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An Urban Tapestry of Contrasts

An Urban Tapestry of Contrasts
By Monika Bik, Phil Bonds -

A real city reads like a great novel: familiar on one hand, yet constantly surprising, where love and beauty, ugliness and injustice go hand in hand. A great city transcends its location and becomes a separate entity in its own right, simultaneously representing the lifestyle of its people while fulfilling the dreams of its visitors…
Located on the western coast of Southern Africa, Luanda is the waterfront capital city of Angola, which gained its independence from Portuguese colonial rule in 1974. The country has a land mass of 1,246,700 sq km - more than that of France, Germany and UK combined and it is largely covered with open savannah forest, with dispersed settlements. Luanda is the largest city in Angola, accommodating 27% of its population. By contrast, the UN estimates Lagos (Africa’s second largest city) is home to around 7% of Nigeria’s residents. Today, approximately 1 in 4 Angolans live in Luanda, forecast to rise to 1 in 3 by 2030. As such, the city plays a significant part in the culture and economy of the country, and is responsible for around 70% of the National GDP.

Shaping Luanda: Unprecedented growth of the city
Founded in 1576, Luanda was established as a Portuguese colonial settlement, with villas, boulevards and squares located on the dry higher ground, with the fort taking a strategic location overlooking the fishing village of Ilha de Luanda. The city was a centre for the slave trade after which further growth spawned from its significance as Angola’s commercial capital. Its urban core has remained largely contained throughout, as amenities and structures were added. The Modernist style became prevalent from the 1960’s featuring sleek horizontal lines and white concrete finishes. Glamorous architecture framed the city’s waterfront, worthy of the most modern cities of the time.
The outbreak of war in 1975 heralded 3 decades of instability, when the city was seen as a safe haven...

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