Beira

Lat: -19.830850999961000, Long: 34.834596999965000

Beira

Sofala, Mozambique

Historical Background and Urbanism

The military command of Aruângua, created in 1884, was the origin of Beira (later a city). This establishment was included in the broad context of the colonial occupation that took place in Africa from the last quarter of the 19th century, a process that would witness a decisive acceleration after the Berlin Conference (1884-1885). Beira – whose name was given in honour of the Portuguese heir prince Luís Filipe (Prince of Beira) – is an exemplary case illustrating the competition among the colonial metropolises and the diplomatic manoeuvres undertaken with the aim at “dismembering” the African continent. Although the existence of the region had been known since the 16th century, being mentioned in a map from 1769 as an area for the trade in ivory, the Portuguese preferred to use the Sofala route and, later, that of the Zambezi to transport gold from the plateau of Manica to the coast, in virtue of its geographical conditions being deeply unsuitable for colonial settlement. The interest in the Bay of Pungué (then known as Bay of Massansane or Bay of Mesquita) dates back to 1882, when explorer Joaquim Carlos Paiva de Andrade drew the attention of the Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa (Geographical Society of Lisbon) to the effective occupation of the vast region including Sofala, Manica and Sena, this area being the natural gateway for the reoccupation of all that territory.
The origins and development of the settlement were connected with its privileged position in a future network of communications with the interior which would be built later as required by the agreement of borders signed with Britain on the 11th June 1891. Its definitive location, on the left bank of the Pungué River, in defiance of the official determinations of the 16th August 1884, reflects the need to find a better anchorage after the hydrographic survey of the river. The first landing stage with mooring facilities was built on the right bank of the Chiveve in 1895. The first wharf was constructed in 1929 and was the basis for the current harbour. A railway line connecting the city with southern Rhodesia (narrow gauge track was completed in October 1896 and the wide gauge track was inaugurated soon after, on the 10th July 1900). The exploration of the Trans-Zambezian Railway, starting at Dondo, 27 km from the city, would also be open on the 1st July 1929.
But the definitive establishment of Portugal in the region, within a poor palisade of sticks and matope (mud), in the uninhabited lands of Bangoé only took place in August 1887, following long-lasting and difficult negotiations with Ngungunhane, the lord of the region, which started with the “Nguni” invasions of 1835-1836. The whole region of Manica and Sofala would later be the stage of serious international conflicts over the four following years, including its occupation in 1891 by the police force of the British South Africa Company. As usual at the time, the settlement and development of such extensive territories would, be entrusted to a commercial society – the first Companhia de Moçambique (Company of Mozambique) , estabilished in Beira and attempting to set up an effective presence in Manica. Only in 1892, after the re-establishment of peace in the territories and the creation of the second company with governmental powers, were the major works that would transform Beira started. Therefore the place developed from this poor and insignificant settlement, in a context of great political instability and adverse geographical conditions. It would become one of the major ports in east Africa, a place with strategic importance for practically all countries in the region. This was acknowledged in the elevation of Beira to city status on the 29th June 1907, in which the “exceptional importance of its position and clear value of the activity of its port and the traffic on its railway” was mentioned, transforming it into a “great hub of navigation and trade for a long-lasting and promising future”. (Boletim Oficial no.31, 03.08, p. 341).
The military post of Aruângua was only officially established on the 20th August 1887 after the arrival of the “small detachment composed of a second lieutenant, a sergeant, a bugler, 20 soldiers and ten workmen” from Chiloane. It was located at “Ponta Chiveve”, in the place where vestiges of a memorial monument are preserved near the present day building of the Municipal Council. It consisted of a “fortress”, as it was referred to in a document from that time, bordered by a rectangle 60 metres x 50 metres, with a defence enclosure of a “thick double walling”. This shielded the post only on the land side, because on the sea side nothing had been built, and it remained surrounded by a ditch three metres wide and two metres deep. On the east, fronting a small African village, there was a small drawbridge which was raised at night. It probably also included the “shed-like house” and some shacks to shelter expedition members. On February 1892, the post was relocated to Chiloane and, soon afterwards, the barracks was demolished.
