Cirilo & Irmão building

Cirilo & Irmão building

Luanda [São Paulo de Luanda], Luanda, Angola


The Cirilo & Irmão (1958) building is an example of modern architecture developed in Luanda in the 50s, presenting characteristics of that production, namely the tropical climate impact translated in the building position favorable to natural ventilation and sun exposure, together with the plastic use of materials, the integration of other art forms, and the development of structural elements through sculptural approaches.

Between 1946 and 1972, coffee became the main export good in Angola, generating wealth, prosperity and consequent investment. The Cirilo family belonged to this group of investors, owning of one of the largest fields of Dembos region, located in north-west Angola, Roça Monserrate,and creating the Cirilo & Irmão, Lda. company with the aim of developing the construction sector. The headquarters of the company in Luanda, was designed by the young architects Francisco Pereira da Costa (1923-1976) and José Pinto da Cunha (1921-1985), committed with the assertion of modern architecture in Luanda.

The Cirilo & Irmão building, completed in 1958, is located in one of the commercial arteries of downtown Luanda, Major Kanyangulo Street, and is a mixed use block consisting of a commercial double height ground floor evidenced by a horizontal blade of concrete designed along the entire length of the facade. The offices are placed on the 1st floor and housing on the upper floors. The entrance is assumed as a double height space in which the spatial generosity is celebrated through a ceramic wall (evinel) with motifs related to African geography, habitat, and coffee exploration, using background cool colors and lush symbolic representations in yellow and red.

The apartments are designed in different typologies, duplex apartments on the 3rd, 4th, 8th and 9th floors, and single floor apartments on the 5th, 6th, 7th and 10th floors, resulting on different facade solutions. The main facade is oriented to south-east getting the morning sun, as such, the duo of architects creates a second skin through the design of a wide grid of concrete elements that allows shading, reducing the harmful effects of direct sunlight.

Still on the main facade it can be identified the kitchen for which was developed a grid of concrete as a protection, shading and ventilation system. On the opposite facade, northwest oriented, the sun protection is ensured through the shadow generated by the horizontal distribution gallery together with the horizontal brise-soleils. On the 9th floor the apartments were initially designed with private terraces that are now closed and occupied transforming the building's original image.

The circulation in the building consists of two systems splitting the office area from the housing area. The vertical circulation to the housing upper floors is guaranteed by an autonomous vertical volume of stairs and an elevator located four meters away from the main volume, connected to the horizontal galleries that serve the apartments, by suspended bridges.

The access to the interior of the apartments is done through a semi-private area, allowing the transition between the public area of the building's galleries and apartments. This area is now closed with security grids that contradict the initial idea of gradual transition. The volume of vertical circulation is characterized by a strong artistic expression and compositional sense defined by concrete grids that follow the motion of rising stairs, providing light and permanent natural ventilation.

The concrete is the most used material, applied in different circumstances, from the structure, to the distribution galleries, and different types of shading devices. The original window frames were made in wood, but with the progressive changes that the building has undergone, have been replaced by aluminum, especially in spaces that were closed, as the recessed balconies that existed on the main facade.


Original by Ana Tostões e Jéssica Bonito

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

Adaptation by Ana Tostões e Daniela Arnaut.