Lisandra Franco de Mendonca: »Post-colonial urbanity and after: colonial heritage, amnesia and urban aspirations in Maputo’s Cidade de cimento«

Technische Universität Berlin

Straße des 17. Juni 135, Hauptgebäude, H112

10623 Berlin

This lecture addresses the urbanization, urbanism, and urbanity in contemporary Maputo, with an emphasis on built heritage issues. The research aimed to provide background for understanding the socio-urban development of the locally dubbed “cidade de cimento” (city built to European standards in the colonial period) and the role of the colonial administration relative to informal processes of urban expansion in the “suburbs” (the location for lower-income, indigenous and “assimilated” groups), which led to the consolidation of a dual planning regime during the second half of the 20th century, enhancing racial-spatial inequalities. Throughout the bloody and protracted Colonial War/ War of Liberation (1964-1974), the European built environments of Lourenço Marques (renamed Maputo in 1976) came to embody what current scholarship on 20th century architecture in Africa misleadingly tends to identify as “Modern Diaspora”, failing to articulate the historiographical challenge of specific material translations with a complex interplay of actors and the colonial agenda – colonial developments and the expansion of earlier urban plans were happening at the same time most other African nations were embarking on Independence. Like other Sub-Saharan cities of colonial genesis (e.g., Beira, Nampula, Luanda), the city built by the colonial masters is now only a small part of the city, as the vast “(i)n(f)ormal” areas house up to 80% of the urban population. What we came to name “formal” and “informal” city, formal and informal strategies of survival, constitutes entangled and dependent realities. Urban plans, regulations, state and formal private sector investments, however, continue to address (Western) idealized notions of what urban planning, urban living, heritage conservation, and cities, “should be”, eluding the conditions for implementation of such visions, unable to provide for adequate infrastructures and services in fast-growing “slumified” areas where the majority of city dwellers live. The maintenance of this coloniality of space, power and knowledge, we argue, stems not only from structural difficulties, but also from the (mis)understandings of “development” conveyed by the national elites. This raises the questions that underlie the research: How do these cities manage their strong modern heritage today? How do they bridge conflicts between the protection of urban ensembles, urban development and contemporary urban aspirations?

Lisandra Franco de Mendonça is an architect and heritage conservation researcher and currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Research Training Group 2227 as an Alexander von Humboldt Scholarship Holder. She was educated at Porto University and at the Sapienza University of Rome. She received her PhD from Coimbra University (cotutelle with Sapienza University of Rome) in 2016, with a dissertation on the conservation of modern architecture and urban ambience in Maputo (Mozambique). Her research field is the history of 20th century built production under dictatorial and colonial regimes in Europe and Africa. Within this field, she develops an interrogative view oriented towards the conservation of modern ensembles, focusing especially on patrimonial transferences, translocal spatial production and relations between European and African parallel modernities. She did her professional internship at Eduardo Souto de Moura Arquitetos in Porto and as of 2003 has collaborated in several architectural firms in Italy and in Portugal on architectural projects, construction supervision and project management, competitions and exhibitions.