The restoration of the imperial complex of Yohannes IV, whose construction dates back to the years 1881-84, was a process of great interest: not only for the technical aspects faced and the difficulties encountered – foreseeable in a city located at over 2000 m of altitude on the northern Ethiopian plateau, not far from the border (then closed) with Eritrea and connected with the capital, Addis Ababa, in practice only by air – but also for those of a cultural nature. However, relations with the local authorities responsible for supervising the works and with the Ethiopian technicians and workers have always been good and based on a spirit of collaboration.
The passage from the design phase to the executive phase involved the revision of the first: some changes were discovered to the holes improperly carried out in the past, now restored to their original dimensions. We also considered the two external staircases of the minor building, both added after the first construction phase. It was thus decided to demolish the staircase on the southern side of the building, damaged and the result of a later addition, and to maintain the one on the northern side, necessary for the functioning of the building as evidenced by an old photo.
The restoration of the wood was particularly delicate. The author of the complex, the Italian Giacomo Naretti, was a carpenter. The wooden parts are already noteworthy on the outside: for the large loggias on the second level of the main building, for the fixtures and the characteristic ordering appeals on the façade. But wood is above all the main responsible for the quality of the interiors: for the roofing of the rooms, whose soffits appear strongly characterizing, and the excellent workmanship of the entrance door, the throne, the large staircase, etc. Our consultant for the restoration of wood has created a real laboratory, involving a large number of local carpenters on the construction site: all the components have been detected, disassembled, numbered, restored (with the replacement of the damaged parts) and finally reassembled. The recovery of the material quality of the wooden floors on the first floor has prompted us to propose similar ones on the ground floor.
The consolidation of the wall parts – urgent both for the poor static conditions of the two buildings and for the necessary seismic adaptation – was carried out with sew-and-unscrew works, with the assembly of metal chains and with the creation of a metal mesh sandwich.
The park, the only one in the center of Mekele, has been reopened to the public. Many outdoor spaces have been paved using local stone slabs. The historic buildings have also been the subject of an accurate lighting project. Overall, the restoration was a great opportunity for the Ethiopian Heritage: the main historical building of Mekele, after having regained its original image, now contributes to the cultural and tourist revival of Mekele.