TAP Building (or Montepio of Mozambique)

TAP Building (or Montepio of Mozambique)

Maputo [Lourenço Marques], Maputo, Mozambique

Equipment and Infrastructures

Placed in the downtown area of the city, next to the Cathedral and the City Hall, the TAP-Montepio building (1955-1960), designed by Alberto Soeiro (1917-) answers the will of monumental expression stated in Araújo Plan (1887-1892). It promotes a clear centrality of the downtown area assuming an unequivocal modernity since it combines a colossal ground floor, occupied by services and commercial functions, with the design of a vertical parallelepiped volume intended for housing.

It’s located at the intersection of Samora Machel and Fernão Magalhães Avenues, on the first Araujo Plan expansion area, near the Tunduru Botanical Garden. It is the first multifunctional large-scale building, and housed two powerful companies, TAP and Montepio Bank of Mozambique, translating this symbolic representation through the volumetric statement, and the existing ceramic panel (signed 1959) on Samora Machel Avenue facade, conceived by Gustavo de Vasconcellos, who contributed to make it a city icon.

 The TAP-Montepio building consists of 13 floors: 4 for commercial areas and service, and 8 for housing. Both sets of floors were topped by terraces: the 4 commercial areas and service floors with a terrace designed as a public space articulated with the street through an open spiral staircase, whose wall is decorated with a composition in white and black stone; and the housing floors topped by a terrace seen as a domestic services placeholder, where is designed a curved flap to produce shadow on the tanks area.

The ground floor is understood by Alberto Soeiro as an urban design tool. Releasing it from the floor, the sidewalk is transformed into a "modern cloister" to which commercial and service areas are open. The facade is covered with a grid and vertical brise soleils.

The vertical circulation is defined by an hierarchical system of two blocks: the main one, placed at the main entrance consists of two elevators and a stairway that only access until the ground floor terrace, occupying a module of the structural module, resulting in an asymmetric interruption on the façade; and the service one consisting of an elevator and a stairway located in the decorated gable illuminated by a vertical opening protected by vertical slats.

The horizontal circulation is defined through distribution galleries, which keeps the social distinction of the vertical circulation. Alberto Soeiro defines differentiated designs, while the service galleries are narrow, the wider main ones, along Fernão Magalhães Avenue, have variable depth. Its design goes beyond mere the distribution corridor, suggesting, near the elevators a collective exterior area open towards the city.

The vertical volume, of approximately 53 meters long by 12 meters wide, consists of 12 modules that correspond to the building structural grid, accommodating 30 duplex and 3 triplex. The access is done through the galleries either main or service ones, whose level difference shows the hierarchy of the internal space. The duplex layout also favors cross ventilation.

Nowadays TAP-Montepio is a vertical neighborhood, served exclusively by the service staircase. The groundfloor terrace was privatized and closed, and the "modern cloister" has undergone several building additions approaching it to a lobby. The terrace of the housing floors is used as housing support areas. On the first floors function government services and a bank branch, and the other floors are occupied by housing. The building has serious signs of physical degradation. 

Original by Maria Manuel Oliveira and Jéssica Bonito.

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

Adaptation by Ana Tostões and Daniela Arnaut