Reference & Education

  • Author Fuad Muhada
  • Published March 12, 2023
  • Word count 7,875






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Fuad M. making use of lost spaces under railway paths in addis ababa . Vol. 1, No. 1, 2023,

Abstract: The development of the urban railway in and around the city has created large numbers of left-over spaces which comes by the integrated planning and design. The intermediate spaces created by these concrete structures are referred to as "lost spaces". Although the space found in the city center, it has received less attention. The existing situation of the space raises issues with regard to usability, social interaction, integration, visual appeal, etc. This research aims to assess the characteristics of this lost spaces under railway paths in Addis Ababa, by studying their functional and physical characteristics and the existed problems in detail.

The research was conducted using a case study approach with different data collection methods such as observation interviews and document review. Since the research uses a qualitative method, the data are analyzed and presented through images, tables, and maps. The data was collected, primarily from three types of people: those who were seen using the space, those who were passing through it, and those who work place found in front of the lost space. Because these people engage with the space on a daily basis and are most likely to notice its effects. The research finding indicated that the existing status of the space is not contributing to urban life, rather it is found that the space is works against the urban life by serving as a catalyst for the spread of negative influences. In response to these findings, the study confirms the importance of enhancing the functionalities of the space to create a livable space.

In general, the study forwards possible new design to make the space more functional and attractive without eliminating the original character.

Keywords: Elevated Railways; urban life; Left-over Spaces; Possible Usage


First, I would like to express my praise to the Almighty Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala for giving me strength, patience and hope for doing this project from the beginning up to the end. Next to Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala I would like to express my sincere and immense appreciation to my thesis advisor Dr. Essayas Deribe(Phd). For continuously providing his guidance, comments and encouragements to the best flow of this project. It is a pleasure to thank department of Architecture for allowing me to do my thesis project. Finally, I would like to thank my families with the deepest gratitude for showing me unconditional support, love, and encouragement during the study


In early 2007 with a rapidly growing population, Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa was in urgent need of a more efficient urban transport system. At that time, the city has two main forms of public transport: buss run by the state-owned company, Anbessa, and the blue-and-white minibus taxis, a hybrid of bus and taxi that picks up passengers and drops them wherever they want to go. Each has its shortcomings. Whereas the publicly run bus services are scarce, costly and inefficient, the minibus taxis have a limited capacity of 15 to 20 passengers each. Moreover, the minibus taxis has caused traffic congestion due to chaotic movement, and led to other problems such as environmentally unacceptable emissions and frequent traffic accidents hazardous to life and property. Economic activities are seriously affected by traffic congestion.

In response, in early 2007 the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia set up a steering committee to find a solution to congestion. Among all the options, Light Rail Transit was considered the best for multiple reasons, not least because it was viewed as a part of Ethiopia’s national rail strategy. After the execution of the project in some area of the city an elevated railway is used to avoid interruption by traffic on the ground. An elevated railway or elevated train is a rapid transit railway with the tracks above street level on an elevated structure (usually constructed from steel, and concrete). But the spaces beneath these elevated structures are however often neglected and used for unplanned activities.

1.2 Problem statement

Infrastructures in Addis Ababa are often engineered and planned with a purely functional purpose. This limits the potential of urban structures to contribute to the positive image of the city and to support several forms of urban life.

The Elevated railway structures in Addis Ababa are visible structures but not well designed architecturally to produce aesthetic qualities. Elevated railway structures by being separated from the ground, allow for a free-flow of trains without interruption by traffic on the ground. The spaces beneath these elevated structures are however often neglected, left-over and residual that could be utilized by citizens.

Elevated railway structures are most often designed for a single purpose only for transport. If other activities occur around these structures, these are usually unplanned for, and emergent. These unplanned and emerged activities affect both the municipality and the society by creating different kinds of physical, social and economic challenges in the daily life of the society by allowing the opportunity for street crime and health problems. These lost spaces also have a negative impact at municipality level for losing the opportunity of using the space in a city where land value is high. They also play role on segregating and separating communities and neighborhoods.

1.3 Objective of the study

1.3.1. General Objective

To assess & study the existing condition and functionality of lost spaces under Railway lanes, identify their challenges and problems to forward possible architectural solution to improve the condition.

1.3.2. Specific Objective

 To study the existing condition of the lost spaces under the railway lines in relation with their surrounding by studying their functional and physical characteristics

 To investigate and analyze the challenges and problems created by the lost spaces under the railway lines

 To forward or provide some design interventions for improving the condition of the spaces under the railway lines

1.4 Research questions

 How do the lost spaces under the railway line’s function?

 What are the challenges and problems regarding the spaces under the railway lines?

