiopia, along with the natural landscape of the country. Extensive research was undertaken to ensure the subjects chosen, and final illustrations, were accurate and represented Ethiopian culture appropriately. The mural designs were hand painted by street artists Kalakarah.
Addis Ababa is developing and transforming at a pace and the park is seen by many as a much needed green space and area of relaxation. Unity Park has been well received: the typographic sculpture is a selfie hotspot and is often used as a photo location by the Prime Minister with visiting heads of state. It is rewarding to see posts on social media (some shown above) of people enjoying the art.
“Unity Park symbolises our ability to come together for a common goal and cross the finish line by creating an exquisite lasting prints of our collective worth.”
Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia