Luanda [São Paulo de Luanda]

Lat: -8.813059999918800, Long: 13.230393999874000

Luanda [São Paulo de Luanda]

Luanda, Angola

Historical Background and Urbanism

Luanda is marked out by its bay along which a coastal road extends, executed in the mid-twentieth century and formed by a vast front of construction and a double row of palm trees that frame the water. On the opposite side and to the north extends the sandbank “island” which shelters the bay from the turbulent waves of the Atlantic. Looking over the military and institutional uptown, Luanda’s downtown corresponds to the original colonial city which gradually became its main commercial hub. The first colonists settled in a flat area partially recovered from the sea. A pronounced slope connects this area to the plateau across which the city sprawls along streets and avenues that form a unique landscape of an Afro-tropical nature. It is a city of asphalt. And where the asphalt ends, the musseque (the name given to the popular quarters in the region of Luanda) begins, now home to a population of millions. Luanda has tropical climate and is therefore hot and humid. In the rainy season, it starts to rain suddenly and endlessly. In the dry season – cacimbo – the city is covered in clouds, the temperature is milder, the variations in temperature are reduced but the humidity level is very high. However, regardless of the season, at nightfall a cool wind sweeps through the city and it becomes more comfortable. The light of Luanda with its multiple variations and nuances is one of the most impressive features of the city and one which greatly influences its architecture.
The city was founded in 1575-1576 when Paulo Dias de Novais and his followers landed on Cabras Island which, at the time, belonged to the king of Congo. Since its establishment, and up to the mid-nineteenth century, it was the most important centre on the coast, the point of departure for the conquest and evangelization of the territory. Moreover, it played the role of a trading centre, initially for slaves and ivory and later on for other products such as orchil and gum. It was the first European city to be established in western Africa. The slave trade was behind its prosperity and development and paved the way for the establishment of close ties with Brazil which became its first and major market for the labour force for the sugar plantations. Until the early 19th century, Angola lived from the slaves trade who were imported by Brazil and Portugal and exchanged for wine, fabrics and weapons. It was a coastal city, sheltered by a bay for defensive and commercial purposes (divided into an “upper city” and a “lower city”) following the morphology of the region. Old references show its dominant role as a trading post. But military, religious and civil facilities were also built there which revealed the interests of the Portuguese crown. The ruptures in the historical process and the discontinuities in urban development and construction growth, whether the city was under African or Portuguese occupation, including the most recent developments, have failed to consolidate a continuous process. It is easy to perceive the reasons for that weakness. The Portuguese presence determined the adaptation of its models to different physical and climatic conditions through the discreet use of local construction materials. An analysis of these influences helps to find and understand their effect on architecture through the fusion process that has laid the foundations of the modern day and future architectural reality.
Until the late 19th century Luanda was a very beautiful place, considered by its infrastructures and urban development stages. Its fan-shaped layout that extended from the bay and the foot of the São Paulo Hill with its jumble of buildings and manor houses with multiple rooflines contributed to its fame. The Coqueiros Quarter, located between the bay, the fortress and the gullies of the São Paulo Hill was the main settlement of the downtown where the earliest constructions included manor houses and two-storey residences with courtyards and multiple roofs. These houses were built with great skill, being directly connected to the Portuguese models that, with their establishment in Angola, were subject to only minor changes to improve interior comfort. Some of them were denominated “noble houses” due to the rich decoration of their façades. The lower town reflects that nobility in its traditional constructions, not only through the quality and elegance of their decoration, but also in the architectural composition of the churches, palaces, mansions and residences. It was also the location for built structure for trade and port activity support while it was in the upper town, for defensive reasons, that many of the vital urban amenities were established (defence, government, church).