 What is the possible architectural solution for improving the existing condition of the spaces under the railway lines?

1.5 Significance of the study

The spaces along and under elevated highways affect the way we experience the city. They disconnect neighborhoods, produce undesirable views, and act as physical and psychological barriers making the pedestrian experience unpleasant.

1.6 Scope of the study

This paper is limited to

1.6.1 Thematic Scope

The research focuses on the spatial design issues, functional, physical and visual qualities of selected lost spaces which exists under railway lines in Addis Ababa.

1.6.2 Spatial Scope

Spatially the study focuses only on the spatial qualities of selected three segments in Addis Ababa railway line.

1.7 Limitation of the study

Among the limitations encountered during this research are the shortage of previously done local research related to the lost spaces and the lack of properly documented data, especially about the future use of the space. So, the research is focused on ground data to get the required information about the selected lost spaces. The other challenge was, it has been difficult to gather valuable and trusted information using questioner. Therefore, the data was mainly collected using observation and interviews.


In this section, an attempt has been made to define what space and lost space is. The section will then try to focus on different definitions and typologies of leftover spaces from different authors, the history of leftover spaces, uses of leftover spaces, the impact of elevated highway and railway lines on the cities and the reasons behind the appearance of them. And finally, the different techniques of using these spaces are discussed.

2.1. Defining Space

Before defining leftover spaces and their characteristics, it is essential to define space first. this section will explain the meaning of space by itself which come into mind when understanding the whole idea of leftover spaces in cities.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, space directly translates to 'time' or 'duration' and 'area' or 'extension'.

Based on Peterson (1980) “Space” is a concept and term that has fascinated humanity for an extended time. He described that Space was related with volume, geometry, and form, but as the time went by with architecture, the meaning of space also started to modify (Peterson, 1980). At this time, space was being recognized as one of the main concepts of architecture.

Peterson (1980) discusses various ideas on space. He mentioned in his book Space is understood to be a 'free' entity in nature; it is found everywhere plus it is also conceived as abstract, continuous, vast, and has no form. Peterson (1980) also he shared Arnhem's concept of space which something that exists in the absence of objects, as it goes beyond the objects in it. Space is additionally seen to exist best in its natural state, but there has been a necessity to define it and shape it according to one's own needs. Peterson (1980) explains this concept by example of walls and furniture.

According to Peterson (1980), there are two basic opposite ideas in the concept of space. Which he calls them space and anti-space.

He described anti-space as" Anti-space is undifferentiated, formless, infinite, universal, singular, and continuous. Space is differentiated, formed, finite multiple, and discontinuous. Space, by definition, will be obliterated by the presence of Anti-space". (Peterson 1980)

Peterson describes that there are 3 types of space that are experienced, namely: -

• Positive space is closed and formed (exterior piazzas, street corridors) or what he describes as man-Made space 'figural space'.

• Background space ‘natural space’ a space which is unformed, or background space (oceans, the earth is seen from the moon, landscapes, sky etc…).

• And finally, ‘Derivative space’ a space which is formed as a support to the design of positive space or manmade space. Peterson describes this space as a leftover space, or what he calls a negative space.

Peterson (1980) primarily discusses negative and positive space in his work. He refers to the area between walls as negative space. He uses drawings for old buildings to describe how the two places differ from one another. When the wall is solid, it is a poché (positive space), and if the inside is hollow and accessible, it is a "habitable Poche," he argues, using the French term for pocket (negative space). According to Peterson, the city's negative spaces include leftover spaces inside individual blocks, backyards, and irregular plots of property. Urban areas, on the other hand, such streets, squares, and public spaces are thought of as positive spaces.

This classification relates to the thesis because the focus of this study is on Peterson's definition of a space. As a crucial element of architecture, he describes this negative space as "residual," "hidden," and a "by product" of the built environment. The words "residual," "by-product," and "derivative" imply a rely on a predetermined framework. This implies that leftover spaces are not independent entities.

2.2. Defining Lost Space (leftover space)

Since 1986, numerous researchers have focused on one particular type of lost space, offering a variety of definitions and interpretations, including loose space, cracks, unoccupied, in-between, transitional, and liminal spaces, as well as neglected and decayed spaces.

The phrase "lost space" was originally used by Trancik (1986) to refer to anti-spaces that require redesign and don't add anything helpful to their surroundings or users. Trancik (1986) defines lost space as an abandoned, undeveloped, or poorly managed space. It is the undesired urban space that develops unintentionally while the project is being planned. Since 1986, numerous researchers have studied a specific category of lost places, offering a variety of definitions and interpretations.

