TYPOLOGY: Hospitality LOCATION: Dawro, Ethiopia ARCHITECTS: RAAS ARCHITECTS CLIENT:  Prime Minister Office YEAR OF REALIZATION: 2023  CONTRACT VALUE: BIRR —- million. PLOT AREA: 12ha Status: Construction Completed

Halala Kella Lodge is one of the major touristic destinations undertaken as part of the ‘Gebeta Le Hager’ cluster of the Koysha project initiated by Dr Abey Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

Located in the Dawro Zone of the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region, Halala Kella itself is a historic defensive great wall constructed by King Kawo Halala between the years 1782 -1822 EC. Apart from the historical attraction of this wall which is believed originally to be around 175km long circling the hilly landscape, the great Omo River and the artificial lake created by the Gibe III Dam contributes to the natural beauty of this area. The Dawro people’s captivating and dynamic history and culture includes the love of the land, the pride in the Halala Kella great wall; colorful and vibrant clothing; exotic language; amazing food and beautiful musical instruments like the Dinka are some attributes which makes it an untapped potential that is to be utilized to the benefit of the community, the country and the world at large.

The area outlined for the lodge construction is around 12 hectares located on one of the many hills of this historical land. The hills have by and large around 45-degree slope on land that is mostly basaltic slabs and tightly surrounded by the historic Kella. In addition to this, the site is located at 850mts above sea level in the hot lowlands of Ethiopia which means that throughout most of the year the temperature is extremely hot ranging from 30-38 degree Celsius.

The project construction is undertaken as a Design-Build Project by Elmi Olindo Co. in collaboration with RAAS Architects. Taking on this exciting task, Elmi and the team consisting of architects, engineers, artists, landscapers, and many other building professionals, set out to design and build with a goal of delivering a project within one-year period. The project scope consists of two Presidential Villas; 18 One and Two-Bedroom Villas; Convention Center & Museum; Reception, Restaurant and Bar; Recreation Building; Satellite Restaurant and Sunset Deck complete with buildings to house ancillary facilities and services. Two outdoor swimming pools, an outdoor amphitheater, hard and soft landscaping works, interior design and fit out, artwork design and installation are also part of the works.


The design concept is centered around respecting the culture and history of the Great Halala Wall and the peoples of Dawro. In addition to this the vernacular architecture of the place as in many other parts of Ethiopia, is characterized by tukuls with very high roofs to ventilate the internal space. The building design uses and transforms these into a contemporary design fusing the important vernacular architecture of the tukul with the historical tradition of building with stone. In this way most of the residences pay homage to the traditional “tukul” circular form with the top cone of the roof chamfered to allow air for passive ventilation of the space while allowing diffused light into the space. In the presidential villas the circular inner courtyard adds to a horizontal layer of air circulation and light. The circular form is then enclosed by rectangular horizontal walls in a contemporary manifestation of the historic Halala Wall “protecting the home”. Indoor and outdoor green areas and cascading water on walls bring end users closer to nature and the surrounding. By using the topography of the land, all villas are designed to have complete privacy as well as amazing views from windows and private terraces. The green slated roof with the cut roofs blend and sit into the beautiful environment which contributes to the vista.


The “core of the project” is the public spaces where communities gather for food, coffee, and social hours. In a similar concept as the residences, the conical roof of the Restaurant is completely cut off and left open to allow the hot air to escape and the wind and rain to come in, making this space as one with nature. The conical funnel braced with cables and encircled with mesh allows water to come into carefully controlled rock garden at the base of the restaurant using biophilic design concepts connecting users to nature. Same as the roof cover of the villas, the conical roof is covered with green slates while the concrete roofs is covered with extensive green foliage which will be natural and low maintenance foliage. Wooden rafters, beams and slats with concrete columns and beams complete the carefully thought-out architecture to be harmonious with the structure. Here the restaurant not only opens to the sky but sideways, to a view over the historic walls, the lake far below and towards the chain mountains of Wolaita. This scenic view is dramatically captured in a beautifully framed open-end two-story bar area. As one enters the reception and steps down the terraces towards the lounge. The building’s horizontal structure cascades down the slope again enclosing the circular tukul in its ‘protective’ concept. 


The Convention Center (155 people capacity) and Museum Building is designed as one simple rectangular structure cascading on the slopes to allow the construction of auditorium seats and outdoor seating and viewing areas. The building also frames entrances, exits, and windows for maximum view of the spectacular landscape.  The Recreation Building sits in the same horizontal cascading structure as the Convention Center to the right left side of the Restaurant block. This structure holds a gymnasium, an outdoor infinity pool with spa and terrace areas with fantastic views of the lake. Same as the Restaurant, the roof of this building is covered with extensive green roof which will help cool the building in the hot climate.


The addition of the ‘Sunset Deck’ serves as a serene escape space on the far cliff of the site. The oval shaped deck with central submerged seating area cantilevers over the cliff giving people the sense of being suspended over the landscape. This viewing deck serves for people to enjoy the 270-degree panoramic view of the lake below and the impressive mountain scape of the surrounding Dawro Mountains while the sun sets behind them. For those visitors arriving by boat from the Wolaita riverbank, the Satellite Restaurant is a funky circular ‘open’ snack bar that is the first point of entry to Halala Kella Lodge on the Dawro side of the riverbank.


The entrance to the Halala Kella Lodge had to forgo the mandatory cutting of one part of the ‘Great Wall’ to allow access and entry into the lodge area. Minimum intervention has been taken to this wall where the stones were carefully taken apart piece by piece by the construction team along with the local people. Carefully articulated stelae’s derived and articulated from ‘Dinka’, the traditional musical instrument of the Dawro, stand guard in protection and honor of the Halala wall. Pathways have been cleared around the whole site for pedestrians to walk and enjoy the Halala Wall in proximity for maximum connection and serving as a living museum.


The landscape of the project is designed with utmost care to enhance the natural environment of the area. The walkways, roads, retaining walls are constructed with dry stone inspired by the Halala wall.  The fauna and foliage are designed for maximum protection and shade from harsh climate while adjusting to the serene landscape. Local fruit trees, vegetables and herbs are planted for use by the facility. Small water features and rest areas are provided in key places around the site so that maximum rest is given to the users.


In addition to this, artist have been commissioned to create art works sculpture, photography, interior artifacts, and furniture that reflects the culture and the tradition of the Dawro people and the people of Ethiopia at large.



This thought provoking-built project has fused vernacular ideas with contemporary design. It has enriched the captivating environment using green concepts with strong local knowledge.  Most of all it has captured the essence of the rich culture, heritage, and values of the peoples of Dawro.