The settlement actually originated in the first warehouses built by the former Company of Mozambique in 1888. Four years later when the second company was established, the constructions were extended haphazardly over the narrow sand spit between Chiveve and the Pungué River. The houses of the Company were located on its right bank; the military expedition and the fortified camp of the military command of Aruângua (currently in ruins) on its left bank. Although Beira was acknowledged as an “urban settlement” that year, this designation was merely legal and was aimed at explaining the division of the plots of land between the Portuguese State and the Company of Mozambique, which had then taken administration possession of the territories of Manica and Sofala. This distribution marked, nonetheless, the first step towards the urbanization of the settlement. The first plan (with the main streets and quarters designed a regular and geometric pattern) was drawn up during the following year. It was an initiative of the engineer Joaquim José Machado (1847-1925), in an effort to obviate the existing inconveniences such as the primitive shacks of the Alfândega Quarter (now completely vanished). This prevented disorganized growth and defined a streetplan adjusted to the configuration of the area, which was enlarged as it expanded with the buildable land being divided into plots with a defined orientation.
The former plan of Beira (1899), the only one in the archives and certainly drawn up after that by engineer Machado, suggests that the later urbanization plans kept the original layout, with only small adjustments to new urban concepts. On the left bank of the Chiveve, where the lighthouse, the customs house, the hospital, and the market stood, the plan was mapped out in an easterly direction. This can be easily confirmed nowadays along António Enes Street with its extensive expansion throughout the narrow sand spit to the sea, ending in the present day Independência Square (known in the colonial period as India Square). The transverse streets were always mapped out perpendicular to the main streets, but when they reached the dunes of the beach it was necessary to make them perpendicular to the coast. At its extremity was the Ponta Gêa Quarter, where the Company built some early infrastructures such as a semaphore/lighthouse (1892-1893) built on a sand peninsula then separated from the sand dunes of Beira by a mango grove and by the shallows uncovered during low tide. Because of the uncertain firmness of the sand spit, the main buildings of the village such as the barracks, the jail, the church, the cemetery and a sports field (cricket), stood on the right bank of the Chiveve known as Maquinino where there was more sense of safety. Its wider streets laid out on the perpendicular, their direction determined by the Chiveve River bank. The connection between the two banks was fundamental, and an earlier construction of a wooden bridge (1896) was replaced by a metal bridge in 1910.
The connection to the interior was by means of a road heading north, avoiding the swamp, in the direction of Esturro, at which point it curved towards Matacuane. From here it headed for the sandy elevation of Chota, then curving to Manga [of] Loforte. Later the Munhava road was built from there, in the region of Esturro, heading directly to Manga. The access road to Macúti, where there was already a lighthouse (1904) and the so-called Catholic Mission of Marora, avoided the beach because it was subject to shifting sands. It was after the conclusion of the road-plan in November 1930 that the creation of a “village for Europeans” was considered. It was actually built 20 years later with the construction of 100 detached houses forming the Sofil Quarter (1953), the establishment of some stores (the Leão de Ouro and the Emporium), and a nautical club (1953) with headquarters designed by architect Francisco de Castro. But it grew mainly with the establishment of a tourist area to the north of the lighthouse in April 1957, with an area of 127,700 square metres, including a tourist camp (55,600 square metres) and an hotel (43,500 square metres), after the town hall authority allocated land for this purpose.