Trancik defined lost spaces in cities as unstructured patterns, “Lost space can be regarded as the leftover unstructured landscape at the base of high-rise towers to the unused sunken plaza away from the flow of pedestrian activity in the city. Lost spaces are also abandoned waterfronts trainyards, vacated military sites, and industrial complexes.” (Trancik, 1986, p. 3).

They are abandoned lands lack of social interaction, and repelling any sort of positive contribution to society, “They are ill-defined, without measurable boundaries, and fail to connect elements in a coherent way” (Trancik, 1986, p. 4).

Table 1 Definitions of lost space by various scholars Source: Ignited Minds Journals 2021

As Trancik stated on his book Parking lots, the edge of poorly maintained or managed motorways, elevated highways, the base of tall buildings, overhead bridges, deserted waterfronts, vacant underground plazas, abandoned military locations, and dilapidated parks can all be examples of lost space (Trancik 1986).

Trancik believes that the car, urban redevelopment, private ownership of public space, the functional differentiation of purposes, and the trend are entirely responsible for the creation of lost spaces.

In order to emphasize this point even more, lost spaces or leftover spaces are typically found on rooftops, in front, on the sides, or at the back of buildings. "These spaces lose their purpose, values, meaning, and sense of community. Leftover spaces, which are typically controlled by the government but have no designated use, are frequently found adjacent to places having predetermined and limited functions. (Trancik,1986)

2.3 Theoretical concepts of lost spaces and cities

"The way we experience our city creates piles of stinking garbage unpleasant views, pollution, unlawful activity, unsafe traffic, and unpleasant poorly maintained buildings, and occupied at night by homeless people sleeping in cardboard boxes. Additionally, the ambiguous territoriality of these spaces creates both physical and psychological barriers that detract from the user experience and create a mismatch between new and traditional uses, structures, and activities. (Barter, P., (2004).

In a Book named "Cracks in the City" by Loukaitou-Sideris describes cracks as "in-between areas, residual, under-utilized, and often degrading." He added that neglect and decay had caused human waste and litter to fill empty spaces in numerous plazas, parking lots, parks, and public housing estates, contributing to their terrible condition.

"The areas under railways, highways, bridges, and other types of urban infrastructure are viewed as unfavorable, dangerous, unattractive, and intrusive. However, architects and urban planners believe that these areas have the potential to be developed into distinctive spaces that are pleasing to the eye. (Lawson, W. (2017).

2.4. Brief history of Lost spaces (leftover) spaces

Roger Trancik argues that Cities all across the world have changed in appearance thanks to automobiles. The majority of urban land is used to store or move vehicles (Trancik, 1986). Cities are divided by highways and rail lines, which leave empty places nearby. As urban design improved, the requirement to alter land use planning also led to the shifting of functions (Trancik, 1986).

Figure 3 example of a geographic void formed due to the presence of a natural feature Source: Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative

Different kinds of lost spaces have also been produced as a result of industry relocation and aging transportation infrastructure. At the same time, the building itself was a major focus of urban planning. As a result, public spaces, roadways, and gardens were neglected (Trancik, 1986). He discusses 20th-century development across Europe, where buildings are merely items set on a huge plot of land. There are large grasslands dotted between buildings because green spaces are employed as a buffering. Because of the limited use and excessive size of these areas, new words like "planned wasteland" and "new urban desert" have emerged as a result of inappropriate planning (Cybrisky, 1999).

In addition to the general causes of lost spaces, some are specific to the kind of city. This brings up post-industrial cities since they are a location for unused spaces. Vacant land has become more prevalent as a result of suburbanization, the loss of urban industry, and population decline (Jane, J. 1961). "The industrial ruin is a concrete location as well as an empty space that can inspire and hold dreams, wishes, and expectations because it has lost its identity." (Jane, J. 1961).

These unoccupied or abandoned regions are typically recognized as the post-industrial scape due to their look. Post-industrial areas, underused harbors, abandoned industries, train stations, and yards, areas outside of the city, and areas between the city and suburbs and industrial-era ruins and other places with similar characteristics and appearances are identified as lost spaces (Doron, 2006).

Therefore, it can be shown that the creation and continuous existence of residual areas is unavoidable. The more obvious global mechanisms at work are to blame. Contrarily, the accentuation of leftovers was caused by a variety of factors, including inefficient urban land management, ineffective decision-making procedures, and irregularly shaped property parcels. Therefore, these spaces are not merely a byproduct of policy and planning but also a reflection of the times. (Doron, 2006).

2.5. Uses of Leftover Spaces

In the past, lost spaces were regarded as an issue that needed to be solved or avoided. But through time, they have come to be appreciated as a resource and a setting for ecological and social change (Lawson, W. 2017). The goal of this thesis is to make leftover areas useful in the pursuit of sustainable development, not to avoid their occurrence. It has been discovered via research and numerous international projects that leftover spaces can be utilized in a variety of ways.

