MasterBuild Africa

From Grande To Petite

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Originally known for its impressive concrete spans, its fluidity and its overall size in the cosmopolitan era of 1960s Portuguese colony; the Grande Hotel situated in the Ponta Gea district of Beira now stands as a concrete modernist ruin. It now hosts about 2500 residents-one of the largest communities of squatters in the country. After the former Portuguese inhabitants fled from the cities, abandoning their homes, offices and civic buildings almost overnight, the cities became ruins as soon as they left, ageing rapidly under both the tropical climate and the strains of a twenty-year civil war.


The Grande Hotel closed 10 years before independence in 1965 after it became clear the project was not financially viable. Following this, and in light of the war for independence, the FRELIMO (the Mozambican liberation movement) moved in. Some of these original settlers still live in the building today, with many of their grandchildren now occupying the rooms they have come to call home. Alongside these original settlers are migrants who arrived during the civil war. Displaced during this period, they came to the hotel, which by this time had already developed into an informal settlement. Today, new arrivals still come and not always out of necessity. Over time these settlers have manipulated the structure and make-up of the building to accommodate their needs and livelihoods.


Designed by the architect Franciso Castro as a grand tourist hotel, with the country’s first Olympic pool, cinema, ballroom and even plans for a casino, the building came clad in beautiful fittings and fixtures, large panels or glass and a staircase comparable to ‘Gone with the Wind’. The hotel’s first settlers began the initial stripping of the hotel, selling these furniture fixtures and fittings. Now, the building’s bare concrete is pocketed with crevices and holes from where metal fixing and even cables and pipes have been removed from the structure and sold.


The predicament of the inhabitants is a sad one and unless funds are obtained for basic repairs, the reality is that the lifespan of the ruins is nearing complete destruction. However, what remains is still strangely beautiful at times.


Photographer: Guy Tilim, Lisa King

Location:  Mozambique




Culled from Failed Architecture

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