Alfredo Matos Building (present day Ministry of Urbanism and Public Works)

Alfredo Matos Building (present day Ministry of Urbanism and Public Works)

Luanda [São Paulo de Luanda], Luanda, Angola

Equipment and Infrastructures

The Mutamba building was projected by Vasco Vieira da Costa in 1968 in order to serve offices and commerce, becoming to be known by the same designation as the square in which it has been built: the Mutamba Square.

Mutamba Square represents, even today, the center piece of Luanda city, where buildings such as Finance Ministry, on West, or the City Hall, on East, stand as highlighted buildings. Following the same rule, the building planned by Vasco Vieira da Costa, still shows the characteristics of the 1968 project, being nowadays the headquarters of the Ministry of Urbanism and Public Works of Angola  

Mutamba zone is located on the confluence of Luanda downtown up to high town, a more recently build area. It is also there where the remains of old constructions meet the modern city, brilliantly represented by Mutamba building and the contemporary city, literally mirrored on the high speed transformation suffered by constructions of all decades.

Currently, the Ministry of Urbanism and Public Works building, on a first impression, exhibits a parallelepiped form emerging above the trees, on a transparency of an ambiguous reality. Truly, it is a construction made of several blocks fulfilling a plot top on three fronts and two corners made by crossways of three streets, crossing Mutamba square.

Assuming the front facing North and the urban square as the building ‘main façade’, one may in fact recognize a ten storey parallelepiped block, partially supported on pilotis behind which one or more floors separated by another receded storey over the slab/balcony under which the pillars set free.

The overall volume is composed by two different volumes: a horizontal volume with a "C" plan basis of with three floors, and a vertical volume with more than 40 meters height, comprising two laminar volumes connected by a central gallery also designed as a laminar body.

The horizontal volume, in continuity with the surrounding altimetry, is, by its turn, composed by the ground floor and the two upper floors, which are designed around an inner courtyard with approximately 300m2. The "C" plan defined by the horizontal volume has an asymmetrical design, shorter and narrower as the West and longer and wider at East. The slight slope n between the two side streets leads to the existence of an intermediate floor on the West side, developed solution also in Kinaxixe Market (1950) as well as the design of a portico gallery of double high-ceiling with 4meters height, that surrounds the building, protecting the commercial and service area from the sun, and establishing a direct and continuous relation with the city. The entrance  is centered in the northern facade, facing the Mutamba Square.

On the horizontal volume stands the vertical volume composed of two laminar volumes containing the office spaces, served by a central gallery approximately 45m long and compressed between the two. The distribution gallery corresponds to the creative design of Vasco Vieira da Costa as a passive ventilation and lighting system: limited at the East and West ends by a reticular concrete panel which allows air and light to enter. The effectiveness of the gallery is enhanced by its size, lower than the volumes of office, and by the introduced diagonal in these same volumes that captures more easily airflows. In the offices corridors small openings are installed on the doors, promoting constant ventilation through the cross drafts throughout all building.

With regard to shading systems, the vertical volume is surrounded by a second skin, a dense mesh comprising small concrete plans in perpendicular directions away from the facade plane 90cm, giving a uniform image and the full-scale distortion of the facade inhibiting the reading of the several floors. On the north facade, facing Mutamba square, the mesh is interrupted by a rhythm of seven concrete boxes that link the horizontal volumeto the vertical volume, and by a "fenêtre-longueur", on the 10th floor, which sun protection is conferred through fixed vertical elements. On the first and second floors of the horizontal volume are installed adjustable slats of wood.

The Mutamba building of Vasco Viera da Costa assumes a modern monumentality able to characterize the collective equipment with iconographic sense, exploring passive control systems as the starting point to achieve an operating and simultaneously, expressive vocabulary.


Original by João Vieira Caldas

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

Adaptation by Ana Tostões e Daniela Arnaut.