Among the main military, religious and civil works the following can be mentioned: the three coastal fortresses of the city which are still standing (the most important, the Saint Michael crowning the upper town; the Saint Peter of Barra; and the Saint Francis of Penedo); also in the upper town the first cathedral (1590, devoted to Our Lady of Conception now demolished), the original town hall and prison (which was only to be transferred to the Mutamba Square in downtown in the 19th century), the governor’s palace (significantly changed and enlarged in the Pombaline period and again in the 20th century), the former 17th century Jesuit school and church, the church and hospital of Misericórdia (later considerably altered) as well as the churches of Saint John of the Europeans (1663) and that of Saint Anthony of the Italians Capuchin convent from 1668. The downtown with its linear urban development around the curve of the beach is notable for the Carmo Quarter (with the church of the Convent of Saint Theresa of the Barefoot Nuns) in the vicinity of what would later be the municipal area of the Mutamba Square. Also in the downtown at the extreme western end of Street of Praia beside the sea, stood the Public Yard, fronting Falcão and Terreiro squares (located to the west and south), forming a wide quadrangle built under Sousa Coutinho’s governorship between 1764 and 1772 and later endowed with a large cistern and a quay. The main elements of the urban road structure in the downtown were: Rua Direita do Bungo, that extended up to the area of the Hermitage of Our Lady of Nazareth; the centrally situated Caponte Square; on the eastern side the Remédios Square (with the Church of our Lady of the Remedy which would be used as cathedral after the ruin of the church located in the uptown); the Esquadrão Square (near the Cavalry Barracks from 1753); and the Square Duque de Saldanha (near the Customs House with its solid quay and located near the Trem/Arsenal building which was built around 1750). Other Luanda monuments, especially those of residential civil architecture, can be evoked. These include the urban manor houses with wide façades, bays arranged in rows and several storeys, the most monumental being the so-called Palace of Dona Ana Joaquina which was demolished recently and rebuilt as a pastiche. The modern day Anthropology Museum, in the downtown area is another example of an 18th century manor house which has been converted to new functions. Unfortunately, many of the finest examples of these houses can only be seen through photographs as the majority has been demolished. There are very few traces of the rich and varied urban residential housing of smaller dimensions which the architect Fernando Batalha was familiar with and which enabled him to present a detailed typology based both on direct observation and on a collection of significant graphic documents. The general lines of this Angolan architectural heritage can be recalled: single-storey houses with pilasters and verandas at the front, a central door flanked by windows on each side and a hipped roof; single-storey detached houses forming clusters, with four independent roofs and two or three openings on the façade; single-storey houses with a central shade porch over the door flanked by two blocks on each side; small two-storey town houses with balconies on the upper floor. Another group, more interesting in urban terms, which were frequent in Luanda downtown displayed the characteristic “scissor truss roofs” or “multiple roofs” which in the 17th century, adopted a “sober and somewhat austere appearance” “a more elegant character” and an “elegance of lines and intricacy of shapes” in the first half of the 18th century with “a return to sobriety” from around 1750 and, “being again embellished with baroque motifs”, in the transition from the 18th to the 19th century. In fact, there are traces of this type in the Portuguese world from Tavira to the Azores, from Brazil to India. Examples of the first phase would be the buildings (called sobrados, manor houses) in Avenue of Restauradores de Angola and in Salvador Correia Street such as the two-storey manor house of the Square Dom Fernando, the Lencastre House and the “Palace of Fantasmas”. From the second phase were some houses at Avelino Dias Street, in downtown and the present day Anthropology Museum also in down-town (restored/altered by Diamang in the 1960s). The last phase includes a dated building at Bungo, the Palace of Dona Ana Joaquina and buildings at Sousa Coutinho and Mercadores streets.