According to Lawson, W. (2017), their uses can include everything from a small-scale urban agriculture program to a communal garden on a single plot. They have also been exposed to adaptive reuse when there exist buildings for similar purposes. Additionally, abandoned areas have been transformed into social hubs for neighborhood events and municipal infrastructure.

2.5.1. Formal Uses

Jaffe, E. (2015) presents techniques to improving urban gaps.

First, Artwork. Public art and installations are a basic technique that has been utilized internationally as a tool in urban development. It employs just color and imagination to convert an otherwise uninteresting and uninviting setting into one of expression.

Figure 5 Toronto, Canada Underpass Park Source: Source:

The second, Tactical urbanism. This technique is promoted by local players, municipal actors, or local organizations to improve a particular location or space, typically for the benefit of a certain local neighborhood. Tactical urbanism's advantages in terms of temporality and affordability make it possible for it to be tested in actual settings. According to (Jaffe, E. 2015), there is little to no harm to the neighborhood from tactical urbanism. These projects are typically small-scale and have included temporary seats along streets, turning vacant parking lots into garden lots, turning roadways into transient green areas, and holding street festivals (Jaffe, E. 2015). Additionally, it is thought that the principles of "lighter, faster, and cheaper" tactical urbanism contribute to the creation of better urban areas.

Figure 6 San Antonio Ballroom Luminoso Source:

Third, permanent projects this type of strategy has a larger budget and frequently excludes significant public engagement. (Jaffe, E. 2015). These initiatives take into account the requirement to include these underutilized areas into the urban fabric while fulfilling their function as zones of mobility. Due to their top-down nature, these initiatives may not accurately represent the needs, wishes, or expressions of the people, but they do produce long-lasting, permanent answers. (Jaffe, E. 2015)

The fourth approach is a coordination of tactical urbanism and planned approaches.

2.5.2. Informal Uses

Informal activities sometimes take place in leftover places. The areas are typically hidden from formal authorities' eyes (Jaffe, E. 2015). These areas are used for various purposes despite their uninviting look in some cases. These uses may occasionally collide with what the community wants. Homelessness, alcoholism, street art, and drug use are some of them. The users somehow appropriate the area to meet their demands at a certain moment even if they do not own the property (Doron, 2006)

Reclaiming unused areas has both a formal and informal aspect, as we've seen. The formal strategy for reclaiming vacant lands involves assistance from the state, local government, and private investors. Community groups that either temporarily or permanently occupy the area for their operations are included in this (Franck, K. 2011). An informal intervention, as previously stated, is an appropriation made by users who are not a member of any official organization or institution. This intervention exists only to meet this user's requirements. According to Jane, J. (1961), several towns all over the world developed both permanent and temporary measures to cope with these vacant land parcels. They also claim that cities have a tendency to accept transitory usage more frequently than permanent ones. Institutional and financial factors are to blame for this.

2.5.3. Temporary Use

As was previously said, unused space offers the possibility of fresh possibilities and new applications. Sometimes when a place is empty, a new owner is only waiting to buy it. However, because this procedure might take some time, this area may continue to be unused. These areas can be made available for temporary usage while we wait. A place that is currently unused might have had a purpose in the past. Additionally, a place that is now being used may end up becoming a remnant with time. “The core of cities is this flux of areas across time. This is where the time aspect of space becomes important” (Jaffe, E. 2015).

Due of its complex characteristics, the definition of temporariness in architecture and planning is difficult. Lost spaces or areas that may accommodate numerous uses are suitable for temporary usage. It may be official, casual, impromptu, political, or criminal. Additionally, temporary usage may be planned to emphasize certain features of an empty or underutilized area (Jaffe, E. 2015). It might be for a short period of time—a few hours, a few days, a season, or even years—and is minimal risk with a potential big profit. Its usage in unused locations is one of the numerous advantages of temporary use (Jaffe, E. 2015).

In general Jaffe conclude that people in cities have investigated temporary applications, and this has frequently led to initiatives that are valued by the neighborhood and, eventually, the city. The initiatives gradually became official as a consequence, and governments and other authorities took control of them. As a result, when working on projects, developers and planners are starting to set aside area for temporary purposes.

2.3 Empirical Literature Review

The empirical literature review part offers case studies that show how to exploit areas underneath elevated railway lines to their best advantage, as well as success and failure experiences.

2.3.1 Gotera Addis Ababa: Ethiopia

One local case study that show as the best practice and relation of the space under the railway path and the surrounding is the situation which exist in near Gotera square. It consists of different types of characteristics that can give a new perspective on the space under the elevated railway path.

