Theses defended

Modern Architecture and Urban Ambience Conservation in a Postcolonial Context: Downtown Maputo

Lisandra Franco de Mendonça

Public Defence date
October 28, 2016
Doctoral Programme
Heritages of Portuguese Influence
Giovanni Carbonara , Júlio Carrilho e Walter Rossa
Forty years after Mozambique's independence from Portugal (25th of June 1975), the difficulties in assessing and rehabilitating the architectural heritage of modern colonial origin (which represents the bulk of the edification within the limits of the so-called "cement city") are evident. The prolonged civil war (1976-1992) that followed the Independence forced the rural population to dislocate to the cities, and contributed to the progressive degradation of the historic urban centres and their services. The postcolonial appropriation mechanism led to a natural process of "refunctionalisation" and to the abandonment of many urban infrastructures.
The thesis focuses on the modern heritage of Maputo and is interested in deepening the knowledge of the particularities (ideological, technical, and material) involved in the conservation of architectural heritage associated with the postcolonial context. The difficulties relate greatly to functionality, materials, the replacement of infrastructures, the urban surroundings, its maintenance, and patina, as well as the recognition of this recent heritage, and its protection by an official tutelage. Studies, the aging buildings, and the relationship between such different cultures (colonial and postcolonial) bring new challenges and discussion of issues that deserve consideration: 1) their "lifetime" proximity to our own epoch affects the (historical) distance required for properly interpreting and evaluating their significance; 2) we do not have accumulated knowledge or technical expertise to handle all the variety of the modern heritage of postcolonial societies, considering that we are not interested in mastering only the technology, but also the ways urban and domestic spaces are now (re)demarcated and lived, given that the urban postcolonial environment gained new historical and cultural layers that have to be acknowledged; and 3) the western notion of heritage has not found acknowledgment in areas of non-European roots, especially when related with colonial experiences.
In the first part of the thesis, I focus on the social and economic transformations in the urban and architectonic framework that took place in the post-colonial context in Maputo. In the second and third parts, I address the measures that have been undertaken by Mozambican officials and the difficulties that arise in the management and enhancement of the modern colonial heritage.
Keywords: Modern heritage of Maputo; modern architecture in a postcolonial context; architectural and urban conservation; heritage conservation in a postcolonial context; Mozambique.