Precol Residential Blocks Unidade de Vizinhança n.º 1 (Prenda Quarter)

Precol Residential Blocks Unidade de Vizinhança n.º 1 (Prenda Quarter)

Luanda [São Paulo de Luanda], Luanda, Angola


The Neighbourhood Unit #1 of Prenda neighbouhood (1963-1965) is a revealing work of direct influences of Le Corbusier into three different scales: urban planning, the collective housing block and single-family housing.

After the intership in France with Le Corbusier and A. Wogenscky, Fernão Simões de Carvalho (1929) returns to his hometown, in 1959, integrating the Town Hall as an architect and urban planner. In 1961, he leads a multidisciplinary team in the Urbanization Office of the Municipality of engineers, designers, model makers, administrative, topographer and a painter, with whom will share the knowledge of modern principles acquired with Le Corbusier, Fernão Simões de Carvalho words this office would be "a real urban school". In the development of the work done he will synthesize the concepts: of Robert Auzelle (critical of the Athens Charter proposing the integration of socio-economic factors in urban planning), with whom he studied at the Sorbonne City Planning Institute; the ideas of Le Corbusier, the building experiences and plasticity of béton brut, and the application of the Modulor system that he knew well due to the monitoring and construction of the Berlin Unité d’Habitation and La Tourette Convent.

In Luanda, Simões de Carvalho will work in the demographic expansion context of the city, observed from the beginning of the 50s, resulting from the economic boost provided by the coffee trade and "II Development Plan", with the main objective of solving the lack of housing in the city, that was developing quickly and in an informal way, inhabited by natives and Europeans and other Africans escaping the tax control establishing their business.

Thus develops several urban plans such as the Urban Plan of Futungo de Belas (1960-1962), Luanda Master Plan (1961-1962) and several partial plans, such as the detailed plan for the area of Mutamba , touristic island of Luanda, and also plans for the neighborhood units.

In Luanda Master Plan (1961-1962) defines a road hierarchy, creating a strategy for major roads and another one for short journeys. There should be no zoning by function, as had previously been defended, but a neighborhood unit system in which the functions of housing was grouped with working, equipment, industry and services. According to the Athens Charter principles, the project of construction of the city should not only be applied to new areas, but also transform the downtown area, where were already circulation problems that would be solved through the implementation of a road plan consisting in two major axes of penetration, one in the north-south and one east-west, linking the city center to the interior of Angola, through four external routes. At the crossroads of major roads and before entering the downtown were provided three main car parks.

This plan was not realized, but was the starting point for the implementation of structural axes of the city and to carry out plans for three neighborhood units in "musseque" (slum) Prenda, two of which are implemented.

Fernão Simões de Carvalho defines, with the collaboration of Luiz Taquelim da Cruz, the detailed plan for the Neighbourhood Unit N# 1, designed between 1963 and 1965. Organized regarding "7V" system (hierarchical traffic system proposed by Le Corbusier and developed by Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew to Chandigarh, called "Les Sept Vois of Circulation" or 7V) proposed by Le Corbusier, combines the lessons of Robert Auzelle on the definition of different urban block types for different social and ethnic groups.

This neighborhood unit is placed in an area of approximately 30 hectares and consists of 22 residential buildings. The integration of various social groups is made possible by defining different types of residential buildings and some equipment, including cinema and shopping malls. This unit consists of a tortuous shopping street, where cars circulate slowly (V4) and by other means also waving access to housing (V5). Between these two pathways were provided much of the equipment that was never built. Dead-locks (V6) are designed to access the single-family housing and for block housing, existing small squares in between.

The blocks with T1 houses and office towers are concentrated on the commercial street. The unit is limited by V3 roads. The circulations hierarchy keeping the rapid transit away from walking routes, along with empty spaces created by the buildings placed on pillars, should favor the encounter of the community and promote neighborly relations in order to establish trust between neighbors. The proportion of the population density and "native" and European should be established in 1/3 and 2/3, respectively, with 1,150 planned housing. The architect hoped that, with time, this proportion was reversed, contributing to the multiracial society that planning.

In fact, it can be said that Fernão Simões de Carvalho appreciated the socio-experiential aspects at the expense of climate issues, or even hygienists, who dominated planning in African colonies.

Nevertheless the climatic factor was not completely discarded since it was considered in the architectural conception, the solution in semi-duplex, that the architect founded as an optimal solution for tropical climates, since they facilitate good cross ventilation and none of the blocks are deployed in parallel to the prevailing direction of the wind in Luanda (west-southwest: all year / west-southwest and south-southwest: April to June). The only planned shading was the outer shutters. In fact, the project of the residential blocks of Unit # 1 in "musseque" Prenda provided an opportunity to make a synthesis of architecture and urbanism, as in collaboration with the architects José Pinto da Cunha (1921-1985) and Fernando Alfredo Pereira (1927), Fernão Simões de Carvalho accepts the commission, under the CML initiative, Precol. The blocks are differentiated by height and by type - 12 floors (type A, west), 7 floors (type B1, north and D1 type South), 6 floors (type D2 to the south) and 16 floors (the west and southeast) - being at all to emphasize a constant formal solution: on pillars (today the ground floor spaces have been successively closed) and horizontal circulation galleries allowing exploration of more units of one floor, as houses developed in duplex or half floors. Of the 28 designed blocks 22 are built.

Currently, the Neighbourhood Unit Prenda was significantly changed and the "musseque" invaded all open spaces, including the bottom of the housing blocks. Walls were built between the pillars in order to also occupy the ground floor. However, the whole stands in the skyline and the city plan.

A scent of a modern city, an isolated island where the victory for the Athens Charter was rehearsed; in a time where it was believed that one could plan the latent city growth, integrating mix population, creating life conditions that would be pleasant for everyone.


Original by Ana Tostões

(FCT: PTDC/AUR-AQI/103229/2008)

Adaptation by Ana Tostões e Daniela Arnaut.