General information

Owner: Government sector

Type: Parking and properties expansion Physical characteristics

Material: - Concrete

Height: 12m

Functional characteristics

Before Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (LRT) is proposed this area was their properties, then after construction the railway they still use this under elevated railway space for as a support for their commercial activity

In this area we can clearly see how the space under the rail way path is directly related to the surrounding. For example the bar and restaurants uses the space under the rail way as a outdoor serving area in the day time.

In construction material shop area the shops uses the railway support as a storage for their goods like pvc pipe and ppr even when the structure is not near their shop.

Figure 17 space under railway used as a storage of goods

In Some part of the area the space under the railway path is used by the front commercials as a parking space. This shows how much the space is attached to the activities of the surrounding.

In the other side of Gotera square the space under the railway path is used as well designed parking space. In addition to the parking service the space is also used for car washing area and in the night for car security service.

Figure 19 space under railway used as a parking and car washing space

Figure 20 space under railway used for small sized cars

Because of the entrance to the parking spot is so small, they are forced only to provide service for small cars they only give service for only one big vehicles in the entrance space at a time.

Figure 21 grill used as a protection

Their was a challenge with the street childes to sleep on the open space of the joints in the column and the railway bridge, but they tried to control the activity by using metal bar for closing the space.

2.3.2 East river waterfront & Ecopark :New York city

General information

Designers: Workshop: Ken Smith Landscape Architect,

Funding sources: Funding from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Physical characteristics

Size of Space: 2 miles of waterfront

Hours open: - Esplanade closed 6 am to midnight

  • Upper Deck open 8 am to dusk

  • Lower deck open 6 am to dusk

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt elevated expressway runs the length of Manhattan’s east side and has blocked the public from access to the waterfront for many years. Since the west side of the island has been converted into a much-used park system, it was only a matter of time before park development came to the other side. (Qamaruz-Zaman, 2013)

Figure 22 East River Waterfront Map Source: Archdaily

The East River Park's designers took into account the highway's presence and took advantage of it. People are drawn inside the building, through it to a park on the waterfront, and by the way it defines views. To match the color of the ocean at night, the side girder of the highway was painted a light purple. To muffle the noises of the traffic above, a modular system of noise-attenuating material is installed on the underside of the highway. (Qamaruz-Zaman, 2013)

An elevated park building on the waterfront serves as another attraction to the opposite side. It matches the highway and is one story high, but it is far enough away to be free from its activities. Before the opposing side's park development, the elevated park structure separates the observer from the ground below and connects them to the skyline across the river. (Qamaruz-Zaman, 2013)

There are places to engage in activity as one walks along the waterfront. Some offer fishing balconies, and ping pong courts, fitness equipment, dog parks, and skateboard facilities. Some are simply passive sitting areas. Except where an activity is emphasized, the area underneath the roadway is open, although on defined paths, bicycles and pedestrians can easily move through it. (Qamaruz-Zaman, 2013)

Figure 24 horizontal section. of the area showing inside activities like skateboard Source: Archdaily

The highway is used as a gateway to the waterfront. The space went from an inaccessible space to becoming a large public space for recreation.

2.4 Lesson learned

The above case studies shows that it is possible to that lost space under the railway path can be seen as an opportunity and can be enhanced and used to create amaizing and functional spaces that goes with the surrounding situation.

2.4.1 From the success of the above case studies

One major lesson we can take from the above case studies is that the lost spaces can also contribute to the urban life by integrating and providing a function that imitate the surrounding neighborhood .

2.4.2 From the failure of the case studies

Even though the space is putten to use their still some other issues that can be corrected like the space above the parking area is still a lost space that can be used if it’s designed.

The space have some problems that need to look in to it

  • lack of fence to protect the green buffer space

  • The problem of pollution that come from the cars

  • The noise disturbance for the individuals who uses the spaces

  • Lack of sanitory (drainage) for the car washing activity

  • Lack of amendments like sitting furniture, lighting fixtures….etc



3.1.1 Introduction

This section of the research presents covers research methods/strategies, research approach, research tactics, data sources, sampling techniques, data analysis, and presentation techniques. The predefined data analysis parameters and case selection criteria are also discussed in this part. In general, the study used different techniques and methods to get the required data about the problem related to the space under the rail ways.

First of all, by selecting different segments and assessing their functional and visual characteristics. Then identify the main problems and spatial drawbacks in the existing spaces under the railway lines and finally propose architectural design solutions and recommendations that solve the problems to make them functional and attractive. So, to follow this procedure correctly and find reliable solution for the problem, the researchers used the following techniques, methods, and approaches.

3.1.2 Selection of study area

The study area is focused on leftover space under railway paths on streets of Addis Ababa. The study sites were chosen based on where the problem is more visible.