Throughout the 19th century and up to around 1930, the analysis of the urban structure and evolution of Luanda was facilitated by the existence of varied written and iconographic documents of a remarkable aesthetic and informative quality. The plan dating from 1755 (Instituto de Investigação Científica e Tropical – Institute of Scientific and Tropical Research) enables a detailed visualization of the shape of the city and the roles of its buildings; it is possible to compare it with a plan from 1861-1862 by F. Dutra which is also very detailed. At this stage, it can be said that the growth of the city was relative; its essential structure had already been consolidated in the mid-eighteenth century. As for the period of transition from the 19th to the 20th century and the first quarter of the 20th century, these correspond to a significant extension of the area of the city. The 1900 urban area can be analysed in a map by Alves Roçadas executed for the Town Hall. The city would have around 15,000 inhabitants in 1910, about 30,000 in 1923 and 50,000 in 1930, including 6,000 whites and 5,500 mixed. Throughout the first 20 years of the 20th century, certain new functions emerged in the uptown to make use of old buildings such as those of the Submarine Cable, the Appeals Court, the Observation Tower, the Attorney General (of the Republic), the Military Court, the King Pedro V Asylum and the Barracks. On the other hand, there was the imposition of the innovative urban railway (later removed) which, through the gentler ascent to the Ingombotas Quarter enabled a mechanical connection between the port area in the downtown and the institutional uptown. In an innovative manner a series of new road connections to the uptown (east of Avenue Governador Álvaro Ferreira and Neves Ferreira Street) with planned rectilinear streets structured a new area of expansion as well as a rapid connection to the hospital and the exit from the city towards Maianga and the south. This consisted of a grid layout extending to the east which was to be launched in the following years and was bordered to the north by the wide Gregório Ferreira Promenade (which linked Mutamba/Alexandre Herculano Square to the new Leonardo Carneiro/Kinaxixe Square) and to the east by the Brito Gudins Avenue. The railway, with a station between the Fort Penedo and Nazaré, passed through Mutamba and Carmo before heading south with another station in the uptown, near Neves Ferreira Street. The Mutamba/ Alexandre Herculano Square where the new building of the town hall was located, corresponded to the former Carmo Quarter giving rise, from west to east, to the quarters of Ferreiras, Ingombotas and later of Maculusso and of Maianga. The former Rua Direita which ended at this square was then called Avelino Dias Street and Dom Miguel de Mello Street. On the coastal line, the Rua Direita do Bungo, consolidated by new buildings, headed eastward to the quarters of Nazaré, Mãe Isabel, and Penedo. In the vicinity of the Bungo Square in downtown some important buildings displayed new techniques (the Iron Palace – Palácio do Ferro) or style (the Trade Palace). Also in downtown a series of civil and public functions modernized the available facilities. This was the case of the Police Station, the Bank Nacional Ultramarino, the Telephones and Telegrams building, the Post Office and the Captaincy of the Port (near Pedro Alexandrino Square) as well as Salvador Correia High School and the Fire Headquarters. Finally, there was a plan, making use of the Coqueiros area near the uptown for the establishment of a sports park with a stadium. In the early 20th century Luanda thus had a triangular layout with its sides set on the uptown, the downtown and the area of expansion of the Ingombotas and the extremities on the hospital (south) and Kinaxixe (east) radiating from the Mutamba Square.
The 20th century saw some changes which resulted from the appearance of the regional railway and above all from the creation of new streets and avenues leading to the plateau of Kinaxixe. Alongside this change there was a promotion of emigration from Portugal as a means of compliance with the resolutions of the Berlin Conference. Until 1930 the boundaries of the city were within those laid down by the 1909 charter, that is, in an area of approximately 350 hectares. The end of the Second World War brought growth and progress to Angola, particularly to Luanda. The agrarian plantation economy turned to foreign countries with top-rated products on a global scale, including coffee; the population increase was followed by commercial and industrial progress which accounted for the landfill for the coastal road and the construction of the trading port of Luanda between 1942 and 1945. Port activity resulted in a further increase in the importance of the city as it became the communications terminal both from within and outside of Angola. The result of the coffee boom was the start of new investments in civil construction. The city became more modern and new quarters were built to replace the old musseques such as the Café Quarter (Coffee Quarter). The uptown and downtown were renewed as new functions were taken on with the creation of new streets that connected both parts of the city and structured the first expansion area bordered to the north by the Gregório Ferreira Promenade, to the east by the Brito Godins Avenue and to the west by the quarters of Ferreiras, Carmo, Ingombota, Maculusso and later on by Maianga. A large chessboard was designed corresponding to the Kinaxixe Square from which the modernization of the city gradually took place. In the mid-1950s-1960s the city grew at an incredible pace, not only in terms of dwellings but also of infrastructures.