The great concerns of the initial years were about protecting the city against tidal flooding which affected the lands near the courthouse as far as the Chiveve River, between the former building of Hotel Savoy and Beira Clube (present day seat of the Millennium bIM Bank). For that purpose a wall was built on the Chiveve left bank by the French company Sud-Est Africain, and subsequently embankments were made, forming the existing urban area of this side of Chiveve, next to the port. No embankments were built on the right bank, but rather ditches for the outflow of rainwater and tidewater. Later private initiatives gradually undertook san- itation works on lands being purchased for the construction of warehouses, stores and residences. In 1931, an engineer, Harrison (from the Ross Institute, London), seeking the salubrity of 1,400 hectares of land in regions to the north and east of the city, elaborated a complex drainage system which had the inconve- nience of preventing building on the land. Despite the high cost of such undertakings and its expensive maintenance, the municipality also attempted to open some ditches in the direction of the Chiveve, but these works were nothing more than simple attempts. The major works were impaired by the lack of necessary materials nearby. The stone was initially extracted in Sofala, Chirinda and the estuary of Pungué, and then transported to Beira by boat. More recently, its extraction was made from mile 65, along the railway. Sand and grit were preferably obtained at block no. 2 of Beira Railway (located between kilometre five and kilometre ten of the railway line), but sand was also obtained at Ponta do Cabedelo and in Macúti. These materials were transported to the city through a narrow gauge (60 cm) decauville line with locomotives and wagons purchased from the Beira Railway. This service began on the 28th September 1901, for the transport of goods and passengers, but due to financial failure it was exclusively consigned for the embankment service and only ceased operation in 1954.
In this first stage of evolution, between 1900 and 1915, the urban layout of Beira had a pragmatic character, without any significant aesthetic concerns: the city’s initial core was defined in a north/south orientation to avoid the swampy areas, and essentially aimed at trade and port functions, and its setting on the banks of the river always made its growth and salubrity difficult. The following development stage, to the southeast (also to avoid swamps), between 1925 and 1930 on a linear plan was more ordered and rigorous.
The photographic and cartographic documents of the early years of the 20th century enable the visualization of the kinds of construction characteristic of the initial settlement (mainly pre-fabricated metal struc- tures imported from Europe). These were located between the Custom House and Luís Inácio Square (present day Metical), along Main Street so-called because of the British presence (connecting Conselheiro Enes and Luís Inácio streets).This included the Queen’s Hotel, the Point Store and the bonded warehouse, as well as the above-mentioned Beira Clube. At the back, near Luís Inácio Square, stood the buildings of the Sud-Est Africa (with a lookout) and the Paulings Building (and the above-mentioned Hotel Savoy). The House of Portugal (still existing) and the Old Kiosk were also located in this area, as well as the building of the Standard Bank. Later Conselheiro Castilho Street was created, extending in the same north/south direction to Conselheiro Almeida Square (the future Município Square), continued by Valssassina Street (the General Machado Street/King Carlos Avenue axis) – in which the Oceana Building, the kiosk and gazebo stood, besides the Cocorosis store (1929) and the Post Office (1930).
Beira had 700 inhabitants in 1891, and had 499 houses and 3,400 inhabitants in 1910, a number that rose to 20,000 in 1928. The above-mentioned plan of 1899 mentions the urban fabric on both sides of the river but also to be considered as a background to the city’s evolution is the 1925 plan by Carlos Roma Machado Faria e Maia (engineer, 1861-?), when the docks and shipping berths were under construction, the latter being inaugurated in 1929.