3.1.3 Sources of data

In order to assess the objective and come up with the appropriate recommendations, the researcher attempted to make use of both primary and secondary data sources.

The primary data was obtained from

• Critical observations on the site

• Notes

• Interviews

• Test walk

• Photographs of the site and related situations

Secondary data collection by the means of

• Books

• Journals

• Publication

3.1.4 Data Collection Method

The data were collected using direct observation, interviews, and secondary data such as relevant documents, books, journals, articles, magazines, and other internet sources. Since the research used the case-study method, it mainly relies on the data collected from observations. Interview

An interview is one of the methods to collect primary data from different people who use the space under the rail ways, The information that collects from the interviews is the most special one to get reliable information. So, a structured interview will be taken from respondents for each selected segments who were passing through the space during the survey.

The interview was also well prepared to get important information from three types of people: those who were seen using the space, those who were passing through it, and those who work place found in front of the lost space. The information that was expected from interviewing peoples who were found passing through the space are

• Their interaction around the space under the elevated railway,

• Activities performed around the space under the elevated railway and

• The attractiveness of the space under the elevated railway.

In general, the interview is one of the first sources of data for this research. All interviews were conducted eye to eye with the respondents. Observation

Observation is one of the methods that is used to collect the required data in the case study. Checklist (APPENDIX-A) will be used to observe the existing condition of the study area, and physically visiting the site was necessary to get actual data about the research.

According to Robert K.Yin (2009), direct observation is often useful to collect additional information about the topic being studied. There is nothing reliable other than direct observation. So, direct observation is one of the selective methods to collect reliable data about the existing problems of the space under elevated railways. The researcher walked around the spaces under elevated railways in Addis Ababa to select the cases study spaces that have potential information for this research.

The researcher used different methods to grasp the detailed information during observation including Observation checklist, sketches, texts, photographs, and videos. In general, the information related to the selected cases(segments) and the selected local case study areas was collected using observation.

The researcher visited all three selected segments in three different times of the day (morning evening and night) by spending a minimum of 30 minute. Then repeated same observation three time in different days to get a reliable data and grasp a detailed information on the different activities done on the sites in different times of a day.

3.1.5 Sample and Sampling technique

The research was conducted around different areas of Addis Ababa, and the case selection criteria are developed according to where the problem is more visible.

The study was conducted in three segments (From Darmar to Abinet, From Gojam-Berenda to AtikiltTera and from Agona to Lancha).

These three leftover spaces underneath the elevated rails were chosen for the study because they meet the criteria for selection and the problem was found to be more visible there.

3.1.6 Criteria’s for selecting study segments

The spaces were selected for the research based on the following criteria.

Sites where free(void) space under the elevated highway exist - For example, segments which are elevated But closed that doesn’t have a free space or access under the elevated railway will not be considered like segment from St.Lideta to Torhayloch.

Sites where the width of the leftover space under the elevated highway is high- Among the elevated spaces the one with the highest width are considered because the problem is more visible around these spaces. Because of this Segments like Stadium to Mexico are not considered.

Sites where the height of the leftover space under the elevated highway is high –The different problems are mostly affected by human experience So; the cases are selected based on a criteria that have a minimum of standard of human height.

Sites where the leftover space under the elevated highway is not used to specific purpose- It is unfair to see unused spaces with an architectural problem. So, these spaces were given priority to study and provided the proper solution.

3.1.7 Sampling technique

The study was designed to assess the existing condition and functionality of spaces under Railway lanes and identify their challenges and problems. For this purpose, the researcher employed sampling technique based on the purpose of the study, the need to reach the target issue and information gained during personal experience

For the interviewing individuals who was using the space and working in the active frontage of the space (as their main part of their job directly related to space) the researcher used Stratified random sampling.

The number of respondents specified based on purposive/judgmental sampling techniques considering accessibility/availability and willingness of the respondents to cooperate. Based on their key position two individuals in both side (12 in total) of the street are interviewed

For the interviewing the walking users of the space the researcher used simple random sampling. For each segment six, respondents in which two individuals who was found using the space and four individuals who was passing through the surrounding space (18 in total) are taken randomly for an interview. The number of respondents specified based on the availability of respondents around the space during data collection, their willingness to participate in an interview, the richness of information gathered from them.

3.1.8 Data collection method

The research will used both primary and secondary sources of data. The primary data are collected through direct observation and picture taken from the site; interviews and discussion with the walking people, users of the space, and the owners who works in the active frontage who engage daily with the space condition and familiarity with the space. The secondary data are collected from manuals, previous studies, master (development) plan, satellite image (Google map), and relevant books.