In this period, the map of the city clearly shows the main changes: along the bay, new quays and piers and the port railway; in the urban area, strong growth in a radial pattern with the abundant use of small tree-lined squares and avenues in a very irregular grid stretching from its genetic centre. The axis parallel to the coast was enlarged and modernized (in a west-east direction) from the Infante Dom Henrique Square passing through the Avenue of Restauradores, continuing along the Dom Fernando Square and Salvador Correia Street (built with five-storey buildings in the 1960s) while new roads emerged (the axis of Serpa Pinto Street and the Ring Road/King João II, the later with a new area to the east). The occupation and urbanization of the island fronting the bay started during that time. The process of continuous industrialization resulted in new work- ing posts and new job opportunities. From the 1960s onwards, residential construction increased, mainly in illegal construction which added non-urbanized areas to the consolidated city marked by their lack of basic sanitation, electricity and tap water. This resulted in a chaotic situation which led to the elaboration of the urbanization plan of 1957, an attempt at restoring a certain urban organization. But, due to external factors (a drawn out planning process delayed in Portugal) and the official dynamics the plan was soon considered to be outdated. In fact, capitalist fever was enormous in all areas: many of the ancient buildings gave way to new constructions with new urban functions and facilities. The rhythm of urban activities begun around 1950 led to the creation of new industries for the exploitation and extraction of ores. Free areas slowly disappeared: the old wide street plan was converted into narrow streets skirted by tall buildings in reinforced concrete with intensive occupation and use. This unplanned development led to an accumulation of complex issues whose resolution became increasingly difficult. Starting in 1965, foreign investment resulted in a significant and chaotic development of civil construction which did not follow any regulatory plan and led to the elaboration of various urbanization plans altered roughly every ten years, but without ever being implemented. Following some sporadic undertakings the Regulatory Plan for Luanda-Cacuaco-Viana was commissioned in 1971 but, similar to what had happened with previous plans, it was not implemented due to the lack of legal standing. Luanda became a patchwork of undertakings marked by several centuries of human presence with a past shown by momentary elements of composition, technology and dynamism, unplanned and ranging “from adobe houses and multiple roofs to the modern towers in concrete, aluminium, and glass”.
It should, nonetheless, recall the main initiatives aimed at controlling the urban growth of the city. The Plano de Urbanização da Cidade de Luanda (Urbanization Plan for the City of Luanda) which, along with that of Coimbra, was the first to be implemented in Portugal and was designed by the urban planner Étienne de Gröer (Warsaw, 1882-?) with the cooperation of David Moreira da Silva (Maia, 1909-2002) who had returned from Paris in 1938 where he had taken a degree at the Institute of Urbanism. The plan, published in the magazine Técnica, by the Lisbon Instituto Superior Técnico in December 1944 started in 1942 and concluded in 1946. It envisaged five “satellite settlements”, shown in a Planta da Região de Luanda (Map of Luanda Region) which would have “wide perime- ters, beyond a protective rural area approximatly two kilometres wide. De Gröer foresees the connection of the five satellite cities via a circular road, the estrada de circunvalação (ring-road).
It was certainly based on this plan that architect Vasco Vieira da Costa (Aveiro, 1911-Porto, 1982) designed the innovative essay for degree completion at the Porto Fine Arts School, Uma Cidade Satélite para a Capital de Angola (A Satellite City for the Capital of Angola) in 1948-1949. He explored an urbanistic conception inspired by Le Corbusier. Around the same period the Plano de Urbanização e Planta de Luanda (Luanda Urbanization Plan and Map) predicted a radial expansion southward and eastward of the city defining areas namely for the airport, industries, headquarters, rural and warehouses. A new plan was promoted by the governor general in the 1960s, entrusted to a French team and completed (and changed) by 1975. This had been preceded by an effort at urbanistic structuring through the invitation to the urban planner Faria da Costa who went to Luanda to “guide the recently created Urbanization Office which will function on the dependence of the Town Hall” (A Província de Angola, 9.4.1959, p. 4). Between 1959 and 1966, under the supervision of the architect Fernão Lopes Simões de Carvalho (b. 1929), the recently established municipal Urbanization Office gradually developed a guiding plan for the city. A faithful interpreter of the modern model, Simões de Carvalho (b. 1929) was an urban planner and draughtsman who was very attentive to the specificities of the city and the varied local contexts in which his projects took place. In charge of the above-mentioned Urbanization Office, he elaborated several detailed sectorial plans including the Revisão do Plano Director de Luanda (1962) and the Plano de Urbanização do Futungo de Belas (1960-1962), among others.