Until the 1940s, when a new urbanization plan was approved two other urbanistic surveys are known. These would never be put into practice because the Company of Mozambique and the town hall did not possess the financial resources to implement them, as they radically intended to transform the city. The first, dating from 1898 and drawn up by engineer Costa Serrão, was aimed at finding a solution for the issues of the port and railway. The second plan started to be implemented from 1921 onwards due to the need to expand the city. Another development plan drawn up by the Comissão de Ampliação da Cidade da Beira (Commission for the Expansion of the City of Beira) was even presented at a session of the Committee of Urban Administration, on the 24th October 1927, but a technical statement had to wait for the architect that would be hired. Carlos Rebelo de Andrade (1887-1971), one of the leading figures of the architecture of the Estado Novo, was selected and would remain in the city for the short period of two months (from 30.7.1929 to 26.9.1929). He was entrusted with drawing up a proposal that would focus on the plan of the city. He concluded a draft of the Projecto de Urbanização e Alargamento da Cidade da Beira (Urbanization and Enlargement Project for the City of Beira), possibly the basis of the urbanistic study presented publicly at the Paris Colonial Exhibition (1931) and at the headquarters of the Company of Mozambique in Lisbon in February 1932. The document was sent to Beira the following month. During his stay in the city, Rebelo de Andrade was also charged with the design of the Port Captaincy buildings, the European Hospital and the Territorial Governor’s Residence, but there is no evidence that these were ever built. He also made a scale model of the Commemorative Monument of the Portuguese Occupation of East Africa (1931) and the Praia de Macuti Urbanization Plan for the outskirts of the city. The Ante-Projecto de Urbanização da Cidade da Beira (Preliminary Project for the Urbanization of the City of Beira) – a new urbanization plan for the city – was drawn up in 1943, conceived by engineer Joaquim de Oliveira Ribeiro Alegre and architect José Luís Porto (1883-1965), approved by the Ministry of Colonies on the 12th September 1947 and would mark the city up to the present. Under the contract between the Sociedade Portuguesa de Fomento Limitada (Portuguese Society for Development) and the Town Hall of Beira, the former was obliged to deliver an urban plan within two years in addition to projects for the indigenous quarter, drainage for rainwater, drainage of the swamps near the city and sewerage of residual waters. The general layout defined in this plan was based on the existing roadplan and conditioned by the existence of Chiveve Lake, the contours of the land and by embankments and defensive structures. The central point for the main arteries was at the crossing of the former road to Rhodesia and Francisco Barreto Street, the widest street of the residential area of the city.
The city was divided into quarters, both ethnic – European (from the south of Chiveve to Macúti), Asian (Maquinino, Esturro and Matacuane) and African (Manga), and in terms of function – commercial (on the western section), industrial (to the west of the road of Manga), railway (in which it is still located) and airfield (Manga). Chiveve would be converted into a lake that, along with the golf course, would create a large green area to give the city breathing space and clear views, although a Civic and Commercial Centre was later planned for the space under the terms of the Plano Regulador da Beira (Regulatory Plan for Beira) (outline) by architect Carlos Veiga Pinto Camelo. For that purpose, a small plan by architect João Afonso Garizo do Carmo (1964) was prepared with the backing of a group of technicians from the Ministry of Overseas Affairs. This plan would be criticized by architect Leopoldo de Almeida (Information no. 242/62, of 12.12.1962, from the Urbanization Department of the Ministry of Overseas Affairs) “as a completely surpassed plan”. According to that technician, the “plan was conceived as a total plan of land use, that is, a detailed plan encompassing the whole existing city and its sprawl, connecting it to a mandatory urbanistic model during the period of enforcement of the plan. This would force the city to subject itself to an excessively rigorous and arbitrary scheme that would drastically lead to a uniformity of the areas in expansion and to the loss of the planning work as it is always impossible to predict, at any given moment, the socio-economic evolution of any settlement, except in the short-term.” (AHM, Inspecção dos Serviços Administrativos, box 45 – Relatório da Inspecção Ordinária à Câmara Municipal da Beira (IV Part), 1973, António A. S. Borges, pp. 17-52). In 1961 the Beira Town Hall would also present to the Direção Provincial das Obras Públicas (Public Works Provincial Department) for assessment and for approval, a guiding plan for the city, entitled Plano Regulador da Beira – esboço (Regulatory Plan for Beira – outline) by architect Carlos Veiga Pinto Camelo. Considered an important advance in terms of the city urbanistic studies, it was nonetheless considered “incomplete, essentially in the section regarding the predicted occupation density, both for residential areas and for industrial, commercial zones and suburban quarters”. (AHM, Inspecção dos Serviços Administrativos, box 45 – Relatório da Inspecção Ordinária à Câmara Municipal da Beira (IV Part), 1973, António A. S. Borges, pp. 17-52). After this, the Department of Urbanism and Housing of the Ministry of Overseas Affairs decided to promote the visit of experts in 1965. The team was led by the architect Leopoldo de Castro Neves de Almeida. It included architect António Joaquim Teixeira Morais Veloso and designer Virgílio Alberto Nunes Martinho – with the aim at drawing up a Regulatory Plan for Manica and Sofala, establishing the urbanistic organization of the Beira-Manga-Dondo block and above all to solve the urbanistic problem of the expansion of Beira, and to put its zoning into practice. The Regulatory Plan for Beira was submitted to the approval of the municipality on October 1966, but three years later had still not obtained ministerial approval, including the alterations deriving from the Estudo da Integração no Plano Regulador da Beira das Áreas Reservadas a Bairros Populares (Study for the Incorporation of the Areas Consigned for Popular Quarters in the Beira Regulatory Plan) by architect Morais Veloso, which prevented expropriations for the public use for the creation of new streets or to carry out other urbanization works.