Interview: Interview was conducted to key individuals to get data on the values of how much they are aware of the site. The selected participants for the interview will be contacted in person by the researchers.

3.1.9 Data Analysis and data Presentation

First, the cases are selected based on different criteria to identify the spatial problems and identify potentials. Then the data from the interview were collected, analyzed, and interpreted using images, tables, and maps and finally compares the results with the literature to arrive at the conclusion by interpreting the data from observation and interview. The collected data from primary and secondary sources are analyzed in qualitative data forms.

The study used different software such as MS Excel, MS Word, and simple graphics presented in maps, pictures, tables, and 3D images. Table chart is one of the selected analysis tools for qualitative data. Due to the simplicity and design, a table chart is one of the primary choices for this research to analyze the data. Google maps is also used to produce a map and identify location.

Mapping is also used for data presentation to identify the problem area clearly. The locations of the case study buildings, activities taking place around the space, and the problem areas are identified and presented using mapping. Different software is used for the research process, such as Adobe illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and AutoCAD to prepare 2D representation, Revit architecture to create 2D and 3Dvisualization, and Lumion software to render pictures.

3.1.10 Predefined parameters to analyze cases study

To address the first and second research question about how the spaces under rail way function and the existing functional problems of the spaces, different parameters are selected to find answer for the research questions. With the following three parameters, the selected cases will be elaborated.

Physical characteristics

 Location: to be familiarized with the general surrounding context of the space

 Height & Length: to review the general characteristics of the space and how does they affect the functionality of the space.

 Boundary Definition: Measuring the degree of boundary definition in terms of weak and strong and to analysis the intended purpose of the space boundary.

 Material: Whether the material used for the space affects the spatial quality of the space

Functional characteristics

 Urban function: to study the general site areas, major function or landmark activities. Does the space contribute to urban life or not? The consequence of missing the urban functions in the space.

 Pulling factor: to study the neighbourhood’s activity that have a drive to use the space.

 Usage activities: to study how the space by itself is currently functioning. The type of activities done in the space.

 Space interaction: to study the connection b/n the site with the users and the surrounding environment (urban fitting) to help on prioritize the users need for future action.

3.2 Research Approach

The selection of a research design is based on the nature of the problem or issue being addressed, the researcher's personal experience and the audience for the study (Creswell, 2009). Accordingly, Qualitative method will be used in the study.

In order to get detailed information about the problems related to the space, the research used the Case study method (multiple case studies). The case study method enables the collection of the data from multiple methods (observation, document review, photograph, etc.)

The research uses both descriptive and explanatory research methods to explain the cases in detail. To explore different ideas and study the real-life phenomena related to space under the rail ways. The physical, functional, and aesthetical characteristics of the space were studied using a Qualitative approach. In general, height, material, color and texture, visual continuity security, boundary definition, access control, environmental contribution, privacy, urban functions, or contribution to urban life, and aesthetics are studied qualitatively will particularly be applied were by collection and analysis of qualitative data.


4.1 Introduction

This part covers the overall study of selected case segments in Addis Ababa. The first part discusses the existing situations of the lost spaces under railway paths, including the physical and functional characteristics of the spaces. The second part is an analysis of data from interviews and, the last one is to discuss the overall findings investigated from the case study buildings. In general, this chapter consists of the data analysis and the finding investigated from all data collection methods

4.2 Location and description of the study area

The study was conducted in different areas of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia and is located at 9º2' North of the equator and 38 º 34' East of the Greenwich line, nearly at the geographic center of the country. The city is the most populated and urbanized city from others in Ethiopia.

The cases segments were selected from three main sites in Addis Abeba: the first one from Agona to Lancha, the second one from Gojam-Berenda to Atikilt-Tera and finally the third one from Darmar to Abinet.

Figure 26 Location of the study area

4.3 Segment 01:- Gojam-Berenda to AtikiltTera, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

4.3.1 Location and description of the segment 01

The site is located at Merkato, Addis ketema sub-city, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In the street that goes from paisa to autobistera

The site is occupied by different types of electronics markets in both sides of the street.

The site is known as an electronic market zone from all over Merkato and a large amount of vendor are found on this site according to lack of space and some of the spaces are taken for new construction purpose.

Figure 28 Mesjid chaf and Tach Medeb

4.3.2 Analysis and findings investigated through observation in segment01 Functional characteristic

As mentioned on the general information the site is more dominated by electronics market, and the place activity land mark is also electronic market, however the electronic market itself has its own distinct by the type of electronic that dominates the market place.

A. Solar tera:

This site is known as “Solar tera” just because of the importer of the Solar panel around Electronics market is mostly found on this side of the market, so as a solar panel shops.

