A constant stream of trucks and people move every day between Addis Ababa and Djibouti, where most of the goods moving to and from Ethiopia transit, making this route a strategic economic corridor for both countries. The importance of this route can be traced back to the colonial past when, at the beginning of the 20th century, the French built the Chemin de Fer Djibouto-Éthiopien. Based on this colonial infrastructure, a new railway was inaugurated in 2018 as a key component of an ambitious effort to transform the country to middle-income status by 2025. It is a political strategy that plans to spur industrialisation, urbanisation and economic growth through the construction of new infrastructure.
This research looks at the spatial features of the urban development that is taking place along the Addis Ababa-Djibouti infrastructure corridor. The overlapping between infrastructure, industrialisation and development informs this research in an attempt to draft a compendium of the urban. The dualistic nature of space – real/imaginative – has oriented the research, offering the possibility of relocating the urban in an expanded dimension, where narratives of the built space are combined with the analysis of official documents, political discourses and visual materials, in an attempt to never move too far away from the architectural object and at the same time to capture, as suggested by De Boeck ‘the material articulations of imagination, ideology and social life’ associated with the development of infrastructure networks.