Only from the second half of the 1950s and into the 1960s was there a fast-moving change in urban development in Macúti, Matacuane and Munhava-Nova, as well as the construction of sizeable buildings such as the Grande Hotel of Beira, the Bank Nacional Ultramarino, the cinemas São Jorge and Nacional, and the Bulhas, Emporium, A. Teixeira, Souglides, F. L. Simões, Cocorosis, Nauticus, Nunes, and Barreto buildings.
Symbolically, the most visible sign of the urban changes during this new period is Município Square, which emerged after the demolition of the wood and zinc old houses. These works were concluded on December 1954 (and took the name of Gago Coutinho, on the 23rd February 1959, following the death of the famous aviator and scientist).
In summary, Beira, during the second and third quarters of the 20th century (as in the identical and contemporary port centre of Lobito, in Angola), saw an intense and continued population growth: if in 1928 the city had 20,000 inhabitants by 1960 it already had 45,000. Ilídio do Amaral calculated around 89,000 inhabitants c. 1970. Alongside this growth, the city modernized itself, shifting from the “corrugated iron city” of the 1900s, when metal constructions were dominant, to the city of concrete modernist buildings in the 1930s. In 1949 the Hydrographic Mission survey recorded the long urbanized grid extension to the south and the start of occupation north of the swamps near the railway station. The city expanded significantly during this stage, set up on a grid layout to the north based on the railway terminus, and the existing Maquinino Quarter south of the terminus. In the early 1970s Beira organized its urban area in two dominant directions, starting from its founding core (including Infante de Sagres Avenue and Luís Inácio and Paiva de Andrade streets): in the northwest/southeast direction, on the axis of República Avenue/5 de Outubro (present day Mondlane) and over another parallel to the first one (northward of the Tivane River) following the General Roçadas Avenue (present day Base N’Tchinga) with a parallel avenue between both (Príncipe da Beira Avenue, present day Armando Tivane); in the southwest/northeast direction north of the former swamps (the “Golf Course”), along the axis of Massano de Amorim Avenue (present day Samora Machel) and, running parallel, on the axis of General Vieira Street/Araújo Road along with the corresponding quarters. The Capitão Duarte Costa Avenue (present day 24 de Julho) connected the roundabouts of the two areas mentioned above. In recent decades, during post-independence period, the city has undergone significant urban and architectural decay, and this has been aggravated by the characteristics of its location, on wetlands and former swamps. Monuments and Statuary Set on the main urban squares of the city, the following monuments are worthy of note: the Monument Commemorative of the Portuguese Occupation of East Africa (planned in honour of Sofala and its founder, Pêro de Anaia), by Carlos Rebelo de Andrade with a sculpture by Maximiano Alves dating from 1932, consisting of a cylindrical marker with a low relief topped by a shield; the Monument to Carmona, a simple work in Art Deco style (prior to 1960); the Monument to the Pioneers of Aruângua (prior to 1960); and the Monument to Caldas Xavier, Hero of the Integrity of Mozambique, built in Caldas Xavier Square, in front of the Emporium building (1956).

Religious Architecture

Equipment and Infrastructures

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