Featured Image Source: Nuno Rosario, Under Creative Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Conselho_Municipal_Maputo_(22096153185).jpg
If Brutalism was the style of independent Africa then Neo-classical architecture was the style of Colonialism.
Maputo City Hall is a great example of Neo-classical design during the colonial period. The building was constructed from 1941 to 1947 and was to be the centre of government for the rapidly expanding city of Maputo, (source). The building was designed by Carlos César dos Santos, a Brazilian Portuguese architect, (source). The building is the heart of local government for the city and its environs.
The building is situated at the end of Avenida Samora Machel and looks out towards the ocean. The building’s facades follow the contour lines of the roads that surround it, this leads the Northern facade not being at right angles to its two attaching facades. The building is situated in the city centre and is surrounded by important buildings and institutions. On the building’s Eastside sits the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and on its, Westside sits the city’s courthouse building.
The building’s style matches the monumental nature of its surroundings. The building’s facades and interior are Neo-classic in style. Neo-classism is a style that saw its heyday in the 18th and 19th and was used extensively in Europe, (source). Neo-classism can be seen as part of the Renaissance movement. The style is a revival of ideas from ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The main characteristics of Neo-classism are symmetry, use of columns and sober ornamentation in contrast to other styles of the 19th century, most notably Baroque, (source). These elements, along with a grand scale, are used to create a sense of drama and authority. For this reason, the style was often used for important civic buildings and institutions and people who wanted to express authority. This made the style perfect for the colonial governments who wanted to oppress native populations and to express an air of authority and power of their imperialistic governments.
So when the mayor of Maputo, José Maria da Silva Cardoso, opened a competition for a new city hall the chose of style was easily made, (source). The competition was opened in the 1930’s and in 1938 the winner of the competition had been chosen, (source). During this same time, the city of Maputo as a whole was undergoing large changes, (source).
As one walks from the independence square up towards the building one is greeted by a great number of steps which lead to the building’s entrance. This height difference creates a sense of theatre and grandness to the building’s entrance. It is often used in important Neo-classical buildings, for example, The National Gallery in London. The building’s facade can be divided into three main horizontal sections, namely the base, levels and entabulature. The lower part, the base, attaches the building to the ground, (source). The base has the entrances to the buildings and has a stucco lined motif. The base has a closed off characteristic and creates a barrier. Above the base with have the middle section, or the main part of the building. Here the walls are stucco too but have a very smooth finish and more ornamentation. This is also where we see the use of free-standing and non-freestanding columns which are mainly decorative. Above the main entrance, where the facade is pushed back into the building to create a balcony, we see the use of Doric columns but with Iconic Volutes, (source). Above this, the entabulature, which rests on the columns, acts as the connection between the building and roof. This is the most ornamented section of the building and forms the crown of the building, drawing one’s eyes upwards.
The interior is opulent and every inch of the building is decorated and covered in marble. The interior has Art Deco features, this combination of Neo-classical and Art Deco features is typical for the time and was can be seen in many buildings from the mid-century. The most important feature of the building’s interior is the grand staircase in the centre of the building. This bifurcated staircase has a marble finish with richly decorated balustrade, (source). At the landing where the staircase splits, there is a large stained glass window showing a large (likely Portuguese) ship. This allows diffuse light into the building and creates a sense of drama to walking up the stairs. Once on the 1st floor, one is greeted with a view over the balcony along the Avenida Samora Machel towards the river inlet.
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–Wikipedia contributors. (n.d.-c). National Gallery. Retrieved September 16, 2018