African Colonial Architectures at the end of the “Portuguese Empire” book launch

22.05.2017, 17.20-17.40, Auditorium 1, Tower B, FCSH

Ana Vaz Milheiro. African Colonial Architectures at the end of the “Portuguese Empire”. Relógio d’Água, 2017

Presentation: Johan Lagae

The essay published here is the result of the Final Examination for Aggregate Professor presented by the author in ISCTE-IUL, in February, 2015. It corresponds to the text of the Lesson entitled “Architecture of the expansion (African Empire): Works of Public Promotion in the last phase of Portuguese colonialism (1944-1974)”. The original text was kept, with a rhythm close to oral diction, as well as the image sequence. In the lecture given on that occasion, the “spoken” discourse was confronted with a visual narrative. Here we sought to present the same logic by proposing two parallel readings as well.

The synthesis that is brought forth here stems from a series of studies conducted after 2008 and that, from 2010 onwards, result from research projects under the author’s coordination and publicly funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT).

“The final phase in the Portuguese colonialism in Africa accelerated the occupation processes in the colonies. The Estado Novo regime took on responsibility for consolidating the infrastructuring processes that began in the late 19th century and for the creation of public facilities, transforming the reality of the majority of the colonial cities, an aspect which is reflected in contemporary times. The contributions to this built landscape came from Lisbon-based government agencies working under the Overseas Ministry (such as the very special case of the Colonial Planning Office, which was set up in 1944 and underwent several transformations until the April Revolution of 1974), from the local public works departments and also from private developers who invested in the construction of facilities (namely leisure and services buildings), hiring professionals from the metropole or some already established in Africa.

In the case of representative public works, this spatial appropriation dynamic revealed a strategy based on the uniformization of the African landscape, which can be interpreted as a way of subjugating the colonized territories. This lesson will focus in particular on the first form of action – i.e., the work that depended directly on political decisions by the central and provincial governments and built under the remit of the various departments in charge of Public Works in the Portuguese colonies.” in Introduction


Ana Vaz Milheiro is an Assistant Professor, with Aggregation, at ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon and a researcher at DINÂMIA’CET-IUL. PhD at the University of São Paulo, Brazil (2004). Her book “Nos Trópicos sem Le Corbusier, arquitectura luso-africana no Estado Novo” (2012), received the Art and Architecture Critic and Essay Award from AICA (International Association of Art Critics)/Fundação Carmona e Costa. Currently, she is the Principal Investigator of “Coast to Coast – Late Portuguese Infrastructural Development in Continental Africa (Angola and Mozambique): Critical and Historical Analysis and Postcolonial Assessment”, a research project funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).

Johan Lagae is Full Professor at Ghent University, where he teaches 20th Century Architectural History with a focus on the non-European context. He holds a PhD on colonial architecture in the former Belgian Congo and has published widely on the topic, as well as on 20th century architecture and urban history in Central-Africa, and on the notion of colonial built heritage. His current research also focuses on architecture and planning in post-independence Africa, the emergence of the ‘global expert’ in the postwar era and the relationship between architecture and bureaucracy, both in Belgium and the colonized territories. He (co-)curated several Congo-related exhibitions, and from 2010 till 2014 he co-chaired a European research community devoted to the theme “European Architecture beyond Europe” (COST-action IS0904).

Photos: Lukasz Stanek

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