The Booming Architecture of a Country in Crisis

Jorge Figueira 

Is there such a thing as ‘Portuguese architecture’? In the early decades of the 20th century, modern architecture was for the Portuguese an aspiration postponed, considering the political and cultural circumstances of the period, with its tendency towards traditionalism and its nostalgia for the colonial empire. Modernity was a vague objective even for the architects of modernity. Only with the mythical First Congress of Portuguese Architecture (1948) did the notion of modern architecture take on a clearer form, with a new generation managing to execute it in a manner more its own. So it was that architects like Arménio Losa or Viana de Lima were capable of getting close to Le Corbusier, while on the other hand modernity began to become something familiar thanks to the influence of Brazilian architecture.

In the Portuguese colonies of Africa, especially Angola and Mozambique, Portuguese architects found the perfect territory and context in which to experiment with the vibrant ‘tropical’ rationalist model. While in Angola Vasco Vieira da Costa and Francisco Castro Rodríguez materialized on a grand scale the modern aspiration that in the ‘metropolis’ could only be effected building by building, in Mozambique Amancio Miranda Guedes – more commonly known as ‘Pancho’ Guedes – sought to enlarge the large scale even further, reaching delirious dimensions...

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