Luanda has a vital role in the history of modern architecture and especially in the history of the Modern Movement (1950-1970). It may be said that the most important architectural and urbanization subjects in the city took place in two periods: the first, between the 1920s and 1950s, with a remarkable urbanistic activity (the afore-mentioned Plano de Urbanização de Luanda by Moreira da Silva and De Gröer) and the construction of important buildings that defined the main layout of the city as it is today; the second, from 1960 to 1975, in which the modern city was built and consolidated. Apart from that, the period between 1975 and the end of the civil war, which lasted about 30 years, coincided with the drawing of the country (and particularly the city of Luanda) into serious problems from which it is gradually emerging. The brightest moments in Angolan architecture with a modern pattern date however from between 1950 and 1974. The most notable works are those by Vasco Vieira da Costa, Fernando Batalha, Simões de Carvalho, António Campino, Adalberto Dias, João and Luís Garcia de Castilho, Pinto da Cunha and Matos Veloso. To this names, which are key references, we must add other whose participation was less intense but of no lesser importance such as Vasco Palmeira, Luís Taquelim da Silva, Pereira da Costa and Antonieta Jacinto (amongst residents or with a more consistent presence in Angola), as well as Francisco Keil do Amaral, Januário Godinho, Francisco Silva Dias, João António Aguiar and David Moreira da Silva (amongst non-residents and, therefore, with a less consistent, albeit significant, participation). Considering the work of these, and other Luanda architects, the resulting impression is a remarkable capacity for the enrichment of local architecture, with the intelligent use of the internationally-based principles of the Athens Charter which had been orienting the design of cities across the world since 1933. In effect, Angola’s territory in general, and the city of Luanda in particular, is a paradigmatic case of the art of construction exercised by sensitive architects with the singular quality of knowing how to interpret naturally the context where they worked. In fact, when looking at the cities architecture in Angola we get a growing sense, especially in Luanda, that a phenomenon of natural empathy between the mainstream modernist model and the place where the architects were asked to work took place there. The liking for a somewhat plain design and unobstructed areas, often with generous shapes, was characteristic of Angola. The climate almost required this taste and it was clearly adapted to the environmental particularities. This also means a high level of sobriety in the conception of the visual space and, therefore, a definition based on the purity of the main architectural elements. Background matters, especially the tropical climate factor (although it does not characterize the whole territory of Angola), determined a particular way of designing buildings and in particular their “skin”, that is, their façade. In a sense, it was the construction method that made the architecture produced by Angolan modernism unique. In effect, the “skin” was almost always a complex gathering of elements connected to the protection introduced into the façade but enriching it in an exuberant fashion. In turn, the elements that define them are as rational as they are expressive (materials, textures, colours, shades, lights and silences). The perforated walls, the grilles, the glazing, the oscillations, the corbels, the shade screens, the verandas and generous galleries, the shutters and blinds protecting deep dark recesses, the thick pronounced textures, the earthy colours, the raw materials such as concrete, the washed and flat surfaces, such as the marmorites, were the “facts” with which the daily history of Luanda’s modern architecture was then built. The façade or “skin” of buildings thus became a complex set of principles and practices, translated into a great formal, scenic and environmental richness which, for this reason also, became particularly attractive. The lack of sophisticated technological resources, or perhaps the lucidity behind the design and the ecological philosophy of the Modern Movement principles resulted in unique and superbly developed construction types. Among these, it is vital to mention some experiments of a residential nature in projects for popular quarters as well as the establishment and design of some open-air cinemas such as the Miramar and the Aviz by João and Luís Garcia de Castilho (who also designed the Cinema Restauração, present day Parliament, in convencional modern-European layout). Identical principles of contextualization or intelligent use of natural conditions can be found in many projects for private, public or institutional buildings such as the unique case Louis Kahn project designed for the Consulate of the United States of America where the light of Luanda (that so deep impressed him) was the ingredient for the design of the complex “skin” that would be wrapped around the building, but ironically was not approved by local authorities and, therefore was not built. Monuments and Statuary In Luanda, the most impressive work is the Marker/Monument to the Soldiers of the First World War – which was also called The Military Effort of Portugal during the First World War, located in front of the former Quinaxixe Market. It was a work of monumental Art Deco design inaugurated in 1937 (defaced after Independence and adapted to another theme, the pedestal supported a military tank instead). The following monuments must be mentioned: the statue to Salvador Correia de Sá at the Square of the Government Palace (built before 1966); the monument to Diogo Cão in the square of the same name opposite the Custom House (by António Duarte, inaugurated in 1952, with the collaboration of Filipe de Figueiredo, Vitor Palla and Bento de Almeida); and the statue to King Afonso Henriques. It is important to mention that a scale model of this statue was published, alluding to the project by Faria da Costa and Raul Tojal. The present state of these monuments is unknown; they were possibly withdrawn or altered. The project for the Monument to Portugalidade (the Portuguese spirit) is also noteworthy. It was selected in a competition promoted by the Town Hall of Luanda in 1973-1974: a large work consisting of a central pillar and complementary elements in a public area that extended along the coastal road to the west of the Bank of Angola, it was designed by the architect Eduardo Iglésias (1926). It was intended to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the city (1576-1976). With the dawn of the Portuguese revolution on April 25, the work did not advance.

Religious Architecture

Military Architecture

Equipment and Infrastructures