B. Masjid chaf:

This site is mostly having house electronics materials, such as receiver, Television, refrigerator, oven, water filter…, for that matter some shop less mans are used the pedestrian to sell reserve remote controller, wood panel to put refrigerator and dish, and other accessories.

C. Tach Medeb:

This third site is known as Medeb, because of the construction of the front of the site, the displaced merchant has nowhere to work for their lives, for that matter they used to make medeb and used it for second hand electronics accessories market.

And also, the taxi and bus have station on that site for Transportation like Bus and Taxi found in the left side of the space. In the morning and evening more crowd is visible as the walkway is used as waiting space for the bus transport users.

Figure 32 Transportation nodes

The functional characteristics such as usage activity, boundary, security, contribution to the urban activity, and environmental influence of the case study spaces are analyzed in the following table in different time of the day

4.4 Segment 2:- Abinet, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

4.4.1 Location and description of the segment

The site is located at Abinet, Addis ketema sub-city, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The site is occupied by different types of character according to the frontage commercial zone, but at the back both sides have a residential distinct.

Abinet square is considered as a main transition point of Merkato from south west, south and south east side of Addis Ababa. This character is become a major influence of the site so, the site is highly dens after 11:00 am (L.T).

4.4.2 Analysis and findings investigated through observation in segment02 Functional characteristic

  1. Taxi node: there are two taxi nodes that highly activate the demographic movement of the peoples.

  2. To Autobistera

  3. To Piassa

  4. Vendors: As mentioned on general information the site is highly active on work start time and after work time for that matter, usually peoples are going home after work time or after 11:00 (L.T). Based on after working time vendors are used to sell vegetables and fruits.

The functional characteristics such as usage activity, boundary, security, contribution to the urban activity, and environmental influence of the case study spaces are analyzed in the following table in different time of the day

4.5 Segment 3:- Agona, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

4.5.1 Location and description of the segment

The site is located at Agona cinema, Kirkos sub-city Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The site is occupied by different types of furniture shops at one side and other service and commercial on the other side.

This site is mainly known by commercial activities like Funeral manager service, furniture selling and Agona cinema.

This area has a unique character where the space under the railway path is developed and managed by one individual company who Owens a funeral directorial service and used the space for his advantage which is as a parking space for the company funeral service cars.

4.6 Principal Findings

The findings are structured to provide complete answers to each research question and primarily concentrate on the two research questions that form the basis of the study. Therefore, the principal findings about the functionality of the space and the observed issues around spaces are covered here.

A, Functionality of the spaces

 The existing situation of the space is more active by different types od activities which emerged from the context of the surrounding.

 The type of programs and the type of surrounding context plays the crucial role in adding positive or negative influence in the space.

 In some areas lack of Good physical characteristics is affecting the functional characteristics of the site.

 Little number of People including, Passerby and users try to use the space for sitting, and interacting, because the space lack the proper amendments.

 Most of the spaces attracts income-generating activities. These activities will have an impact on the entire surrounding

B, Existing Physical and Functional Problems of the spaces

 Doesn’t invite to use the space

 Most of the spaces are under the influence of irresponsible activities

 Lacks public amendments to use the space

 Lacks a responsible individual or organization that take cares of the space

 In some spaces areas of conflict between pedestrians and vehicles found

 Most of the spaces lack defined entrance or access

Are some of the observed problems of the space

  1. Conclusion

The research described in this document explores the relationship between existing urban activity found in near the lost space under railway lines and the desire to create spaces that are safe and inviting to local residents.

This study was conducted by analyzing the functionality of spaces under rail way lines and existing problems related to the lost spaces under the railway to improve the functional and physical characteristics of the space through architectural interventions. To do that, the existing situation of space around and the perception of respondents about the space are studied.

The space is primarily being used as greenery areas which also give definition, access control, and act as a median but the provision of these functions are not determined by the society need, the purpose of the space, and the context.

There are different functional problems around the spaces under railway lines in Addis Ababa, such as lack of comfort, unnecessary functions, being visually unattractive, haven’t environmental contribution as expected, not interactive, poor design quality, lack of integration with the society, and context, etc. These problems are started and developed from the weakness of authority related to laws and regulations, and the society’s needs.

In general, these spaces require careful consideration in the design process in the future.

Architects also should design the spaces as the way designing buildings. The integration,

aesthetical value, urban contribution is should consider in the design development.

Now a day, different spaces under railway lines around Addis Ababa are used by different purposes by the local society. They try to improve the quality, the design concept, and function but not on a studied way. So, this research proposes a new design approach about, how the space can be redesigned to meet the current and future needs by studying the needs of the society and the government, the needs of urban, context analysis, professionals’ perception.


Trancik R. Finding Lost Space: Theories of Urban Design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold; 1986

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